Amos Oz awarded contraversial Israeli human rights organization Breaking the Silence a cash prize on Monday during a conference taking place at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The alternative prize was awarded after Ben-Gurion University President Rivka Carmi decided to prevent the organization from receiving the Berelson Prize for Jewish-Arab Understanding, in memory of Yitzhak Rabin.
"Sometimes in history, those who were dubbed 'traitors' are in time shown to be trailblazers," Oz told the crowd when presenting the prize.
A human rights organization that publishes testimonies of fighters in the IDF, Breaking the Silence has been accused of using classified information and called "traitors" by the political right. The award it was denied was focuses on efforts relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Oz, who spoke at the ceremony, said that Breaking the Silence deserved the prize. According to Oz, "Lately, especially in the last few days, I ask myself why organizations like Breaking the Silence, B'Tselem and Peace Now raise such feelings of fear, anger and hostility in people. Not only for members of the far-right, but also for people who see themselves as members of the middle. Moderate people. The reason for this hostility is not that our adversaries are racists. The vast majority are not racists. It isn't because most of our adversaries seek to shut us up. The vast majority of them do not seek to shut us up. The vast majority of them do not hate Arabs."
Oz continued to say that "People want to feel good, and Breaking the Silence disturbs that feeling. People want the State of Israel to look good, and Breaking the Silence ruins that image. It is completely human, I do not despise that emotion. It mistakenly appears to them that what makes the country not look good are the people who expose the country's moral distortions."
In his remarks, Oz added, "I want our adversaries to ponder that moral force is not a luxury but an existential matter. I would like to tell our adversaries in the country that one of the few reasons to feel good as Israelis is that there is still freedom of speech and freedom of the press and that there are organizations such as Breaking the Silence and B'Tselem and Peace Now. The things that Israel is doing now will not make Israel feel better. I'll let you in on a secret: I love Israel even at times when I can't bear to because of the long tradition of debate."
"Everyone shouts, but few listen. I listen sometimes and from that I make a living. I understand our opponents and honor them this evening. The defense apparatus that says 'It's not possible that our boys are doing this,' every attempt to encrypt injustices will end up detonating itself. It is better to open our wounds as early as possible and as publicly as possible, in favor of our opponents here and abroad. Those writing talkbacks called the Prophet Jeremiah a leftist and threw him into a pit. When Begin returned the Sinai, people in his own party called him a traitor. I could go on all night. When I'm called a traitor, it puts me in extraordinary company."
Breaking the Silence Director Yuli Novak responded to the prize by saying, "It's heartwarming to tdiscover that when faced with a herd mentality, violence and silencing, there are still who are strong and brave, who are willing to stand up and refuse to reliquish democracy, and who fight for the right and obligation to criticize and uncover the truth about what goes on in the occupied territories."