Israel Prize committee petitions top court over minister’s veto of math winner

Members object to Education Minister Gallant’s efforts to prevent award from going to Oded Goldreich over his alleged BDS support

Education Minister Yoav Gallant at a conference in Jerusalem on March 15, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Education Minister Yoav Gallant at a conference in Jerusalem on March 15, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The committee for selecting a winner of the Israel Prize in mathematics and computer science filed a petition Tuesday at the High Court of Justice against Education Minister Yoav Gallant.

Members of the committee object to Gallant’s efforts to prevent awarding the prize to their recommended candidate, Oded Goldreich of the Weizmann Institute, over his alleged support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.

Justice Yael Vilner set a hearing for April 5 and ordered that details of the petition be kept confidential.

The court has previously ruled the education minister lacks the authority to intervene in selecting prize winners.

The Education Ministry announced the winners of the prize earlier this month, but said no candidate had yet been chosen in the field of mathematics and computer science.

Oded Goldreich (CC BY-SA 3.0)/Wikipedia)

According to a Channel 12 news report, Gallant asked the committee to reconsider its decision to grant the prize to Goldreich, whom it had selected for his work on computational complexity theory.

Gallant objected to Goldreich’s signing of a 2019 letter calling on Germany’s parliament not to pass legislation denouncing BDS as anti-Semitic. The report said it was also claimed Goldreich called Israeli soldiers “war criminals.”

After the committee decided on Goldreich, Gallant asked it to reconsider, arguing it would be “absurd and unacceptable” to grant the prize to someone who “promotes the interests of the boycott movement that undermines Israel’s existence,” according to the network.

In a subsequent interview, Goldreich called Gallant and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “evil” and said the “anguish” of having to shake their hands would pale in comparison to that caused by the government’s “criminal and stupid policies.”

He also said he had no regrets about signing the letter, though he stressed it did not call for a boycott of Israel.

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