After left-wing NGO B’Tselem's director-general Hagai El-Ad spoke at a school in Haifa earlier this month despite the Education Ministry prohibiting it, Education Minister Yoav Gallant said that he is considering imposing sanctions on the school, Walla reported Wednesday.
The school in question is the 107-year-old Hebrew Reali School in Haifa. Last week, El-Ad, who was recently publicly criticized after referring to Israel as an apartheid state, gave a lecture to the school's students.
Now, the school might face sanctions as Gallant has promised to react harshly against schools that do not follow the ministry's guidelines.
הנחיתי את מנכ"ל משרד החינוך לאסור על כניסתם של ארגונים המכנים את מדינת ישראל "מדינת אפרטהייד" או מבזים את חיילי צה״ל להרצאות בבתי ספר בישראל, בפרט בפני תלמידים העומדים לקראת גיוס לצה"ל.— יואב גלנט (@yoavgallant) January 17, 2021
"I specifically instructed schools to prohibit organizations that operate in opposition to the purposes of the state's education system or in a way that degrades IDF soldiers during or after their service" from speaking there, Gallant told Walla.
He added that such organizations go "against the state," noting that this is not an issue of "right- or left-wing affiliation - it can happen in both radical right-wing organizations as well as in radical left-wing organizations."
Unlike the ministry's strict position, the national Teachers' Union has announced that it supports the Hebrew Reali School and will stand alongside it on this issue.
"This is unbelievable," wrote attorneys Sigal Pail and Elinor Yaakobi, who represent the Teachers' Union in Israel. In a letter dispatched to Gallant they said that they intend to examine the "influence of the destructive process being imposed by the Education Ministry on the education system as a whole."
Pail and Yaakobi have questioned the exceptional severity of the ministry's response to the incident, "especially when considering the hundreds of teachers employed by the school, which is a long-established and well-known educational institution, which thousands of students attend."
The attorneys have raised concerns that the incident is just the latest example of a methodological process of silencing public educators, which is done for political reasons ahead of the elections.
The story started a couple of weeks ago, when El-Ad, B’Tselem's director-general, said for the first time in the organization's 31-year history, that Israel is an apartheid state.
“Israel is not a democracy that has a temporary occupation attached to it; it is one regime from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, and we must look at the full picture and see it for what it is: apartheid,” he said at the time, explaining the organization's policy change.
Shortly after, Gallant issued a statement, banning groups that “contradict the goals of the education system" from schools. A law passed by the Knesset in 2018 allows the education minister to issue such bans, according to the NGO Im Tirzu.
Then, a week later, despite the ban, El-Ad was invited to speak at the Hebrew Reali School, leading to the explosive situation and the rising concerns over sanctions that Gallant might impose on one of the country's leading schools, harming both its teachers and students. Tovah Lazaroff and Tzvi Joffre contributed to this report.