Education Minister upholds decision not to give Israel Prize to pro-BDS professor

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Prof. Oded Goldreich receiving an "alternative" Israel Prize in April, 2021. (Screen grab/YouTube)

By Aryeh Savir, TPS

Minister of Education Yifat Shasha Bitton has decided to deny Professor Oded Goldreich the Israel Prize, upholding her predecessor’s resolution.

Former Education Minister Yoav Galant decided to deny Goldreich, of the Weizmann Institute of Science, the Israel Prize in the field of mathematics and computer science research over his support of boycotts against Israeli institutions.

However, the High Court of Justice decided in August to overturn Galant’s decision following a petition filed by Goldreich. The High Court turned over the case to Shasha Bitton, for reconsideration, but she decided to uphold Galant’s decision.

Shasha Bitton stated Thursday that her decision stems from Goldreich’s signing of a petition calling for a boycott of Ariel University in Samaria.

“The main purpose of the Israel Prize is to encourage Israeli creativity, excellence and research. A call for a boycott of academic institutions in Israel undermines this goal, as it seeks to cut off creativity, diversity and freedom of opinion,” Shasha Bitton wrote in her decision.

She added that Goldreich’s signature on the petition calling for a boycott of an Israeli academic institution in early 2021 is “an exceptional case that justifies the choice not to award the candidate the prize, despite his outstanding and impressive professional achievements in his field of research.”

“As Minister of Education and Chairman of the Council of Higher Education, I cannot award the Israel Prize for academic achievements, impressive as they may be, to those who call for a boycott of an Israeli academic institution,” she said.

Goldreich is expected to appeal this conclusion as well.

Goldreich signed a petition in March calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions in Judea and Samaria.

“Research projects should not be used to legitimize or otherwise sustain illegal Israeli settlements,” read the petition signed by Goldreich and initiated by the “No Ariel Ties” group dedicated toward boycotting Ariel University.

The petition, signed by 522 academics in Israel and abroad, called on the European Union to “ensure that its taxpayer-funded research programs are not used to legitimize or otherwise sustain the establishment and the activities of Israeli academic institutions in illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.”

A 2019 open letter signed by 240 Israeli and Jewish academics, including Goldreich, called on the German government to reject its resolution equating BDS with anti-Semitism. The letter also urged Germany to continue funding organizations, including pro-BDS NGOs, which “peacefully challenge the Israeli occupation” and “expose severe violations of international law.”

Goldreich is also quoted as saying he will “be distressed to shake the hand of the two head bastards Galant and Netanyahu [during the award ceremony], but it will be negligible to the distress of their stupid policy.”

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