Shin Bet reps meet with Education Ministry director on Arab students

The agency's involvement in Arab education was banned in 2005 by the Supreme Court.

Shin Bet's involvement in the Israeli education system (illustrative) (photo credit: PEXELS)
Shin Bet's involvement in the Israeli education system (illustrative)
(photo credit: PEXELS)
Education Ministry Director Shmuel Abuav met with Shin Bet representatives on issues relating to the education system in the Arab sector and east Jerusalem, Ynet reported on Thursday.

The information was reportedly obtained after a court ruling ordering the disclosure of the director's journal following a petition by the Movement for Freedom of Information.

According to the report, the director met with two Shin Bet agents, briefing them about Arab students, their involvement in civic society and youth movements, and set "major security objectives," including ones concerning radical Islamist tendencies.

The meeting, a source in the security establishment told Ynet, was held in November at the request of the Education Ministry rather than the Israeli Security Agency.

"Shin Bet's involvement in the education system is illegal and breaches the Education Ministry's promise to the Supreme Court following a petition Adalah submitted in the past against [the organization's] involvement in teacher tenure," Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel said following the report.

Up until the early 2000s, the Shin Bet officially oversaw the Arab education system. The policy, dating back to the 1949-1967 military rule over Arab localities in Israel, was banned by the Supreme Court in 2005 following a petition by Adalah.

"Discussing Arab students with security officials labels them as enemies and constitutes a factual return to the days of the military rule," Adalah continued, saying that the policy is "unjust ethnic classification that opposes the values defined in the National Education Law."

The 1953 law enables the education minister to order a local authority to establish public schools affiliated to a recognized stream, being "General" or "National-Religious", while not allowing Arab students to study in Jewish schools and vice versa.

In 2017 Yediot Aharonot reported that the sides maintained contact and cooperation despite public criticism of their policies. The investigative report published by the paper also revealed a 1978 document outlining "reward and punishment policies," alongside direct and indirect disqualification teacher tenure.

The Education Ministry responded to the Wednesday report, saying that the meeting was "meant to review the influence of the ministry's policies regarding Arab society and the tendencies in its development." According to Ynet, Abuav is valued by teachers and other workers of the education system and often visits Arab schools across the country. 

"It is disheartening that 55 years after the termination of the Military Rule that was set over Palestinian Israelis, the Israeli Security Agency keeps surveilling school students – Israeli citizens – mirroring the government's position: Seeing the Arab minority in the country as a potential enemy," the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said following the Wednesday report.

"It is unbelievable that the Education Ministry cooperates with Shin Bet and betrays the trust of the students and their parents," the association continued. "The fact that the Education Ministry bars the employment of teachers, principals and inspectors due to their political views is unsettling as well."

ACRI demanded that the Education Ministry stop its cooperation with the Israeli Security Agency, saying maintaining such a policy is a "blatant violation of human rights."