NIF Awards Breaking the Silence an ‘Alternative’ Prize

A few weeks ago, the Middle East Studies faculty at Ben Gurion University decided unanimously to confer an award to Breaking the Silence for its efforts to further Jewish-Arab understanding.

But on Sunday we learned that the university cancelled the 20,000 NIS award because of concerns that Breaking the Silence is outside of the Israeli “national consensus.” Months of aggressive campaigns from inside and outside of the Knesset against Breaking the Silence and other anti-occupation groups are clearly having an impact. Afraid that it might be the target of the next campaign, Ben Gurion University backed down.

Breaking the Silence responded to the decision, stating that it regretted that the university administration “chose to capitulate to political pressure and joined the campaign of incitement and persecution” against the organization.

We at NIF stand with Breaking the Silence, and continue to be committed to freedom of expression. On Sunday, while in London for NIF’s International board meeting, our board members pledged to make up the prize to Breaking the Silence with an additional 20,000 NIS.

In addition, we are delighted that NIF’s supporters worldwide have raised over £15,000 (four times the amount of the prize, and counting) to give Breaking the Silence an ‘alternative’ prize and to show their commitment to and support for the crucial work they do each day upholding meaningful freedom of expression in Israel and building a more equal and democratic society.

Hundreds of people have also signed an internet petition initiated by a Ben Gurion student to protest the decision by the university’s President to overturn the award.

We at NIF continue to be committed to the values of equality and democracy. And we know that a strong civil society is important to Israel’s future.

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June 2016