National Lottery withdraws Landau Prize to poet Yitzhak Laor

Widespread protests on social media arose against the pronouncement to award the prize to Laor due to complaints he had sexually assaulted numerous women, over several years.

Yitzhak Laor (photo credit: NOAM VIND)
Yitzhak Laor
(photo credit: NOAM VIND)
The Mifal Hapayis national lottery announced Monday it has withdrawn its award of the annual Landau Prize for Art and Sciences in the poetry category to Yitzhak Laor.
The Landau Foundation board of directors met Monday and decided to cancel its award to Laor, following a public outcry and the disintegration of the prize selection committee over their decision.
Last month widespread protests arose on social media against the announcement to award the NIS 100,000 prize to Laor, due to complaints that over the years he had sexually assaulted numerous women – though he was never investigated nor found guilty of these charges.
In 2010, Eshkar Eldan Cohen came forward with allegations that Laor had sexually assaulted her some 20 years ago. Due to the statute of limitations, the accusations were never investigated.
Following her revelation, additional woman came forward claiming to have been sexually harassed by Laor over the course of the past 20 years.
Since that time, none of the accusations have been investigated nor has he been charged with any crime. Laor has since denied all charges against him.
The Landau Foundation board of directors met last week and reviewed the material for and against the decision, agreeing to cancel the prize committee selection following the intense public scrutiny. The board said it would return all the case material to the committee for reconsideration, given the new information that has surfaced.
Since that time the prize committee has disintegrated and the board of directors took the decision to cancel the award on its own.
Last month, following the initial award announcements, one of the prize committee judges, Gilit Chomski, came forward and said she had been against granting the prize to Laor.
She said that the committee decision was not unanimous and that the two other judges had voted in favor of Laor while she opposed.
“I opposed the decision, unequivocally and without reservation. I thought Laor was the wrong choice, poetically and morally. It was argued against me that he was never convicted (which is true) and that the judgment was on his work and not on his personality. Even despite this parameter I still did not believe that Laor should be the winner, I made it clear that the choice was forced upon me against my will and that I do not stand behind it and will not back it,” Chomski wrote on her Facebook page.