Protesters Chant in Anger as 'Breaking the Silence' Wins Alternative University Prize

Right-wing groups rally as lecturers at Ben-Gurion University in Be'er Sheva reward the anti-occupation group an alternative prize in defiance of administration policy.

Ben-Gurion University.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Lecturers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev bestowed an alternative cash prize on Monday upon the anti-occupation veterans group, Breaking the Silence, after the school's president canceled a prize earlier claiming the organization is not within the “national consensus.”

Twenty right-wing activists protested at the Be’er Sheva campus, as the awards ceremony proceeded, accusing the organization of incitement and sending up chants like “we love the IDF.”

In June, BGU President Rivka Carmi reneged on a decision to award the annual Berelson Prize for Jewish-Arab Understanding, worth 20,000 shekels ($5,100). The heads of the Middle East Department, which hands out the prize, responded with a decision not to grant this year at all.

“I ask myself why organizations like Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem arouse fear anger and hostility not only on the right but also those who see themselves as moderates," author Amos Oz said at the ceremony.

“People want to feel good and Breaking the Silence interferes with that. People want Israel to look good and Breaking the Silence prevents the country from looking good. It's very human, I do not mock this feeling. They think erroneously that what makes the country look not good are the people who expose the distortion of morality,” Oz said.

Breaking the Silence director Yuli Novak, who accepted the prize, accused Carmi by canceling the other award of “reinforcing the consensus that tags us as ‘traitors and spies.’”

The protesters against the award included members of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid joined right-wing groups Im Tirtzu, Habayit Hayehudi and Likud student groups.

“We shall protest against this outrageous move of granting a prize to Breaking the Silence,” Yesh Atid wrote earlier on its Facebook page.