Gavriel Avital sacked in Israel

Gavriel Avital was dismissed from his position as chief scientist in Israel's ministry of education due to his denial of evolution and global warming, according to Haaretz (October 5, 2010). In February 2010, Avital's views sparked a furor; Haaretz (February 21, 2010) quoted him as saying, "If textbooks state explicitly that human beings' origins are to be found with monkeys, I would want students to pursue and grapple with other opinions. ... Part of my responsibility, in light of my position with the Education Ministry, is to examine textbooks and curricula."

Sa'ar distanced the ministry from Avital's remarks, telling a session of Israel's parliament, the Knesset, that Avital's remarks "are not in line with Education Ministry policy, and are unacceptable to me," as reported in Haaretz (March 4, 2010). But after Avital promised to follow the ministry's policy on evolution and the environment, the controversy seemed to have subsided. Avital's dismissal now appears to be connected to the expiration of what Ynetnews (October 4, 2010) described as "a scandal-filled trial period of less than a year."

Avital told Ynetnews that he was fired "because of an interview I gave to the press, not because I didn't do my job well." He added, "In the interview I expressed my opinion on evolution, science and literature — there was no negative response to the interview, only good feedback." Yet the responses to his interview included a protest from ten recipients of the Israel Prize — the country's highest civilian honor — protesting that his remarks "undermine the standing and importance of science and take us centuries backward," as Haaretz (February 26, 2010) reported.