AG: Withholding of Israel Prize to Communist Academic Was Wrong

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit told the High Court of Justice on Thursday, July 23, that far-right former Education Minister Yoav Gallant’s decision to block a Communist professor from receiving the prestigious Israel Prize for his supposed backing of boycotts against Israel was wrong. In his response to a petition against Gallant’s decision, Mandelblit said the selection committee should be permitted to grant the prize in mathematics and computer science to Oded Goldreich, a professor of computer science at Israel’s Weizmann Institute, for his work on computational complexity theory.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit (Photo: GPO)

“The decision of the then-education minister exceeds the range of reasonableness and accordingly cannot stand legally,” Mandelblit wrote. Also, a lawyer for the members of the prize committee said Gallant lacked the authority to make such a decision.

Goldreich’s lawyer hailed the AG’s position. “The stance of the attorney general should not surprise anyone, and it’s too bad it took so long to say the obvious. The proceedings that Professor Goldreich has undergone and is still undergoing are McCarthyite proceedings that shame the State of Israel,” Atty. Michael Sfard told Haaretz.

Goldreich was selected by a committee to receive this year’s prize in mathematics and computer science for his work on computational complexity theory. However, Yoav Galant (Likud) the education minister at the time blocked Goldreich from receiving the prize, alleging he backs the Palestinian struggle against Israeli occupation. New Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton (a former Likud lawmaker) decided to uphold her predecessor’s decision not to award the prestigious Israel Prize to the professor.

Related: Posts on the Goldreich affair