Tel Aviv High School Principal Facing Dismissal for Writing Leftist Op-ed in Haaretz

Ram Cohen summoned to hearing with Tel Aviv municipality after writing in Haaretz against Yisrael Beiteinu, in favor of Hadash.

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The Tel Aviv municipality has asked a local high school principal to a hearing that could lead to his being fired. The municipality made the move at the request of the Education Ministry after Ram Cohen, principal of the city's Aleph High School of the Arts, published an opinion piece in Haaretz expressing opposition to Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu and calling for support of the left.

In the op-ed titled "An irresponsible vote," Cohen and co-author Orit Kedar, a Hebrew University political science professor, responded to an article the week before by Prof. Shlomo Avineri, who called on those who opposed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from the left to vote for the Labor Party.

Cohen and Kedar wrote: "The Labor party headed by Shelly Yacimovich is not an alternative for right-wing voters, but weakens the red left and turns it into a faded pink. ... A democracy with Likud-Beiteinu at its head needs a fighting opposition, a true and brave alternative, not one that is afraid to say the word 'occupation.'

"Hadash, which Avineri did not even mention as a legitimate party, has to its credit social and progressive legislation it succeeded in passing in the most right-wing Knesset ever," the op-ed continued. "[Hadash] has also managed to stop a significant part of Netanyahu government's attempts to pass anti-democratic legislation. ... In the present political climate, strengthening these forces is the most responsible action."

As a result of the article, Cohen received a phone call on Monday from city hall informing him of his upcoming hearing in advance of his possible dismissal.

The Education Ministry said Cohen was asked to the disciplinary hearing, to be held in conjunction with the Tel Aviv municipality, after he violated ministry regulations banning education system employees from taking part in party politics. The Tel Aviv municipality has not responded to Haaretz's inquiry.

Hadash MK Dov Khenin said: "This should really worry all of us - the Education Ministry and Tel Aviv municipality have asked to an urgent hearing a high school principal who dared to say Hadash and Meretz could be considered alternatives to the worsening abuse of the right. This is a violent attempt to silence educators. It is impossible to educate without expressing oneself, and it is impossible to educate for democracy without being involved in democracy."

Meanwhile, the municipality and the Education Ministry have not taken any action over an event last week in which Tel Aviv deputy mayor Pe'er Visner, a founder of the Green Party, lashed out at and humiliated the principal of Alliance High School, Varda Kagan. In front of an auditorium filled with students, Visner demanded she retract her refusal to allow a number of students into the mock elections due to their behavior.

When Kagan refused his demand, Visner continued his shouting: "Stop educating the children in such a way, it's time has passed. Today these children will determine the fate of the country. ... Tomorrow they will be given arms, and you are telling them not to listen. If I was [their] father I would stand against you. This is not surrender, it is the truth. If you want there to be an [election] panel here, let the three students in," said Visner.

As for Visner, a city spokeswoman said in the name of Mayor Ron Huldai: "I was very sorry to see what happened at the Alliance School. I am sure that Pe'er Visner is also sorry about it."

Ram CohenCredit: Tess Scheflan

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