Settler group wants Sternhell's Israel Prize revoked

The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel sent a letter Sunday to Education Minister Yuli Tamir demanding that she revoke Hebrew University of Jerusalem political science professor Zeev Sternhell's Israel Prize for 2008, which was announced last week. According to the letter, Sternhell has "at several opportunities and over a long period of time expressed antagonism towards the Judea and Samaria settlers, justified their murder at the hands of Arab terrorists and essentially called for civil war." Sternhell would not comment in depth, restricting himself to one biting comment about the Legal Forum. "Any comment would be either too short or too long. Anyway, and this is not precisely a discovery, the Forum people still have a lot to learn about what democracy is," Sternhell told The Jerusalem Post via email. The Forum included quotes from an article in Ha'aretz from 2001 in which he recommended that the Palestinians restrict their armed conflict to the West Bank and those Jews who lived there. They also cited an article he wrote in Davar in 1988 in which he said that only those who were willing to remove Ofra with tanks would stop the fascism that threatened to drown Israeli democracy. The Forum's Yitzhak Bam, the author of the letter, argued that Sternhell should not keep a state-awarded prize. "The Israel Prize is not given to a person for his ideas, rather his actions in his field. However, the prize is a national one, given by the state via the Education Ministry and which is intended to bring the recipient acclaim. The Israel Prize places the winner at the center of our national pride and national consensus. The prize is given in the name of the entire state, and all it citizens, including those that Prof. Sternhell opined that terror attacks against them are legitimate," he wrote. Bam added that if the ministry did not revoke the prize, the Forum would petition the Supreme Court. The Education Ministry refused to comment on the dispute. According to the Israel Prize judges, Sternhell was awarded the prize because "He is one of the leading researchers into political thought in Israel and the world. His groundbreaking research in political science, which has been translated into many languages, brought about, among other things, a significant change in the scientific community's understanding of ideological movements in general and specifically radical movements. "Sternhell is also an intellectual active in public discourse in Israel and the world, and his words, even their critical tone sometimes, are uttered from a deep commitment to the state and to the culture of Israel. Prof. Sternhell's international standing adds luster to the academic community in Israel." Among other areas of activity, Sternhell has been a columnist for Ha'aretz since the 1970s. Sternhell explained his involvement in public discourse as "an expression of personal responsibility towards the future of society and the future of Zionism. I always thought that the biggest service to society someone whose profession is to research, write and teach is to call it as he sees it without fear," he said, according to a press release on the Hebrew University site.