Cash prize refused by UK historian to fund TAU researchers of all backgrounds
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Cash prize refused by UK historian to fund TAU researchers of all backgrounds

Catherine Hall cited Palestinian conflict in turning down award and $300,000; now money will go to fund studies that can ‘contribute to mutual dialogue’

Catherine Hall speaking at the Colonial Legacy Conference at Utrecht University on June 21, 2013. (Screen capture: YouTube)
Catherine Hall speaking at the Colonial Legacy Conference at Utrecht University on June 21, 2013. (Screen capture: YouTube)

The Dan David Foundation is to donate the $300,000 sum of a prestigious prize to historical research at Tel Aviv University, after a British historian refused the award citing concerns over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Prof. Catherine Hall of University College London declined the Dan David prize earlier in the week, saying her decision came after “many discussions” on the conflict.

The foundation said Wednesday it would “donate the entirety of the sum that Prof. Hall did not collect — $300,000 — to support Israeli and international scholars and researchers in the field of history here at Tel Aviv University.”

Foundation board member Ariel David, son of the late entrepreneur and philanthropist Dan David, said the donation “will give Israelis of all backgrounds, whether Jewish or Arab, as well as international scholars, the opportunity to meet at this beautiful campus and engage in academic discussion, research and discovery.

“We believe that this action can contribute more to mutual understanding and dialogue than any misguided effort to boycott the bastion of democracy and intellectual freedom that is Tel Aviv University.”

The British Committee for Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) posted on Facebook a comment by Hall in which she said of her decision to refuse the prize: “This was an independent political choice, undertaken after many discussions with those who are deeply involved with the politics of Israel-Palestine, but with differing views as to how best to act.”

Hall was due to receive the award for her “impact on social history, as a pioneer in gender history, race and slavery. While active in the women’s liberation movement, her work focused on women’s history in the 1970s,” Haaretz said.

BRICUP, which supports a boycott of Israel, described Hall’s move as “a significant endorsement of the campaign to end ties with Israeli institutions,” adding that her renouncing of the prize was Hall “placing principle above financial gain.”

In a significant endorsement of the campaign to end ties with Israeli institutions, Professor Catherine Hall of…

Posted by British Committee for the Universities of Palestine on Tuesday, 10 May 2016

The pro-Palestinian group said that Hall’s stance was reinforced by a decision from Hebrew University professor David Shulman, who last week chose to donate the NIS 75,000 ($20,000) he won for the Israel Prize to Ta’ayush, an Israeli NGO that works with Palestinians in the West Bank. He was awarded the prize for his work on Indian languages and culture.

David created the eponymous prize in 2002 to recognize and encourage “innovative and interdisciplinary research that cuts across traditional boundaries and paradigms,” according to the foundation website.

The prize is a joint international enterprise, endowed by the foundation and headquartered at Tel Aviv University. Every year, winners of the prize are determined for each of the three time dimensions — past, present and future.

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