Education Minister Yoav Galant (Likud) on Sunday issued an order banning the Hebrew Reali School in Haifa from hosting Hagai El-Ad, director-general of B’Tselem in a talk to twelfth graders about Israel the Apartheid State.
The letter, issued via the Haifa District Director at the Ministry of Education, Saar Harel, ordered the banning of all groups that “contradict the goals of the education system, including calling Israel false disparaging names, opposing Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state, discouraging meaningful service in the IDF, or acting to harm or degrade IDF soldiers during or after their service.”
According to the school, they inquired with the ministry regarding the legal basis for the ban, and when a response did not arrive, the school assembled some 300 twelfth-grade students for a Zoom lecture on Monday morning as planned.
The Education Minister’s office said they were examining their options. The ministry responded to inquiries from reporters about the legal basis for the ban (B’Tselem is a legal Israeli NGO) saying the Minister has the right to “chart policy.”
Between 1977 and 2012, Yoav Galant served in the IDF, reaching the position of commander of the Southern Command in the IDF in the rank of Major-general. Undoubtedly, his subordinates reacted more swiftly and with fewer questions to his directives than do school principles under his command these days.
The Hebrew Reali School, one of the more prestigious Israeli high schools, requested Nave Dromi, Executive Director of the Middle East Forum in Israel who writes a generally rightwing opinion column in Haaretz, to follow the B’Tselem director so that whatever he had to say about Israel’s “apartheid policy” not remain unanswered.
But according to a report in Haaretz on Monday, the twelfth graders posed good questions to the speaker from B’Tselem and didn’t need thought protection from the Education Minister. One student asked if Elad thinks “extreme statements” help his cause. Another asked about the way B’Tselem presents Israel before the international community and wondered “why the need to seek communications organizations outside Israel.”
Another student asked about B’Tselem’s attitude about BDS, and Elad said his group was not involved in promoting it.
One of the students told the B’Teselem chief that his mother had survived a terrorist attack, to which Elad responded: “I want things to be better, and for things to be better things need to be more decent here, and I wish there was no bloodshed at all.”
Finally, Education Minister Galant did have a sort of legal leg to stand on: in July 2018, the Knesset approved the Breaking the Silence Act, to prevent lectures in schools by those who work abroad to help prosecuting IDF soldiers for an action they performed in their military service. But the law required that “the Education Minister shall establish rules for the prevention of activity in the educational institution of a person or body that is not part of the education system and whose activity is in serious and significant conflict with the goals of state education, as well as rules for the prevention of activity in an educational institution of an external entity that acts proactively to take legal or political proceedings outside Israel against soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces due to an action they performed in the course of their duties or against the State of Israel.”
However, to date, no Education Minister (and there have been a few) has taken the trouble to sit down and establish those rules, which means the law does not have real substance, and the only person who can render power to Yoav Galant to do something about banning Betselem from Israeli schools is… Yoav Galant.
Im Tirtzu CEO Matan Peleg appaluded Galant’s ban, saying, “It is unclear why the school planned to host a radical group like B’Tselem that makes a living by slandering Israel and promoting international pressure against it. This disgraceful organization has no place in the education system. This is a victory for common sense.”