Furor over Israel Prize panel’s decision not to honor left-wing artist

Garbuz said in an interview with Army Radio on Wednesday that “the committee did not reach a decision and I did not lose the Israel Prize, I didn’t lose anything.

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March 22, 2017 23:34
1 minute read.
YAIR GARBUZ: The country has been taken over by ‘amulet kissers, idol worshipers and bowers at the g

YAIR GARBUZ: The country has been taken over by ‘amulet kissers, idol worshipers and bowers at the graves of saints.’. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

 
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Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday backed an Israel Prize committee’s decision not to grant the 2017 award for Plastic Arts to artist Yair Garbuz.

Garbuz, 71, was one of the leading candidates being considered by the Israel Prize for Plastic Art Committee. However, the selection committee was unable to reach a unanimous decision, as is required.

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As such, Bennett, chairman of the nationalist- religious Bayit Yehudi party, stepped in to block the nomination and opted to cancel the prize for 2017.

Garbuz, an artist and left-wing activist, caused a backlash when he made derogatory comments ahead of the 2015 election, telling a crowd at a rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square that the country had been taken over by a “handful” of people, referring to nationalist-religious voters.

He went on to call them “amulet kissers, idol worshipers and bowers at the graves of saints.”

At the Pais Conference on Education and Economy in Jerusalem on Wednesday, Bennett responded to the controversy and said that “we [Israelis] are all one small and proud handful.

“I am not an expert in plastic art, but for too many years it’s been said that there is a culture and subculture here, and these are the majority and these are the few. I don’t know who the majority is and who the minority is,” he said. “Is Rabbi Yehuda Halevi [c. 1075 – 1141, one of the greatest Hebrew poets and author of The Kuzari] a minority? Is Maimonides [the 12th-century philosopher and Torah scholar] a minority? “We have a wonderful culture and nobody has a monopoly on it. I completely back the decision of the prize committee,” Bennett said.

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Garbuz said in an interview with Army Radio on Wednesday that “the committee did not reach a decision and I did not lose the Israel Prize, I didn’t lose anything.

“I am proud to have been nominated and it is nice to be considered worthy of the prize, but I will manage without shaking Bennett’s hand and the money,” he said.

Garbuz echoed Bennett’s assertion that the prize was canceled because there would not be enough time to establish a new selection committee.

The Israel Prize is presented annually on Independence Day, which this year falls on May 2.

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