The far-right Netanyahu government voted on Sunday, January 8, to endorse a bill that will ban “Breaking the Silence,” an anti-occupation organization, from addressing pupils in Israeli high schools. The bill will allow the Minister of Education, “as the head of the system and the person responsible on the Israeli students,” to ban specific individuals or organizations that are not a part of the education system from conducting activities inside schools, when the nature of the activities is “undermining the educational goals or harming IDF soldiers,” according to a ministerial memorandum.
The bill, submitted by Bayit Yehudi MKs Shuli Moalem-Refaeli and Bezalel Smotrich, and supported by lawmakers in both coalition and opposition parties, would add “encouraging significant service in the IDF and protecting the status and honor of the IDF,” to the goals of public education enumerated in the bill. “Anyone who undermines our right to exist in the land of Israel will not be permitted to have a stage in the state’s education system,” said Moalem-Refaeli. The opposition’s Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid expressed his support for the bill.
In December 2015, Minister of Education Naphtali Bennett banned the NGO from the education system for disseminating “lies and propaganda against the IDF.” Despite his directive, last month several high school principals were not deterred from inviting representatives of the group to speak at their schools and invited the group to speak to students and teachers.
According to an editorial published in Haaretz on Sunday, “The attempt to narrow the outlook of the students, the citizens who will determine the country’s fate and endure the policies of the government that includes Bennett, is the mother of all sins in education. Educators must receive inspiration from principals like Gymnasia Herzliya’s Ze’ev Degani and Adam High School’s Guy Paz, who don’t bend to the ill wind blowing from above. The struggle over education is far from won. It needs educators with stature who won’t give in to Bennett’s ideological attempts at censorship.”
“Breaking the Silence” leader Yuli Novak said ahead of the vote that the bill only benefits her organization. “Bennett’s obsession with ‘Breaking the Silence’ only makes us stronger. While he tries to silence us, more and more youth hear about the occupation.” According to Novak “It is sad and pathetic that Yair Lapid supports the bill. He became a tool for the ‘Smotrichs’ and the ‘Yogevs,’” Novak said, referring to the Bayit Yehudi MKs behind the bill. “Although they get their photo in the paper with Bennett, they deserve more credit for continuing the occupation and ruining our democracy.”