Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett gestures during a preliminary vote on a bill at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem November 16, 2016.
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) blasted Education Minister Naftali Bennett and his decision to withdraw the Education Ministry’s involvement in Wednesday’s ACRI conference after he alleged the group defends terrorists.
In response, ACRI called Bennett’s actions a “new low” in the country’s democracy.
A letter signed by 45 families who lost relatives in terror attacks urging Bennett to cancel Wednesday’s annual Association for Civil Rights event accusing the group of defending terrorists and their families in court, reached the Minister’s office on Tuesday which eventually led to the decision to cancel their involvement in Wednesday’s event.
Ahead of Human Rights day, taking place on December 10, Wednesday’s event was organized with the ACRI and the Education Ministry in order to discuss workers rights, which was set to include teacher’s rights.
However, based on the content of the letter, the ministry refused to take part in the event.
The letter written by the bereaved families said: “ACRI is a radical delegitimization organization that, among its various anti-Israel activities, fights against us, the bereaved families, in a direct way by defending terrorists who murdered our children, parents, brothers, husbands and wives,” it continued. “Unfortunately this organization and others like it repeatedly defend vile murderers. It is inconceivable that the Education Ministry would work with this organization.”
“We need to fight those who bolster terrorism with a firm hand, not provide them with funding from the taxpayer’s pockets.” the letter added.
In response to the letter, Bennett announced the cancellation of the ministry-sponsored conference.
“After information was brought to my attention that [ACRI] consistently works to defend terrorists who murdered Israelis, I instructed the Ministry of Education to cancel its participation in the activity that was supposed to take place with this organization,” Bennett said in a statement.
“The Education Ministry will not cooperate with organizations that harm IDF soldiers or defend our enemies.”
Matan Peleg, chairman of right-wing group Im Tirtzu, concurred with the statement and lauded Bennett’s decision: “It is unthinkable that the Education Ministry would maintain a connection with a political organization that slanders Israel and IDF soldiers.
This is one of the most controversial issues in Israeli society and the most painful for bereaved families. It is time for all government ministries to denounce these delegitimization organizations, the sooner the better.”
In response, Sharon Abraham- Weiss, ACRI executive director, accused the Education Ministry of threatening the country’s democracy.
Abraham-Weiss said on Tuesday that they “were shocked to learn from a press release that Education Minister Naftali Bennett is calling for the cancellation of our conference planned for tomorrow, on the issue of workers’ rights in cooperation with the Education Ministry and the Center for Educational Technology.”
“We have clearly reached a new low. The man responsible for the education of all of Israel’s children is working with Im Tirtzu, a movement whose sole purpose is to undermine Israeli democracy,” she added.
According to ACRI, they have been working together with the Education Ministry for the past 40 years and this is the first time this cooperation has been disrupted.
ACRI then presented a letter to attorney general Avichai Mandelblit stating: “We turned to the Attorney General and requested that he immediately instruct Bennett not to intervene and not to forbid employees connected to his office from participating in the conference.”
Despite pressure from the right, the conference is to take place on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. without the participation of the Education Ministry.
The group has invited the public to attend. “We invite you and call upon all those who care about human rights to join and not legitimize the silencing of those who criticize the government activities.”