Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton announces that she will block a professor from receiving the prestigious Israel Prize on the grounds that he allegedly backs boycotts against the country, despite a High Court of Justice ruling against interference in the prize committee’s choice.
Oded Goldreich, a professor of computer science at Israel’s Weizmann Institute, was supposed to receive the prize earlier this year for his work on computational complexity theory. However, previous education minister, Yoav Gallant, alleged that Goldreich backs the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Goldreich has denied backing BDS but said he objects to West Bank settlements. In March Goldreich signed a petition urging the European Union to stop funding for Ariel University, located in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.
“Anyone who calls for boycotting an academic institute in Israel is not suitable to receive the prize,” Shasha-Biton says in a statement.
“The prime purpose of the Israel Prize is to encourage Israeli art, excellence and research,” the minister says. “Calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutes undermines that goal, as it seeks to sever creativity, diversity, and freedom of opinion.”
The minister, a member of the right-wing New Hope party, adds that Goldreich’s signing of the petition in March justifies her decision to not give him the prize “despite his outstanding and impressive professional achievements in his field of research.”
Goldreich’s lawyer, Michael Sfard, denounces Shasha-Biton’s decision as “a death blow to the prestige of the Israel Prize.”