Yitzhak Laor to Sue National Lottery for Canceling NIS 100,000 Poetry Prize

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Yitzhak Laor. Credit: David Bachar

Poet and writer Yitzhak Laor is planning to sue the national lottery, Mifal Hapayis, for revoking a poetry prize it had awarded him.

Laor’s lawyers said they will demand the award be reinstated on the grounds that Mifal Hapayis had “flagrantly deviated from the regulations, revoked a lawfully-reached decision and harmed the principles of natural justice and the presumption of innocence in contravention of all legal practise.”

Laor is a literary critic and opinion writer for Haaretz.

The board of the Landau Foundation, which is administered by Mifal Hapayis, decided on Monday to withdraw the Landau Prize for Poetry from Laor, following public protests. The protests related to numerous allegations, never proven, that Laor had sexually assaulted and harassed women, as well as to his extreme left-wing political views.

A public battle has been raging ever since Mifal Hapayis announced the award on November 20. The committee that chose Laor comprised Aminadav Dykman, Yehoshua Simon and poet Galit Chomski, who objected to the choice of Laor. Chomski resigned from the committee after she understood that the other two judges did not intend changing their decision to award the prize to Laor.

As a result of Chomski’s resignation, which in practice dissolved the prize committee, the board met and decided not to award the prize to Laor. “As far as I’m concerned, Yitzhak Laor got the Landau Prize for poetry,” Dykman said on Monday. “That the board of directors decided to cancel it is the board’s problem. From my perspective, the resignation of a committee member doesn’t disband the committee, but the board decided otherwise.”

Mifal Hapayis said that the board would discuss the 2014 poetry prize at its next meeting and decide whether to simply cancel the prize for this year or award it to someone else.

Simon agreed to reveal the letter that he wrote to the committee, in which he explained why he had not changed his mind. “The committee regulations obligate [its members] to weigh only literary considerations – the contributions of the candidate to the field of poetry – and that’s what the committee did.” Returning the decision to the committee is not a literary question, he said.

Beginning in 2010, several women made allegations that Laor had harassed or assaulted them many years previously. The claims were never investigated due to the statute of limitations. Laor denied all the allegations.

The award was also challenged by the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, which said the prize committee had ignored what it called Laor’s radical left-wing views.

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