Historian snubs $1 million Israeli academic prize

Feminist historian Catherine Hall will not accept her share of a lucrative award, calling her move an ‘independent political choice’

May 23, 2016
UCL professor Catherine Hall has turned down a top prize after having held “many discussions with those who are deeply involved with the politics of Israel-Palestine"
Source: iStock
UCL professor Catherine Hall has turned down a top prize after having held “many discussions with those who are deeply involved with the politics of Israel-Palestine"

A UK historian has turned down a lucrative Israeli academic award, citing the “politics of Israel-Palestine”.

Catherine Hall, professor of modern British social and cultural history at University College London, was due to receive a third of the $1 million (£690,000) Dan David Prize for her work’s “impact on social history, as a pioneer in gender history, race, and slavery”.

But the feminist historian did not attend the prize’s award ceremony at Tel Aviv University on 22 May.

In a statement, Professor Hall said that she had declined the prize and her $330,000 (£228,000) share, after having “many discussions with those who are deeply involved with the politics of Israel-Palestine, but with differing views as to how best to act”, calling the move an “independent political choice”.

Ariel David, whose late philanthropist father Dan David founded the award, said that Professor Hall’s winnings would instead fund scholarships at Tel Aviv.

The snub follows the decision by David Shulman, Renee Lang professor of humanistic studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, to donate his winnings from the Israel Prize for Religious Studies to Ta'ayush, an Israeli group that assists Palestinian residents of the South Hebron Hills.

He released a video documenting the attacks on Palestinians by settlers.

Richard Seaford, emeritus professor of classics at the University of Exeter and a member of the pro-Palestine group British Committee for Universities of Palestine, said that the “illegal colonisation and the repressive measures of the Israeli government have now irredeemably tarnished Israel’s ‘glittering prizes’.

“For academics outside Israel, boycott of all activities relating to the Israeli state and universities is rapidly becoming the default position,” he added.

jack.grove@tesglobal.com

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