The battle for the integrity of the IDF in high schools

Bennett seeks to ban Breaking the Silence from speaking to students.

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December 19, 2016 11:43
2 minute read.
IDF Caracal Battalion

IDF Caracal Battalion . (photo credit: IDF)

 
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The fight over the image and integrity of the IDF has found a new battleground: high schools.

Breaking the Silence, which provides anonymous testimonies of soldiers that describe alleged IDF transgressions, was invited to speak to teachers and students at the Tichonit High School in Tel Aviv on Sunday.

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This is the third school in two weeks which has invited the group to come speak to students – the first was the Adam School in Jerusalem and the second the Gymnasium Herzliya school in Tel Aviv.

A pamphlet circulated to students by Breaking the Silence at the Gymnasium Herzliya School in Tel Aviv last week presented over 30 anonymous testimonies of soldiers serving in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank collected by the group between 2005 and 2011.

“This booklet reveals how physical violence is frequently used toward children, at times as a response to accusations of stone throwing those mostly arbitrarily and without any real reason,” the group wrote in the booklet’s prologue.

What follows are dozens of testimonies of alleged violence and abuses against Palestinian children and youth by soldiers.

Last year, Education Minister Naftali Bennett banned the group from the education system for disseminating “lies and propaganda against the IDF.” While the Education Ministry has not been able to successfully keep the organization out of schools, the anti-BDS group Reservists on Duty has been going to these same schools in an effort to provide a counter lecture to students.

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“They are taking a handful of anonymous testimonies, and making serious accusations against the IDF based on them and presenting this to unknowing students as fact,” Amit Deri, chairman and founder of Reservists on Duty, told the Post.

On Sunday, while Breaking the Silence was set to speak at the Tichonit High School, Deri went to speak to the students at the Gymnasium Herzliya to provide an alternative viewpoint. Deri said his group would continue to visit each school where Breaking the Silence spoke in an attempt to counter the “misinformation and lies that Breaking the Silence is spreading to students.”

“This is a political struggle between elected officials, such as the education minister, and the principals who are waging it on the backs of their own students,” he alleged.

Reservists on Duty was formed last year as a counter to Breaking the Silence and has since expanded its activities to combat the BDS movement on college campuses abroad.

Last week the Education Ministry released a memorandum in an attempt to refine the current guidelines in place with regards to school discussions on controversial issues and unequivocally ban the Breaking the Silence group from appearing in schools. But the updated memorandum did not clarify the penalty for violating the directive. The principals have been called to the ministry for a hearing.

Breaking the Silence issued a response to the memorandum on its Facebook page criticizing Bennett and his “hollow political statement.”

“Thanks to Bennett, thousands more students will hear from us about the moral price of occupation,” they wrote.

The Knesset Education, Sports and Culture Committee is set to hold a discussion on the activities of Breaking the Silence in schools next week.

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