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עמדה - מיקרופון

The position of the Professors for a Strong Israel's on the controversy pertaining to the Israel Prize

Scientific societies, foundations and even states have the custom of awarding prestigious prizes to those who have advanced human technology and knowledge through their outstanding achievements.  The decisions made by these prize-giving bodies are based on the expert opinion of professional committees.  Similarly, the Israel Prize is awarded by the Minister of Education as per the recommendation of professional committees.  However, the Israel Prize is not a prize awarded by scientists to other scientists.  Rather, it is the Israeli public's token of appreciation to such persons who have contributed significantly (this also includes a life-time achievement) to Israeli society.  It follows then that the Minister of Education should not award this prize to a person who undermines a national institution such as an Israeli university. It is the Israeli public's right to avoid awarding such a prize to scientists who call for banning state activities, its institutions or its scientists. 

It is the right and the obligation of every Israeli minister to take the interest of the public into account before awarding any individual with a prize which expresses public esteem, even if the professional committee has found him/her worthy of the prize due to his/her professional achievement.  Values such as protecting the Israeli public and preventing political interests from taking over the Israeli academe should be the guiding star in every decision taken by the government concerning the academe. 

It must be noted that the Higher Education Law (1958) granted the Israeli academe full autonomy in allocating the funds procured from the Israeli tax payer to researchers working in academic institutions in Israel.  This means that state funds are allocated on the basis of recommendations given by internal professional committees from within the academe, a system which leaves very little room for transparency. In fact, it is a system based on peer review, and, as such, is solely based on the members' integrity and objectivity.  This is no easy feat.

It follows that any call to boycott Israel by a member of the academe, who is also a prize laureate, might lead to intentional or non-intentional bias and undermine the committee members' ability to judge fairly and make objective decisions.  Any process whereby peers review each other is fragile and sensitive, by its very definition, and must therefore be subject to additional protection.  Calls for sanctions or boycotts by peers contaminate the said process, and must therefore be excluded from public debate in Israel.  This can be achieved by not awarding prizes to individuals who promote internal or external boycotts. 

In light of the above, Professors for a Strong Israel call on all those involved in the controversial candidacy of Prof. Goldreich for the Israel Prize to adopt the Ministry of Education's original position and not award him with the prize regardless of the decision made by the professional committee. 


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