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Israeli academic to use cash prize to help Palestinians

David Shulman says will give $20,000 prize he won in prestigious Israeli award to group that works with Palestinians.

A professor who won the Israel Prize - considered one of the country's highest honours - has pledged to donate a cash award to an Israeli group dedicated to helping Palestinians.

American-born Israeli David Shulman, a professor of Asian studies at the Hebrew university in Jerusalem who won the award for academic work, said he would donate the $20,000 prize to Ta'ayush - or Living together - an organisation he helped to found that advocates for Palestinians.

Shulman was given the honour this week as part of celebrations to mark the foundation of the Israeli state, an anniversary marked by Palestinians as al-Nakba, or "the catastrophe".

"I hesitated to accept the prize given the deteriorating situation [in the occupied Palestinian territories] which includes the persecution of Ta'ayush and other peace and human rights activists by the establishment and the far right who seek to perpetuate the occupation," he said in a YouTube video

"We in Ta'ayush feel an ethical duty to defend the innocent civilian population and to stand by them in the face of ongoing violence."

In the video, footage showed Shulman, along with other Israeli peace activists, helping Palestinians with an olive harvest and cleaning debris and damage from what it said were attacks by Israeli settlers.

Ta'ayush describes itself on its website as, "a grassroots movement working to break down the walls of racism, segregation, and apartheid by constructing a true Arab-Jewish partnership."

"For more than a decade, Ta'ayush has been working in area C of the occupied Palestinian territories, especially in the South Hebron Hills, to support Palestinian residents in their struggle to retain their homes and agricultural lands," the website says.

"Palestinians in these areas face constant harassment and violence by Israeli settlers and the army."

The awarding committee said Shulman's academic work was "outstanding in its diverse engagement with various literary genres and different areas of research, among them religion, mythology, art, folklore and imagination."

He is also Israel’s leading expert on Indian cultures and languages and has received several other awards for his work.

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