Anti-Israel demonstration (illustration)
Anti-Israel demonstration (illustration)Reuters

After the Mifal Hapayis' (Israel's official state lottery) Landau Prize to radical leftist poet Yitzhak Laor was cancelled last week, it was decided again to award Laor the prize, causing Gilit Chomsky - one of the Landau Prize's three committee members - to resign in protest on Sunday.

Chomsky had voted against giving Laor the prize in the first place, and now she chose to quit after the committee decided to return the award to Laor.

The cancellation last week was made on the official reason that several women leveled charges against Laor of raping and sexually assaulting them, at which the committee decided he was not suitable for the 100,000 shekel (over $25,000) prize.

However, the public outrage over the radical poetry Laor was being awarded for may in fact have been a major factor in the cancellation, which was later overturned.

In a 2011 essay for leftist newspaper Haaretz, Laor called to get rid of Zionism, writing, "Liberation from Zionism is not a dirty word. In any case, what lies behind Zionism nowadays are interests related to water, real estate, strategic relations with the US and a huge army hungering to justify its existence." 

In a poem called “Anthem to the 'Gush,'” Laor invoked the infamous "blood libel" against the “knitted kippah” religious Zionists:

And our holiday of freedom, this holiday of matzos, we celebrate with conviction in sanctity and with addictive body movements, and in our matzos is the blood of Palestinian youths, because these are all libels by idolaters anyway.

Awarding an enemy of the state?

Responding to the decision to award Laor, Chairman of the Legal Forum for Israel Attorney Yossi Fuchs wrote a letter of protest to Major General (res.) Uzi Dayan, Mifal Hapayis Chairman.

Fuchs accused the judges of ignoring the fact that Laor is a radical leftist, and added that he is a member of anti-Israeli organizations, and an IDF service refuser.

"Is it feasible,” he asked, “that Mifal Hapayis, which was established to advance Israel's society and community, will give the Landau prize to a man who sees Israel as 'the last bastion of colonialism in the world'?”

Likewise, Balfour Hakak, former chairman of the Hebrew Writers Association, told Arutz Sheva "it really bothered me that judges decided to give him the award with only a two to one majority vote. In my experience, we always decided that with literature prizes, it is necessary to choose a unanimous winner." 

"There is a bitter taste here that the decision was made to award the prize despite the opposition of one judge - author, Gilit Chomsky. It is not appropriate that two men against one woman decided to give the prize," added Hakak.

According to Hakak, even the mainstream left considers Laor too extreme. "He is indeed a poet, but his writing is so sharply political, and often too extreme, especially when he writes about Palestinian blood."