State: Denying Sternhell Prize Would Be Unjust

Petitioners asked that Israel Prize not be given to man who advocated storming Ofra with tanks." State cites judges' "professional considerations."

Gil Ronen,

Supreme Court
Supreme Court

The State Attorney's Office asked the High Court Sunday to reject a petition by the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, Professors for a Strong Israel and the community of Ofra against granting the Israel Prize to historian Ze'ev Sternhell. The petitioners cited a 2001 article by Sternhell in which he advised Arab  terrorists to target Jewish communities outside the "Green Line" and a 1988 article in which he advocated that the IDF "storm Ofra with tanks" as reasons for rejecting Sternhell as a prize recipient.

The State Attorney's reply said that the judges' committee made its decision based primarily on "professional and research-related" considerations. "When weighing the sum total of Prof. Sternhell's prolific research activity and his overall contribution to Israeli society vis-à-vis the single [sic] opinion column which angered the petitioners, the scale is tipped so markedly to one direction that there is no way to compare the two." Accepting the petition would be "an injustice," the state said, because it would involve diminishing Sternhell's life's work "to the level of a sticker."

Professional considerations
The state noted that "the position of the elements in charge of the Israel Prize is that the prize be awarded out of professional considerations and a wide perspective… away from the limelight and without public pressure, so that [they are] not influenced by these when making [their decision]. This goal will be achieved if the Minister's decision to accept the judges' panel's decision is accepted as final, barring rare and unusual circumstances".  

The Legal Forum's online petition notes that over the years, Professor Sternhell "has made sever
"The prize is awarded in the name of all the Israeli citizens, including those, whom professor Sternhell views as legitimate targets for terrorism."
al outrageous statements against the residents of Judea and Samaria, justified terrorism against them, and called for a civil war."

In his article, “Against the Moonstruck Government” (Haaretz, May 11, 2001) Sternhell legitimized arab terrorism in Judea and Samaria:

"Many Israelis, possibly the majority of the voters, do not doubt the legitimacy of the armed resistance in the territories proper. Had the Palestinians the least bit of sense, they would have concentrated their struggle against the settlements and would not hurt women and children, fire rockets on Gilo, Nachal Oz, and Sderot, or plant explosives  on the western side of the Green Line. In this manner, the Palestinians would themselves draft the solution that will be reached in any case."

Several years earlier, in Davar, Sternhell said that “only those willing to storm Ofra with tanks, will be able to stop the fascist wave threatening to drown the Israeli democracy.”

"The Israel Prize turns its recipients into objects of national pride and consensus. The prize is awarded in the name of all the Israeli citizens, including those, whom professor Sternhell views as legitimate targets for terrorism," the Forum stated.