Adalah Petitions against the Education Ministry, Implemented the “Nakba Law”

The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel filed a petition to the Jerusalem District Court on behalf of the National Committee of the Heads of Arab Localities (“the Arab Mayors Committee”), the Follow-up Committee on Arab Education, and the Al-Tufula Center, demanding the cancellation of clauses in a tender issued by the Education Ministry that applies the “Nakba Law” to providers of educational programs for schools.

An Arab school in Nazareth (Photo: Adalah)

The tender is for the development of a database of approved providers of educational programs or activities to schools in Israel. According to the tender’s clauses, in order to receive approval from the Education Ministry and to be included in the database, the providers must declare that the content of their educational programs or the statements, actions or goals of any external entity included in it, will not “deny the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state” or “mark Israel’s official Independence Day as a day of mourning.”

The petition, filed by Adalah Attorney Salam Irsheid, argues that the Education Ministry incorrectly applied the “Nakba Law” passed in 2011 to this tender.  The Nakba Law authorizes the finance minister to reduce state funding or support to an institution if it holds an activity that rejects the existence of Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state” or commemorates “Israel’s Independence Day or the day on which the state was established as a day of mourning.” The petition against the “Nakba Law”, filed by Adalah and other organizations in May 2011, was rejected on the basis of the ripeness doctrine in Israeli constitutional law, with the Israeli Supreme Court in 2012 finding that the case was premature for decision, without addressing the merits of the arguments. The “Nakba Law” therefore is still subject to constitutional review. In their 2012 decision however, the justices noted that the “Nakba Law” raises complex issues of public importance.

The petitioners further argued that obligating providers to sign the declaration constituted a blatant violation of the freedom of expression of Arab groups and organizations wishing to participate in the tender, such as the Al-Tufula Center. The Al-Tufula Center provides educational programs in private schools in Nazareth and opted out of the tender because of the required declaration. Moreover, the petition stressed that these clauses stand to cause major harm to the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel in preserving their history, national identity, and collective memory. The clauses constitute a further attempt by the Israeli government to suppress Palestinian narratives, while silencing a discussion of immense public importance. These provisions are illegal as they violate the right of Arab students to an education that respects and recognizes their history, culture and heritage.