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Israel anti-occupation NGO welcomes Man Booker donation

Israeli writer's US translator to give half of prize money from literary award to group fighting for Palestinian rights.

Jessica Cohen, David Grossman

An Israeli human rights group working on issues in the occupied West Bank has welcomed the donation of prize money from one of the Man Booker International Prize winners.

Amit Gilutz, the spokesperson of B'Tselem, said on Thursday the NGO was thankful to the donor, adding that the group was determined to continue "to resist the occupation until it ends".

Israeli writer David Grossman, 63, won the prize on Wednesday evening for his novel "A Horse Walks Into a Bar", along with his US translator Jessica Cohen, with the two splitting the £50,000 ($64,000) award.

Cohen announced at the awards in the British capital of London that she would donate "half of the award money" to the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, which campaigns against Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories.

"For almost 30 years now they have been reporting on human rights violations committed in the occupied Palestinian territories," she said.

"It is not easy to tell uncomfortable and unflattering truths, and it's certainly not easy to hear them, but it is essential, not only in literature but in life."


READ MORE: Israel passes controversial NGO bill amid criticism


Grossman, the first Israeli to win the prize, is a member of the NGO's public council and is known for his open and direct criticism of Israel for the rights of Palestinians.

But he told Israeli army radio on Thursday he was wary of being a representative of any particular cause.

"When I write a story, I don't think of it as an ambassador, or even as an honorary consul. I want to tell a story."

At odds with government

B'Tselem's work has seen it regularly at odds with Israeli politicians in the current government.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently floated the idea of banning all state foreign funding to NGOs, seen as targeting B'Tselem and other left-wing groups.

Culture Minister Miri Regev, who has been at war with much of the country's intellectual elite, congratulated Grossman on his victory.

Regev did not mention Cohen's donation to B'Tselem.

Grossman urged Regev to see "this as an instance where literature can put our situation across in a complex, interesting and meaningful way".

He called on the government to "not disturb literature or art from expressing all their complexities, because that is what they are for".

Grossman's book unfolds over the course of a stand-up show during which comedian Dovaleh Gee exposes a wound he has been living with for years and the difficult choice he had to make between the two people who were dearest to him.


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