Wolf prize money donated to Birzeit University

The algebraic geometer David Mumford, one of the three winners of the Wolf prize this year, is donating his share of the prize money to Birzeit University — a Palestinian university, and Gisha — an organisation that promotes Palestinian freedom of movement. From the Haaretz article:

“I decided to donate my share of the Wolf Prize to enable the academic community in occupied Palestine to survive and thrive,” Mumford told Haaretz. “I am very grateful for the prize, but I believe that Palestinian students should have an opportunity to go elsewhere to acquire an education. Students in the West Bank and Gaza today do not have an opportunity to do that.”


“The achievements I accomplished in mathematics were made possible thanks to my being able to move freely and exchange ideas with other scholars,” he said. “It would not have been possible without an international consensus on an exchange of ideas. Mathematics works best when people can move and get together. That’s its elixir of life. But the people of occupied Palestine don’t have an opportunity to do that. The school system is fighting for its life, and mobility is very limited.”

2 thoughts on “Wolf prize money donated to Birzeit University”

  1. I’ve no quarrel with Mumford’s decision to donate his share of the Wolf prize to BirZeit University.

    However on the issue of limited mobility, I’d be curious to know what he thinks of mobile suicide bombers, and whether he’s in favour of unrestricted access for these individuals to the London Bus and Underground and Glasgow Airport.

  2. Obviously I can’t speak for David Mumford, or for Gisha.

    My own opinion is that, so far, road blocks and similar restrictions on the mobility of Palestinians have been unsuccessful in preventing terrorist attacks, and have a disproportionate and unjustified effect on non-terrorist Palestinians. The individuals involved in the Glasgow Airport attacker were, if I remember correctly, in the UK quite legally and working as doctors, so a road block to check their IDs would have beeen totally useless in preventing the attack. Arguably we could prevent any foreign person from entering the UK (the people were Iraqi, I think), but given that in the past some terrorist attacks have been committed or attempted by British people, I doubt that would entirely prevent terrorism in the UK either, and I fail to see how it would prevent attacks in other parts of the world.

    Yes, it is absolutely a problem that terrorists are able to attack people, but it simply doesn’t seem to me that road blocks are an effective way of preventing those attacks. Nor does it seem to me that it is fair or useful to cast all Palestinians as terrorists and therefore people who should not be free to travel; by the same logic we might say that no Basque person should not be allowed to travel within or outside of Spain because of the actions of the few Basque separatists who are members of ETA. However, Spain does not have any such policy.

    I just think we need different methods for preventing terrorism, starting with communication and policy changes. I really do think that preventing people from moving freely, and effectively imprisoning them, makes people more likely to turn to extremist action; as well as having unacceptable effects on the humanitarian situation of those people.

    Just my 2p. But as I say, I can’t speak for David Mumford.

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