Israel's Education Ministry Blames Hackers for Derogatory Text About Bedouin on Website

Official says offending text was deleted from website as soon as it was discovered, leaving NGO to wonder why it had to wait for tip-off before text was removed

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The Bedouin township of Bir Hadaj in the Negev.
The Bedouin township of Bir Hadaj in the Negev.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Yarden Skop

Israel’s Education Ministry says hackers broke into its website and amended text about the Bedouin community in Israel in order to make the content appear racist. The ministry later amended the text, but an anti-racism nongovernmental organization is underwhelmed by its handling of the affair.

Dr. Muhammad Alhib, the director of Bedouin education in the ministry, responded to an inquiry by the director of the Coalition Against Racism in Israel, Nidal Othman, who had complained about the racist text on the website.

The text, which discusses Bedouin society, contains statements like: “The Bedouin were involved in robbery and theft. During the period when the regime became more stable, it prevented the Bedouin from doing this, so they were forced to search for a different source of income.”

Alhib wrote in his response: “The website, regretfully, was hacked a few days ago, and what was written there was in poor Hebrew, and the Bedouin were described in one of the sentences as dealing in robbery and theft. As soon as it came to my attention, I ordered the removal of this, and this was done immediately.”

Alhib added, “I am sorry about everything that was written (not by us) in the website about some Bedouin being involved in robbery and theft.”

The Coalition Against Racism in Israel was not completely convinced by the ministry’s explanation. “It’s good the Education Ministry removed the offensive text from the website,” said Othman. “But the question remains of when the hacking in question was discovered, and why it was only rectified after the Coalition Against Racism sent an inquiry.”

The Education Ministry did not respond to an inquiry by Haaretz.