Israel Culture Ministry Offers Prize for 'Zionist-oriented' Art

NIS 50,000 prize intended to 'reflect Zionist values and history,' following a storm over boycotting the cultural center in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.

A codex for a new prize to be awarded for "Zionist-oriented" art was issued Wednesday, to ensure only those whose work fulfills the correct political criteria may qualify for it.

Culture Minister Limor Livnat recently introduced the NIS 50,000 prize, intended to "reflect Zionist values and history," following a storm over boycotting the cultural center in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.

Ariel cultural center, Limor Livnat
Nir Kafri

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The codex says the prize's board of trustees, which was appointed by Livnat, may object to the judges' decision for reasons other than artistic ones, and may even appoint a new panel.

Actor Haim Topol, head of the board of trustees, says this clause is only intended to ensure the prize is fairly and properly awarded.

The prize will be awarded for a creation "pertaining to Zionism, its history, goals, central character or contemporary Zionist activity in cinema, theater, literature, dance, music and plastic arts," the codex says, adding that "the criteria [for winning the prize] are the work's quality and suitability to the prize's goals."

But another clause says the trustees may instruct the panel to reconsider its decision and even appoint a new panel. Also, the trustees may ask the panel for clarifications and refuse to authorize the panel's decision, for non-artistic reasons.

"If, for example, we made a mistake and appointed a judge who is the brother of the prize winner, then we can cancel the choice," Topol said. "The trustees must make sure everything is done honestly."

Asked how the extent of "Zionism" could be judged in a work of art, such as dance for example, he said: "The work doesn't have to be Zionist. It must deal with Zionism."

Topol said work criticizing Zionism was permitted, but added: "I would be glad if it's a piece that encourages Zionism, encourages people to be Zionists."

Livnat's office said she had nothing to do with writing the codex, which was composed by the prize's trustee board.