Pro-BDS professor will receive Israel Prize, Supreme Court rules

“This is a dark day for Zionism and for the judicial system,” said Alon Schvartzer, director of Policy for Israel advocacy NGO Im Tirtzu.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Israel’s Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton must award the Israel Prize to a professor who supports the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) anti-Israel movement.

“Infringing on the academic freedom of expression by refusing the award for Prof. Goldreich is difficult,” the Court wrote in its decision. “Academic excellence does not necessarily go hand in hand with opinions that agree with the public consensus.”

“The denial of the Israel Prize to a renowned academic due to sporadic remarks is an invitation to monitor and persecute academics in Israel,” they added.

Shasha-Biton’s predecessor Yoav Galant, who served as Education Minister under former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, decided to withhold the prize from Oded Goldreich in June 2021.

The nomination of Goldreich, a prominent mathematician and computer science professor at the Weizmann Institute of Science, for the national honor sparked controversy due to his signing of a March 2021 petition urging the European Union to cut off funding from Ariel University in Samaria.

The EU must “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,” the petition read.

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In 2019, Goldreich signed an open letter pressuring the German government not to equate the BDS movement with antisemitism.

Goldreich appealed Galant’s decision to withhold the prize, and the Supreme Court sided with him in August 2021.

The Court ruled that the decision whether or not to award the prize was now in the hands of Shasha-Biton, who took over the role from Gallant.

Shasha-Biton upheld her predecessor’s decision, and Goldreich petitioned the court to intervene once again.

After Tuesday’s ruling, Shasha-Biton released a statement saying that although she disagreed with the Court decision to force her to give Goldreich the prize, she will “respect it.”

“This is a dark day for Zionism and for the judicial system,” said Alon Schvartzer, director of Policy for Israel advocacy NGO Im Tirtzu, in response to the decision.

“We can’t win the war against BDS when High Court judges in Israel are bolstering those calling to boycott Israel. If the Israel Prize is being given to those who promote boycotting Israel, it’s better to cancel the prize altogether.”