Photo Credit: Courtesy the Knesset
(R-L) MK Hanin Zoabi (Joint Arab List) and MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Habayit Hayehudi), moments before Zoabi's removal.

MK Hanin Zoabi (Joint Arab List) was removed from a meeting of the Education, Culture, and Sports Committee by the chairman, MK Yakov Margi (Shas), after she said, “A person is a murderer even if he committed murder just once in his life, so that’s what we can call the army, which murders occasionally and not every day of its life.”

MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Habayit Hayehudi) interrupted Zoabi, saying, “We will not let you call IDF soldiers murderers,” while MK Anat Berko (Likud) added, “You will not call IDF soldiers murderers – you and your terrorist friends.”

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Chairman Margi then instructed ushers to remove MK Zoabi from the room, and said, “IDF soldiers are not murderers. They operate in an impossible reality.”

Then MK Berko was also asked to leave after she refused to stop interrupting the discussion.

In other words, Monday.

The Education, Culture, and Sports Committee approved for a first plenum reading a bill authorizing the education minister to ban from schools organizations whose activities contradict the causes of the state education system and who initiate legal action abroad against IDF soldiers.

The bill is sponsored by MKs Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Habayit Hayehudi), Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi), Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), Amir Ohana (Likud), Yoav Kisch (Likud), Merav Ben Ari (Kulanu), David Bitan (Likud), Oded Forer (Yisrael Beitenu), Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid), Yoel Razvozov (Yesh Atid) and committee chairman Yakov Margi (Shas).

Addressing the bill, MK Moalem-Refaeli said, “These organizations seek to undermine the existence of the State of Israel and the foundations of the democratic existence. The IDF is a body which can be criticized, but one cannot slander IDF soldiers all over the world. This is a very significant bill, and a clear message should be relayed from this House: the Knesset supports IDF soldiers and their commanders.”

MK Dov Khenin, the only Jewish member of the Joint Arab List faction, called the legislation “dangerous” and said it gives the education minister “unprecedented authority to establish a blacklist of organizations and prevent their entry to schools.”

MK Masud Ganaim, also from the Joint Arab List, said, “The education system is not a factory for producing Zionists, and it should educate the pupils and prepare them for life. Are freedom of expression and critical thinking not the values of the education system? The IDF is not a sacred cow.”

MK Forer said the bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation to ever be submitted to the Knesset, “particularly in light of the campaign of lies and incitement being waged against IDF soldiers.” He said some school principals are “subversive, unfit to be principals and conduct discussions without bringing a balanced and opposing opinion.”

In response, MK Eytan Broshi (Zionist Camp) said “Those who were certified to run a school and have a teacher’s certificate can determine the necessary balances.”

MK Meir Cohen (Yesh Atid) said, “These organizations are trying to create a picture that is the embodiment of everything – that IDF soldiers loot and abuse. A democratic state has the right to defend itself, so not everything is permitted.”

MK Stern said, “I have no doubt that the IDF is the most moral army in the world, because it investigates its errors. No other army would behave this way under similar circumstances.”

A soldier’s mother who took part in the meeting argued that, “It cannot be that any organization can enter a school and express its opinion unsupervised. It cannot be that people defame our children who serve in the IDF. It is not a matter of right or left, but of loyalty to the State of Israel.”

The mother of two IDF soldiers presented a different take on the issue, telling the committee, “I fear this law and letting the minister determine rules of this kind.”

Attorney Merav Yisraeli, the committee’s legal adviser, said the committee should consider adding to the bill a clause stating that the education minister must consult with other entities before establishing these guidelines.

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