Over the past two weeks the Education Ministry has tried twice − unsuccessfully − to prevent a school lecture by former soldiers in the group Breaking the Silence.
This week the ministry asked the principal of Tel Aviv’s Gymnasia Herzliya to cancel the lecture at his school. Last week the ministry summoned the principal of Jerusalem’s Adam High School for a “clarification” after a Breaking the Silence lecture.
“Principals who violate the regulations, invite Breaking the Silence and expose the students to incitement will be summoned for a clarification at the Education Ministry,” the ministry said. “An organization that incites against IDF soldiers will not enter schools in Israel.”
This isn’t a new policy for the ministry headed by Naftali Bennett, the head of the Habayit Hayehudi party. In an announcement a year ago, Bennett said members of Breaking the Silence would be forbidden to enter schools. “Lies and incitement against the Israel Defense Forces − not in our schools,” Bennett said.
But after the ministry began considering banning the organization from schools, it turned out the ministry wasn’t allowed to take such a broad step. As a source involved in the matter told Haaretz’s Or Kashti late last month, “The meaning of such a ban is outlawing Breaking the Silence. Such a move is not within the ministry’s authority, so the matter has been frozen.”
So Bennett’s statements are nothing but an attempt to scare principals. They’re an attempt to create a chilling effect and deepen the delegitimization of the occupation’s opponents.
Bennett calls “lies and incitement” information that he’s trying to prevent Israeli students from receiving. Students who heard the lectures at Gymnasia Herzliya were surprised by how moderate they were. The entire goal was to describe the reality of the occupation, which has been hidden from the eyes and ears of most Israelis, certainly younger ones.
But even if the lectures were “less moderate,” the education minister in a democratic country can’t hide the reality from students, as is acceptable in dark regimes.
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.
Members of organizations from the entire political spectrum can appear before the students, who can form their opinions based on the information they receive. Bennett’s fearful attempts at censorship betray a fear of and a lack of faith in the students’ wisdom.
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.
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