2014 Israel Prize ceremony.
(photo credit: SASSON TIRAM)
One of the more perceptive responses to the recent uproar over the composition of the Israel Prize juries came from columnist Ariana Melamed. Responding to the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s complaint that these juries have become a “private playground of the radical Left,” Melamed retorted, “while it’s true that a huge number of leftists have won the prize, that [is] only because the right has failed to establish an alternative to an elite that began turning to the left way back when Begin was giving speeches in city squares.”Though her explanation of this failure is ludicrous (she essentially argues that great artists and intellectuals almost by definition vote left), the failure itself is undeniable. Because an intellectual or cultural elite isn’t just a random collection of individuals who produce intellectual or cultural output; it’s a power center. And while Israel’s center-right produces both intellectuals and artists, not only has it failed to mobilize these resources to pose any real challenge to the left’s cultural dominance, but for the most part, it hasn’t even tried. Instead, it makes do with whining about the leftist elites’ lock on intellectual and cultural power centers, from universities to the legal establishment to the media to the Israel Prizes.