Education Minister Bars Visits to Schools by Human Rights Groups

The extreme-right, former major-general and now Education Minister Yoav Gallant said on Sunday, January 17, that he has ordered his ministry’s director general to bar schools from hosting organizations “that treat IDF [sic – Israel Defense Forces] soldiers contemptuously and call Israel an apartheid state.” Galant’s announcement came in the wake of a decision by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem to begin referring to Israel as an “apartheid state.”

The move came a day before the B’Tselem’s director Hagai El-Ad was set to attend a webinar with the Hebrew Reali (Math and Sciences) High School in Haifa. In a letter to his office’s director and to school district managers, Gallant said entry should be prohibited to “groups that act in contradiction with the education system’s goals, including calling Israel false derogatory names, opposing Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state, discouraging meaningful service in the Israel Defense Forces [sic], or acting to harm or humiliate IDF soldiers during or after their service.” Gallant served as officer in the Israeli military for 35 years.

In 2018, the Knesset passed a law that empowered the education minister to ban organizations critical of the Israeli military from entering schools. The bill was mainly aimed at curtailing the activities of Breaking the Silence, an organization that gathers and publishes largely anonymous testimonies by former Israeli combat soldiers about human rights violations against Palestinians in the West Bank.