The Prime Minister's Office has disqualified two Israel Prize for Literature jury panel members, professors Avner Holtzman and Ariel Hirschfeld, in a move that has the Israeli literary community up in arms, with some claiming Prime Minister Netanyahu is trying to prevent Israeli author David Grossman from receiving the prize because of his leftwing political views.
The writs of appointment for the jury panel are usually signed by the education minister, a position that is currently being filled by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since the resignation of Shai Piron, leading some to claim that politics is behind the PMO's intervention in the usually professional process.
In reaction to the move, the third just panel member, author Gail Hareven, resigned.
Both professors were at a loss on Monday as to the reasons for their disqualification, with Hirschfield drawing a possible link between the decision from the Prime Minister's Office and an article in which he harshly criticized Netanyahu.
"I don’t assume that my professional qualifications to serve as the chair of the judges’ panel were questioned," Holtzman, for his part, commented. "On the other hand, it’s not clear whether the reason for the disqualification is political, since I have never publicly spoken about political issues and nobody knows my opinions."
Pundit Yaron London suggests, meanwhile, that the decision to disqualify Holtzman and Hirschfield may have come to prevent author David Grossman, a noted left-wing activist who is highly critical of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians, from winning the award.
According to a statement from sources in the Prime Minister's Office, "After it emerged that one of the candidates to serve on the panel supports conscientious objection, a decision was made to reevaluate the composition of the panel."