Top Israeli court: Rescind prize given to allegedly racist reporter

JERUSALEM — Israel's High Court of Justice has asked Education Minister Zevulun Hammer to cancel a decision to award the Israel Prize for journalism to a columnist who wrote a controversial article about Ethiopian immigrants.

The court also asked Hammer to clarify whether the Israel Prize committee would have reconsidered its decision had it known about the article written by Ma'ariv columnist Shmuel Shnitzer, who was recently censured for it by the Journalist Association's ethics committee.

The court directive came in response to a petition from Labor Knesset member Adisu Massala, who said an August 1994 column in the daily newspaper Ma'ariv by Shnitzer was racist and that he should not receive the prize.

In his article Schnitzer referred to Ethiopians who immigrated to Israel as "thousands of apostates carrying dangerous diseases."

Shnitzer's column was written in response to an article in the Ha'aretz newspaper that reported on the high incidence of tuberculosis among Ethiopian immigrants.

It also followed a request by the Ethiopian community to block the broadcast of a television news story on the high incidence of AIDS in the community.

Israel Magen David Adom blood bank last year sparked an Ethiopian outcry after news reports that the blood bank was dumping Ethiopian blood donations for fear of spreading AIDS.

President Ezer Weizman met with Shnitzer earlier this month and urged him to apologize to the Ethiopian community.

Shnitzer has refused to retract his remarks.