The Education Ministry announced on Tuesday that they were banning a nonprofit consisting of bereaved Israeli and Palestinian parents who advocate for peace building from operating in Israeli schools.
The ban was following a rule change by Education Minister Yoav Kisch that prohibits educational programming that slanders the IDF or soldiers.
In a statement announcing their decision, the ministry wrote that “Any comparison of the bereavement of IDF families and victims of hostilities with the bereavement of casualties from IDF defensive actions in its protection of the State of Israel is unacceptable, and does not align with the values promoted by the Education Ministry and which is severely damaging to the memory of IDF soldiers and the feelings of their families.”
The new rule changed the criteria under which external programs can be accepted into schools. After the change, the organization, Parents Circle-Families Forum (PCFF), was put to review, and ultimately barred from operating in schools.
Who are the Parents Circle-Families Forum, promoting peace between Israelis and Palestinians?
The PCFF is a nonprofit that brings together the parents of those killed from the Israeli and Palestinian side, working to grieve together and find common ground to move a solution forward. They operate seminars in Israel proper and in Palestinian communities in Judea and Samaria.
Critics of the program have pointed to the fact that it may be belittling the suffering of Israelis killed in attacks.
This includes Btsalmo, which wrote that they “congratulate the education minister who finally, after many years of struggles, made this decision. It is an immeasurably moral and value-based decision. High school students, just before joining the military, are supposed to learn about the values of protecting Israeli citizens and the homeland - not values of terrorism, incitement to hatred for the State of Israel, and more. The forum has former terrorists and terrorist families and there is no logic that they should be in schools. This is not a violation of freedom of expression, as the forum can continue to spread its toxic teachings, just not in schools under the Zionist education system."
The committee that made the ultimate decision to bar PCFF also put out a statement, saying that “The committee believes that in a democratic state it is appropriate to encourage and express different, even if controversial, opinions,” stating thought that “the programs operated by [PCFF] cannot be included due to the goals that the organization has set and is working to promote.”
In a conversation with The Jerusalem Post, co-director of the PCFF Yuval Rahamim discussed the new ruling. He stated that the ruling is connected to the current movements against democracy in the country, and that ultimately they will challenge the rulings and take it to court if need be. He said that “there is no basis to the decision, it is all political.”
Rahamim, who lost his father when he was eight years old, said the PCFF has educated more than 200,000 students since its inception 30 years ago. He said their goal is to “educate and demonstrate that it is possible to move forward together.”
Rahamim lamented the lack of education in schools about the conflict, saying that “everyone in Israel stopped talking about peace,” and that they are trying to silence the voices of those promoting it.
He acknowledged the sensitives to the topic, explaining that the forum does not include parents of terrorists who were killed by Israeli forces.
Rahamim spoke of the success that the program has had in bringing forth the willingness to forgive, and that it is “a life-changing opportunity” for its participants.
The decision will be active for the upcoming school year, which starts on September 1.