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January 29, 1993 - Image 58

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-01-29

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Mac McCoy

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Nominee Turns Down
Israel Prize Honor

Jerusalem (JTA) — A left-
wing Orthodox scholar nam-
ed to receive the prestigious
Israel Prize for Life's Work
has decided to turn down the
honor because of the storm of
controversy created by his
nomination.
Hebrew University Pro-
fessor Yeshayahu Leibowitz
announced his decision
hours after the Israeli
Cabinet roundly condemned
the nomination. Prime Min-
ister Yitzhak Rabin re-
portedly had threatened to
boycott the award ceremony
in protest.
Mr. Leibowitz, who had
been recommended for the
prize by a government-
appointed committee, told
Israel Television that
although "many people from
all sectors of the public" had
congratulated him, he would
refuse to accept it.
"Why should I cause the
prime minister this
awkwardness?" he said.
Mr. Leibowitz's nomina-
tion for the award became a
controversy immediately
after it was announced last
week, but the debate sharply
intensified this past
weekend with the latest po-
litical remarks made by the
90-year-old scientist and
philosopher.
In a series of media inter-
views, Mr. Leibowitz corn-
pared Israeli undercover
soldiers operating in the
West Bank and Gaza Strip to
fighters of the Islamic fun-
damentalist Hamas move-
ment.
Mr. Leibowitz accused the
undercover units of using
"terrorist methods," citing
as evidence the claim that
some 20 Palestinian chil-
dren have died in recent
months in shooting incidents
involving these units.
Mr. Leibowitz has long
been a controversial figure.
He has agitated for the
separation of religion and
politics and condemned the
official rabbinate in Israel as
a "harlot of the estab-
lishment," though he
himself leads a rigorously
Orthodox lifestyle.
In recent years, his
outspoken criticism of
Israel's administration of
the West Bank and Gaza has
placed him at the extreme of
the political spectrum.
Mr. Leibowitz, who was to
have received the prize for
his life work, has taught
philosophy, Jewish studies

and biochemistry during his
long career at Hebrew Uni-
versity.
After deciding to decline
the prize, Mr. Leibowitz said
he had informed Education
Minister Shulamit Aloni of
decision.
The three-member panel
appointed to nominate a
recipient for the prize had
been chosen by the Edu-
cation Ministry, and critics
on the right have accused
the left-wing Aloni of
pressuring the committee to
recommend Mr. Leibowitz.
After Mr. Leibowitz's an-
nouncement, Ms. Aloni
issued a statement praising
the scholar's suitability to
receive the award but rais-
ing objections to his com-
ments over the weekend
regarding the Israeli under-
cover soldiers.
Even Environment Min-
ister Yossi Sarid, an
outspoken left- wing mem-
ber of Ms. Aloni's party,

(

Mr. Leibowitz has
long been a
controversial
figure.

voiced the disgust apparent-
ly felt by most Cabinet
members when he charged
Mr. Leibowitz with
"intellectual dishonesty."
Opposition figures on the
right were naturally even
more enraged by Mr.
Leibowitz's remarks and his
nomination.
Likud Knesset Member
Dan Tichon said the com-
mittee's recommendation
was prejudiced by the fact
that one of its members,
Hebrew University
philosophy Professor
Aviezer Ravitsky, was a
disciple of Mr. Leibowitz.
The other two members
were reserve Gen. Aharon
Yariv of Tel Aviv Univer-
sity's Jaffee Center for Stra-
tegic Studies and Professor
Haim Ben-Shahar, an
economist at the university.
Meanwhile, another Israel
Prize committee announced
its recommendation for this
year's journalism prize,
which won unanimous ac-
colades. The winner is the
veteran Ha'aretz political
cartoonist Zev, whose real
name is Ya'acov Farkash.

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