David Grossman Won't Restore Israel Prize Candidacy

Despite Prime Minister Netanyahu retracting disqualification of the judges, the prize has been 'seriously damaged,' Grossman said.

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David Grossman in 2012.
David Grossman in 2012.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Or Kashti
Or Kashti

Author David Grossman announced Saturday night that he will not restore his candidacy to receive the Israel Prize for Literature.

"Despite the attorney general's instruction to the prime minister that he retract his disqualification of the judges, the spirit of the Israel Prize and its distinctive character were seriously damaged this year, and no one can claim that nothing happened," Grossman said. On Thursday Grossman attributed his withdrawal from the field to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's "campaign of incitement against Israel's most senior scientists and artists."

Author Yitzhak Ben Ner also announced that he will not be a candidate for the Israel Prize for Literature this year, saying that retracting his withdrawal would amount to "agreeing to the prime minister's malicious and intentional interference" in the judging process. Ben Ner said it would be best to scrap the Israel Prize in all categories for this year and place the entire institution under the aegis of the president in order to protect it from political meddling.

Film producer Chayim Sharir also decided against withdrawing his resignation from the jury of the Israel Prize for cinema, saying he saw "no possibility in the situation that has been created to award the prize with integrity."

The literary scholar Prof. Yigal Schwartz, who was the first person to withdraw his candidacy for the Israel Prize, agreed to retract his withdrawal.

Three of the five members of the jury of the Israel Prize for the study of literature — professors Nissim Calderon, Nurith Gertz and Ephraim Hazan — agreed to return to serve, but their colleagues, Prof. Ziva Ben-Porat and Dr. Uri Hollander, refused to withdraw their resignations.

"Because the guidelines were broken and it is impossible to conduct the award process, which requires protection the anonymity of the judges and the candidates, I do not want to be a part of it," Ben-Porat said.

According to Holland, no matter what happens with regard to the judging process for the Israel Prize this year, "a cloud will injure the honor of the candidates."

On Friday afternoon, Netanyahu's aides instructed the Education Ministry to contact the jury members they had kicked off the prize juries last week, on his orders, and restore their positions.

Professors Avner Holtzman and Ariel Hirschfeld, as well as the third member of the jury for the Israel Prize for literature, author Gail Hareven, asked Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to sanction the disclosure of their names in the course of the disqualification and the events that followed it. The Israel Prize rules stipulate that the names of jury members and candidates must be kept secret until the winners are announced, in order to maintain the integrity of the process.

Hareven, who withdrew from the jury to protest the disqualification of Holtzman and Hirschfeld, said she was "waiting for the attorney general's permission for the juries to continue their work despite the disclosure of members' names."

Netanyahu's decision to rescind the disqualifications followed discussions on Friday morning with Education Ministry legal advisers and the Attorney General's Office. Sources in the Justice Ministry who spoke on the condition of anonymity said afterward that the disclosure of the names of some of the judges did not affect the integrity of the judging process.

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