Activists banned from speaking in Israel’s schools

Israeli education minister Naftali Bennett announces move during ‘emergency meetings’

An employee works at the offices of activist group Breaking the Silence in Tel Aviv, Israel on Wednesday: the group has been banned from speaking in schools or to groups of soldiers. Photograph:  Reuters/Baz Ratner

An employee works at the offices of activist group Breaking the Silence in Tel Aviv, Israel on Wednesday: the group has been banned from speaking in schools or to groups of soldiers. Photograph: Reuters/Baz Ratner

 

Israel has banned activist group Breaking the Silence, which solicits testimonies of alleged Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) misdeeds, from speaking in schools or to groups of soldiers, amid a widespread right-wing campaign to clamp down on left-wing groups they claim help delegitimise Israel.

Education minister Naftali Bennett said the NGO would no longer be allowed to address high-school students after what he termed “emergency meetings” with senior ministry officials.

“Our children are sent to school to learn about mutual responsibility, not about going after IDF soldiers,” Mr Bennett said. “Breaking the Silence’s activism has led to anti-Israel libel in the world. They have made it their mission to hurt their brothers – the ones who defend us all. We will not have lies and incitement in our schools.”

Breaking the Silence, which uses soldiers’ testimonies to expose what it terms “the daily moral price of a prolonged military occupation in the West Bank”, condemned the ban.

“Over 1,000 fighters who risked their lives defending the settlements and outposts in the West Bank received a clear message from Bennett – ‘You’re good only as cannon fodder, but after you’re done with the dirty work – shut your mouth.’ Bennett is sacrificing the Israeli education system on the altar of the occupation and the settlements,” the group said, calling on educators who care about Israeli democracy to speak up.

Army activity

“If Breaking the Silence were really worried about our morality the way we are, they would act directly vis-a-vis the army and not blacken the name of our soldiers abroad,” Mr Ya’alon tweeted. “The more time that goes by, the more this organisation is shown to be operating from malicious motives, and we will fight to our utmost against such phenomena.”

Boycotts and sanction

Binyamin Netanyahu

Earlier this week, President Reuven Rivlin rejected criticism by ministers over his participation in a policy conference in New York in which representatives of Breaking the Silence also took part.

Four Knesset members were removed from the plenum during a heated debate on Monday when the head of the left-wing Meretz, Zahava Golan, termed Breaking the Silence members “heroes”, while accusing the government of “McCarthyism” and “bounty hunting”.

Yoav Kisch, a Knesset member from Mr Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party, submitted a Bill proposing that non-governmental organisations operating in Israel while receiving the majority of their funding from foreign governments be labelled as “agents” of the governments funding them.

Right-wing pressure group Im Tirzu issued a video accusing left-wing groups in Israel of aiding and abetting terrorists.