Netanyahu will be boycotting EMET Prize ceremony because of controversial laureate

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced that he will not be attending the prestigious EMET Prize awards ceremony this year. The reason: A prize will be awarded to director Oded Kotler, who once criticized Likud voters. "Since Kotler defined my voters as 'straw-eating beasts,' I see no reason to honor him," Netanyahu explained.
Netanyahu and Kotler Photo Credit: Reuters, Flash 90 - Oren Nachshon/ Channel 2 News

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced that he intends to boycott the ceremony for the EMET Prize for Science, Art and Culture, which is expected to take place at the end of the summer. Netanyahu explained that he will not be attending because among the laureates is actor and director Oded Kotler, who in the past had leveled harsh criticism against voters for Likud, Netanyahu's party in the Knesset.

The EMET Prize is a prestigious prize awarded annually under the auspices of and in cooperation with the Prime Minister's Office. The prize of one million dollars is divided among several winners and awarded in the categories of Exact Sciences, Life Sciences, Social Sciences, Humanities and Culture and the Arts. This year, Oded Kotler will be awarded the Culture and Arts prize. Kotler made headlines two years ago when he likened Likud voters to “a marching herd of straw-eating beasts.” In light of this statement, Netanyahu explained: "I see no reason to honor him.”

"A marching herd of straw-eating beasts.” Kotler in 2015 Photo Credit: Channel 2 News

Oded Kotler made his controversial speech at an Israeli artists' convention in Jaffa in June 2015 in which he criticized Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev for her work. Kotler's speech warned of a world without culture: “Imagine your world, Mrs. Regev, as a quiet world without books, music or poetry, a world without obstacles standing in the way of the nation in its celebration of the 30 Likud mandates, followed by a marching herd of straw-eating beasts.” Kotler later apologized for his choice of words but stood by his message. Regev has been criticized in the past of censoring cultural events and performances that go against her party's political agenda, and Zionist Camp Chairman Isaac Herzog even called her "Chief Censor."

Netanyahu responded to Kotler's controversial statement in 2015 and said: “The statements made yesterday against a large and dear part of the public in Israel are outrageous and deserve full condemnation. I am proud to be Prime Minister of the most challenged democratic state in the world, which zealously protects human rights and freedom of expression.”

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