Not only did Jewish Home party head and Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday name radical leftist activist Prof. David Shulman as a recipient of the prestigious Israel Prize, but in a surprising manner he also gave his full backing to Shulman's recommendation.
Shulman, who won in the field of religious studies and philosophy research for his expertise in southern India, is a senior activist in the radical Palestinian-Israeli group Ta'ayush, and in 2007 he published his book "Bitter Hope: From the Diary of a Ta'ayush Activist, 2002-2006."
Ta'ayush, which has long conducted provocative confrontations against IDF soldiers, last month gained infamy over an investigative report that led to a criminal investigation into Ezra Nawi and Guy Butavia, both members of the group. The two were caught on camera admitting to handing Palestinian Arabs who wanted to sell land to Jews over to the Palestinian Authority (PA), which tortured and executed them.
Shulman, who has directly confronted IDF soldiers on duty in the field, was born in Iowa in the US and made Aliyah back in 1967.
But despite Shulman's activities in the group, Bennett responded to the prize committee's decision to award him by welcoming the move, and praising Shulman for his "impressive accomplishments."
"The Israel Prize in religious research was given to Professor Shulman for his pioneering research in the literature and culture of southern India. Minister Bennett reasons that one shouldn't be disqualified due to their opinions, left or right, whatever they may be," read a statement from Bennett's office.
"The occupation poisons us"
In his 2007 book, Shulman wrote, "all of our souls are strained by the acts of Israel, its policies against the Palestinians and the insufferable reality on the ground. Throughout these years I've asked myself countless times why the Israelis in their masses are so passive."
"After all, we all know well just how cruel Israel's hand is in the territories: land theft, constant bitter humiliation, an ongoing curfew, and a regime of violence and terror that the settlers impose," he wrote, as quoted by Walla on Monday.
"The settlers come first, violent and cruel. But above them a huge branched system is working: official Israel is sustaining the settlers and defending them, and even corrupts our opinions and tongue, the language of God, in lowly casuistry."
Shulman even wrote that he would himself stand against IDF soldiers if they came to evacuate Palestinian Arabs from their illegal buildings in Judea and Samaria.
"If the High Court rules against them, if the army comes to evacuate them – I will be there at their side, I will try to stop them with my body," he wrote.
Likewise in an article published in Haaretz last July, Shulman wrote that "in Israel Jews are cruel as a matter of routine towards Palestinians. For nearly five decades the occupation is poisoning us all with its crazy bureaucracy, with its wild settlers and soldiers."