Elad Samorzik
December 6, 2011 - 1:00am

Hundreds of dancers, authors, filmmakers and other artists have signed a petition calling to cancel the NIS 50,000 prize initiated by Culture Minister Limor Livnat intended to "reflect Zionist values and history" and give the prize money to "the meager coffer supporting free artistic work in Israel."

The artists say a prize in the Zionism field is controversial, as its criteria do not pertain solely to artistic quality.

The petitioners include artists Dganit Brest, David Tartakover, Doron Rabina and Nahum Tevet, choreographers Yasmeen Godder, Iris Erez, Ido Tadmor and Ohad Naharin, author Yehuda Atlas, filmmaker Eyal Sivan and illustrator Michel Kishka.

Livnat initiated the prize in response to the call for an artists' boycott of Ariel's new cultural center last year. It is to be awarded for works of literature, dance, cinema, theater, music and plastic art.

The deadline for submitting candidacies was set for November 13, but the culture minister extended it to November 30, last Wednesday.

The prize codex released by the ministry in October said it was intended to "reflect the values of Zionism, the history of the Zionist movement and to the Jewish people's return to its historic homeland." It is also intended to "encourage and promote art and culture works in the field of Zionism, its history, goals, central figures, or in contemporary Zionist performance."

The codex is meant to ensure the prize is not given to anyone whose work does not meet the correct political requirements, and stipulates that the prize's trustees, who were appointed by Livnat, may disqualify the judges' decision for reasons that are not artistic.

This clause does not appear in the guidelines for other prizes awarded by the Culture Ministry.

The artists, 380 of whom have already signed the petition, say the prize encourages mobilized art for political purposes.

"We, artists and creators working in Israel out of free choice and a sense of social mission, protest the ministry's decision to award a 'prize for art in the field of Zionism.' The Culture Ministry exists to support the work of Israeli artists, who enrich and advance Israel's culture in all its reflections. The prizes it awards should encourage artistic excellence rather than reward work measured with extra-artistic parameters."

"The Zionism prize initiated by Minister Livnat is supposed to advance and encourage artistic creations in various cultural spheres that express the Zionist narrative," the Culture and Sports Ministry said in a statement.


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