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Israel Prize committee revokes award to prominent journalist

JERUSALEM, May 6 (JTA) — Responding to a request by Israel’s High Court of Justice, the Israel Prize committee has reversed its decision to give its annual journalism award to veteran Ma’ariv columnist Shmuel Schnitzer. The committee’s announcement last month that Schnitzer would receive the prestigious prize prompted immediate protests by the Ethiopian community. Labor Knesset member Adisu Massala, a leader in the Ethiopian community, petitioned the High Court, saying an August 1994 column by Schnitzer was racist and therefore he should not receive the prize. In his article Schnitzer referred to Ethiopians who immigrated to Israel as “thousands of apostates carrying dangerous diseases,” including tuberculosis and HIV the virus that causes AIDS. The High Court asked the committee to reconsider awarding the prize to Schnitzer, after noting that the committee was not aware of the controversial article. The prize was revoked after the committee’s three members were unable to agree on a decision. According to reports, two members argued to give Schnitzer the prize, while the third member objected. Decisions on awarding the $7,500 award must be unanimous. Schnitzer earlier had refused appeals from President Ezer Weizman to apologize to the Ethiopian community. As a result of the decision, the prize for print journalism will not be awarded this year when the Israel Prizes are presented next week on Israeli Independence Day.