Edited by: TJVNews.com
One of the highlights of Yom Haatzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) is the annual Israel Prize. This year, however, controversy surrounds the prize and has caused many to consider whether the prize is immersed in politics.
According to a New York Times report, the prize is the state’s most prestigious honor, traditionally awarded to 10 or more citizens or organizations for outstanding contributions to the sciences, culture and society.
About a month ago, the overseer of the prize, Israeli Education Minister Yoav Gallant had refused to honor one of the winners. Oded Goldreich, a Weizmann Institute of Science professor of mathematics and computer science was selected as a winner, however, MKGallant who represents the Likud party has asserted that Professor Goldreich supports the international, pro-Palestinian campaign to boycott Israel, better known as the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, according to the NY Times report. Professor Goldreich has insisted that he is neutral on the issue.
The Times reported that the selection committee that chose Professor Goldreich as a recipient of the award itself turned to the Supreme Court of Israel to lodge a complaint that MK Gallant had overstepped his authority. The education minister grants the prize but has no say over the committee’s choices.
The Supreme Court of Israel has previously fielded requests from outside critics to disqualify several laureates from across the political spectrum, as was reported by the NYT.
The Times reported that the panel of three judges lamented in a ruling issued last week, “Once again, we are required, in what has turned into a repetitive ritual, to engage in the Israel Prize. “Indeed, it is regrettable that such a prestigious and renowned award and such a unifying and uplifting event as the Israel Prize ceremony has turned into an almost constant source of disagreement and division.”
Professor Goldreich has a history of signing letters and petitions opposing Israel’s presence in the liberated lands of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. The Palestinians have insisted that these territories be designated as their own autonomous state of Palestine. Others have said that the ultimate objective of the Palestinians is the expulsion of Jews from the entire land of Israel. The Times has reported that Im Tirtzu, a nationalistic Israeli group has called Goldreich the “Anti-Israel Israeli Professor” campaigned against his nomination.
Another instance of controversy pertaining to the Israel Prize occurred in the early 1990s, according to the NY Times report. Another professor, Yeshayahu Leibowitz was a strident opponent of Jews settling in Israel’s Biblical heartland. He was a winner of the Israel Prize but soon thereafter he withdrew as a prize recipient when the late Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin had threatened to boycott the prize ceremony, according to the Times report.
Only last year, the winner of the Israel Prize was Rabbi Yaakov Ariel and certain people and factions of the government stood in staunch opposition to the committee’s decision to present him with the award. Rabbi Ariel’s detractors claimed that he held biased views of homosexuals and allegedly compared them to “disabled” people.
The New York Times reported that at that juncture, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected a petition calling for the rabbi’s disqualification, saying that his past remarks were irrelevant and had no bearing on his professional excellence in his field of Torah scholarship, and that his comments were protected by free speech.