Israeli School Cancels Meeting With Human Rights Group After Right-wing Criticism

The prestigious Haifa school says it postponed meeting with B’Tselem’s director in order to hold a preliminary discussion on democracy and freedom of expression

Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel
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B'Tselem director Hagai El-Ad.
B'Tselem director Hagai El-Ad.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

The Hebrew Reali School of Haifa canceled a meeting between students and the executive director of the Israeli anti-occupation group B’Tselem after right-wing activists criticized the initiative.

The school principal, Mendi Rabinovitz, said the meeting was only postponed, but B’Tselem said it had not been informed of a new date.

In a letter Rabinovitz sent to students, he wrote that speakers who were invited for the occasion of International Human Rights Day “do not represent the position of the school in favor or against what they have to say or concerning the agenda they represent … the goal of the meeting is exposure to figures and organizations that operate in the area of human rights.”

Rabinovitz wrote that “after we heard the voices of our students concerning the identity of the speakers, and even before the students spoke out,” the school decided to postpone the meeting with B’Tselem’s director Hagai El-Ad to a date in January and hold in its place a preliminary discussion about democracy and freedom of expression.

Two representatives of the Adalah legal center for Arab minority rights in Israel were also scheduled to speak to students but withdrew their participation after the meeting with El-Ad was cancelled.

On Monday, the Young Likud movement in Haifa posted a number of messages on social media condemning the planned meeting. One of the posts questioned the legacy of the prestigious school, which had raised Israeli military chiefs of staff and generals.

Osher Tchatchs, and attorney and one of the founders of the Young Likud group in Haifa – and a graduate of the school, said: “I am happy that the Reali has amazing right-wing moral youths and even though the school has been trying for a long time to brainwash them and present them with only one side, the most extreme end of the left-wing, the youths stand up and say: I object.” 

Young Likud said it had only aided the students in organizing a protest against the meeting.

B’Tselem told Haaretz in response: “There is an educational lesson in this story – if a high school in Haifa is unable to bear an hour of dialogue on human rights, the students and parents would be better off to reflect on how Palestinians spent 53 years without human rights.”

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