Israel Denied Leftist Professor Its Top Award. This Is How Leftists Should Respond

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Professor Oded Goldreich in Tel Aviv last month.
Professor Oded Goldreich in Tel Aviv last month.Credit: Moti Milrod

I am a serial signer of petitions from the political left, and yet, in my heart, I always believed that signing such petitions – one of which I even had the privilege, a few years ago, of drafting and organizing together with Ilana Hammerman – is an act devoid of any concrete benefit.

But recently, in light of the decision to withhold the Israel Prize in Mathematics and Computer Science from Prof. Oded Goldreich due to his signing of a petition calling on the European Union not to cooperate with Ariel University, it seems to me that in certain circumstances a single signature on a petition of opponents of the occupation and apartheid regime in Israel/Palestine may have a practical, concrete and effective impact.

Israel’s current education minister and her immediate predecessor indirectly contributed to the potential effectiveness of Goldreich’s public opposition to one of the most prominent symbols of Israel’s international criminal enterprise in the occupied territories. In their short-sightedness they insisted, on account of this opposition, on rejecting the prize jury’s professional decision to award the prize to Goldreich in recognition of his scientific achievements.

Both of them missed a wonderful opportunity to restore to Israel, the occupying and settling state, the semblance of a liberal Western democracy. To do so, they would first have to withdraw the Orwellian lie according to which in signing the petition in favor of boycotting Ariel University, Goldreich acted (in the words of former education minister Yoav Gallant) “to weaken Israeli academia” (while what actually weakens it is its illegal incursion into the territory of apartheid and the occupation). Or that he sought (in the words of Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton) to harm “academic freedom of expression” (while what actually harms the humanist foundations of academic freedom is the Israeli occupier, whose establishment of Ariel University is among the means of strengthening its illegal and repressive rule).

Afterward, the minister and former minister could have declared that in the spirit of tolerance and democracy they are willing to show generosity and to confirm the prize jury’s decision. Such a statement would strengthen Israel’s democratic image and thereby contribute to its immunity from international criticism of its occupation and apartheid regime.

But while they are convinced that Israel is already immune to all criticism, the two education ministers of the Jewish apartheid state decided to baldly educate Israeli intellectuals and scientists to keep their mouths shut. This time, however, it seems they went too far: Withholding the state’s most prestigious prize in the field of science from a scholar over his protest against the degradation of Israeli academia by dragging it into the racist colonialist project in the West Bank is too obvious a removal of the democratic mask from the face of the Israeli occupier. In the long run, this could lead Western democracies to reexamine their cultural and diplomatic solidarity with Israel’s imaginary democracy.

But in order for the scandalous chapter of denying the Israel Prize to Prof. Goldreich to be followed by Western democracies’ renunciation of the Israeli occupation and apartheid regime, the remnants of the Israeli left must place this affair at the center of international discourse in the wide variety of media channels that are available today.

To advance such a move intensively and continuously, a broad and centralized voluntary association of left-wing civil society organizations is needed that will work publicly and openly with Western countries to encourage consistent international pressure on Israel for its ongoing subjugation of the Palestinian people and its systematic violation of its citizens’ freedom to protest the racist, criminal settlement enterprise.

The problem is that such an association – whose establishment I have advocated for here recently, and will continue to do so at every relevant opportunity – exists for the time being, unfortunately, only in the imagination of a very few opponents of the occupation, who in any event are few.

Is it possible that the impudent and dangerous escalation in the total war, launched by the commissars of the last colonialist regime in the world, against the opponents of occupation and apartheid, as exemplified by the Goldreich affair, will awaken the vestiges of the left and spur it to broad, organized political action?

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