Arab Town Retracts Firing of Teacher Who Screened Controversial Film

Showing of Oscar-nominated film drew protests from religious quarters that claimed some scenes offend the values of Muslim society.

Ali Muasi, an Israeli Arab high school teacher who was fired for screening the Oscar-nominated Palestinian movie "Omar" to his students.
Rami Shllush

The municipality of Baka al-Garbiyeh, which had planned to fire a local high school teacher for screening a controversial film for his pupils, informed him on Tuesday that it was retracting his dismissal and that he could resume teaching on Wednesday morning.

The city’s decision to reinstate Ali Muasi was submitted on Tuesday to the Haifa Regional Labor Court, which had ordered the municipality to reconsider its decision to dismiss him. The municipality stressed, however, that the reinstatement applied solely to the rest of this school year, without any commitment with regard to the future.

Muasi, who teaches at the Abu Sina comprehensive school in Baka al-Garbiyeh, had been fired for showing his 10th- and 11th-grade students the film “Omar,” which had been nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Foreign Language Film category in 2014. Religious elements, particularly of the fundamentalist Salafi stream, complained that the film wasn’t suitable for teenagers because it includes scenes that offend the religious sensibilities and values of Arab and Muslim society.

The municipality summoned Muasi to a hearing and decided to fire him. The decision generated widespread protests in the Arab community, including objections to the dismissal by the film’s writer and director, Hany Abu-Assad. Muasi is an activist with the secular, nationalist Arab party Balad, and the party protested his firing. Muasi also appealed the dismissal in court.

On his Facebook page, Muasi expressed satisfaction with the court’s decision. “In the end I’m going back to my students and the school,” he said. “I thank all those who supported me for this achievement, which preserves the honor of our pupils, our teachers, and our culture, and on behalf of our society, which should be a healthy and united society.”