The Israel Prize is experiencing quite the drama this year. First there was Haaretz’s bombshell report on Yehuda Meshi Zahav, who was awarded the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement for his work in ZAKA. Haaretz alleged that Meshi Zahav has engaged in all kinds of sexual perversions, spanning decades. Shortly thereafter the press revealed that Meshi Zahav had been investigated for fraud and other financial improprieties.
So it isn’t a surprise that the controversy surrounding Oded Goldreich would fly under the radar. Goldreich, winner of this year’s Israel Prize for Math and Computer Science, supports BDS. Minister of Education Yoav Gallant asked the committee granting the Israel Prize to reconsider. In response, the selection committee filed a petition with the High Court of Justice. (The court has previously ruled the education minister lacks the authority to intervene in selecting prize winners.)
Specifically what did Goldreich do that Galant found so objectionable? In May 2019 Goldreich signed a document which says, among other things, that BDS is not anti-Semitic. BDS is a movement which seeks to eradicate the one Jewish state, denying Jews, alone among the peoples of the earth, the right to self-determination. This is frankly anti-Semitic. In response to accusations of holding anti-Semitic positions, Goldreich responded that calling for sanctions on the State of Israel for its policies in the territories of Judea and Samaria is not anti-Semitism but legitimate criticism and legitimate political activism.
BDS’s concerns are hardly limited to Israel’s policies in the territories of Judea and Samaria. As a movement BDS was conceived and born in anti-Semitism, intent on destroying Israel as a Jewish state; this is public record and easy enough for anyone to uncover. That a leading research scientist willfully denies BDS’s notorious ambitions explains why Gallant objects to Goldreich as recipient of the Israel Prize. As Gallant put it in his appeal to the selection committee, 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.”