Education Ministry to Grill East Jerusalem Teacher Over 'Political Incitement'

Beit Hanina elementary school teacher's hearing to be held in coming days.

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Illustration: Arab school

A teacher and administrator at an elementary school in the Beit Hanina neighborhood in East Jerusalem was called in for a hearing with Education Ministry Director General Michal Cohen on Tuesday, following suspicions of incitement and encouraging violence against Israel Defense Forces soldiers. The hearing will take place over the next few days.

The teacher works at a recognized, yet unofficial school that receives funds from the government, although the subject material taught there is Palestinian, and not the Israeli Education Ministry curriculum.

The Education Ministry announced that the school was found to be engaging in forbidden political propagandizing, including incitement and encouraging violence in a way that was harmful to students. The ministry found that in a recent school play, a child portraying an IDF soldier “shot” a Palestinian child. Children also sang songs in praise of terrorists while holding pictures of terrorists who had carried out attacks against Jews.

In light of the developments, Education Minister Naftali Bennett said “we’ve spoken enough about incitement, the time has come to act. This harrowing event at the school is fuel for the vehicle of terrorism, and as far removed from education as possible. I pity the parents who applaud as their bloody children are executed, and the educators who sanctioned this play will be severely punished.”

The Education Ministry has recently begun looking into claims of incitement in Arab-Israeli schools, particularly in East Jerusalem. An activist in Beit Hanina said “there were many incidents like this in the past that didn’t receive media attention. It’s not part of the official curriculum, but rather a play that a specific teacher decided to put on. At any other time no one would make a fuss, or summon any teachers or administrators for a hearing, but the current situation is sensitive.”

Right-wing activists told Haaretz that they were responsible for bringing the play to the Education Ministry’s attention after a clip of the performance spread on the Internet. The Education Ministry refused to comment.

The same right-wing activists are responsible for a series of complaints filed over what they call “recent incitement or inappropriate behavior among teachers and educators from the Israeli left,” including a recent case of a teacher from a Haifa school who was called in by the ministry after his students claimed he had incited against the IDF, and another teacher from the Ort Rabin school in Ramat Gan who was filmed clashing with IDF soldiers during a protest in Nabi Saleh. Neither teacher was removed from their classrooms.