Israel Prize Comm. Files Petition vs. Far-Right Education Minister

The Israel Prize Committee submitted a petition on Tuesday, March 30, to the Supreme Court against far-right Education Minister Yoav Galant, who they say is attempting to intervene and prevent a professor active in Hadash and the Communist Party of Israel from receiving the prestigious award. Justice Yael Vilner set a hearing for April 5 and ordered that details of the petition be kept confidential.

According to Zo Haderech, Galant is said to have asked the committee to rescind their decision to award the prize to Professor Oded Goldreich from the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at the Weizmann Institute. However, the Council of the Israel National Academy of Sciences informed the minister that the Israel Prize is awarded based only on excellence in research, irrespective of politics.

Professor Oded Goldreich

Professor Oded Goldreich (Photo: Weizmann Institute)

Galant reportedly exploded when he unofficially learned in early March that the recipient of this year’s Israel Prize for the fields of Mathematics and Computer Science would be Goldreich. In June 2017, Goldreich was among some 240 Israeli scholars who signed an appeal to the German Bundestag calling on it not to adopt a legally non-binding motion then being debated by the lawmakers which categorized the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel as “anti-Semitic.” The Israeli signatories to the petition categorically refuted any such aspersions towards BDS, and expressed their concern that, if passed, the German resolution would curtail freedom of speech.

In response to the revelation about Galant’s attempt to deny him the prize, in an article published in Zo Haderech, Goldreich called Galant and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “evil.” He added that it would cause him much “grief” if he were obligated to shake hands with the premier and education minister when it came time to accept the award, but that this would pale in comparison to that caused him by the government’s “criminal and stupid policies.”

The 64-year-old professor has done extensive research on cryptography and computational complexity theory and won the prestigious Knuth Prize in 2017 for outstanding contributions to the foundations of computer science.