Israeli University cancels Breaking the Silence prize

Published June 27th, 2016 - 09:15 GMT
Breaking the Silence documents abuses by the Israeli army in the occupied Palestinian territories (AFP)
Breaking the Silence documents abuses by the Israeli army in the occupied Palestinian territories (AFP)

An Israeli University has effectively suspended an annual award given for Jewish-Arab understanding – because it was granted to Breaking the Silence, an NGO that documents Israeli violations against Palestinians.

The Berelson Prize for Jewish-Arab understanding, Haaretz reported, was given to Breaking the Silence by the University’s Middle East Studies department. But the decision was overturned by University President Rivka Carmi, who argued that the organisation did not meet the “national consensus”. Giving the prize, she said, was likely to be interpreted as an appearance of political bias – and as a result, it was not granted to any organisation this year. 

Breaking the Silence has been faced with controversy in recent years and months, thanks to its highlighting of abuses by carried out by the Israeli army in the occupied territories. Last month, a prominent donor said he would withhold $1m of funding from the Ben Gurion University after it held a panel event for the NGO.

Haaretz reported that the Breaking the Silence responded with disappointment to the decision, adding that the choice not to grant the organisation an award was itself a case of political bias.

The backtracking was condemned by commentators, and sources at the University speculated that granting the award could have been too bold a step for high level decision makers. The angry response to previous dealings with Breaking the Silence, however, demonstrated the unpopularity of the NGO in Israeli society. 

Breaking the Silence takes testimony from people who have served in the Israel Defence Forces and visits Palestine’s occupied territories to document abuses.

 

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