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An Israel Prize for the Occupation

Haaretz Editorial
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Education Minister Yoav Gallant visiting a school in Netanya, two months ago.
Education Minister Yoav Gallant visiting a school in Netanya, two months ago. Credit: Hadas Parush
Haaretz Editorial

The High Court of Justice provided valuable ammunition Thursday to the forces that persecute and silence all criticism of the Israeli occupation in the territories. In granting Education Minister Yoav Gallant’s request to reexamine the political statements of Prof. Oded Goldreich with an eye to denying him the Israel Prize in mathematics and computer science, the justices facilitated a separate track for leftists: Even if the Weizmann Institute scientist ultimately does receive the prize, it will not be as part of the familiar ceremony, but later, at an unknown place and time, with no connection to the event held on Independence Day. Perhaps in the basement of Gallant’s home.

Justices Justices Isaac Amit, Noam Sohlberg and Yael Willner accepted Gallant’s position – also supported by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit – that more time is needed to determine whether Goldreich’s signature on a petition calling on the European Union to cease cooperating with Ariel University – an ostensible violation of the so-called boycott law – can be deemed an “external” consideration that outweighs the professional considerations for granting the prize. When the examination is completed and a decision is made, the matter will be returned to the court.

Over the next 30 days, Gallant and his helpers in the pro-settlement organization Im Tirzu will hunt for every possible quote from Goldreich denouncing the occupation and the settlements. With the imprimatur of the High Court justices, a prize is being given to every informant and compiler of blacklists. As the state’s representatives told the court, the “hunt for leftists” could also include summoning Goldreich to a kind of hearing over his views. The political interrogation of Israel Prize laureates is a clear sign of the decline of Israeli democracy. The High Court justices damaged the public’s trust in the Israel Prize and painted its recipients in the colors of the demands of the ruling regime.

Last year, the High Court of Justice rejected a petition against granting the Israel Prize in Torah Culture to Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, who made anti-LGBTQ statements. This time, there was no defense of “unpleasant and hurtful comments” that are protected by freedom of expression. The issue here is not only whether or not Goldreich receives the prize to which he is entitled, but the attempt to delegitimize an entire political camp that opposes the continuation of the oppression in the territories. The justices’ ruling is nothing but cowardly appeasement of the regime.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.