Education Ministry Set to Bar Breaking the Silence From Israeli Schools

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Breaking the Silence event in Tel Aviv University.
Breaking the Silence event in Tel Aviv University.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

The Education Ministry is expected to officially inform school principals early next week that the veterans’ group Breaking the Silence will no longer be able to address their students.

However, it is unclear if the Education Ministry would have the authority to impose real legal sanctions against principals who continue to invite the organization into their schools.

From final drafts that are currently being reviewed by legal counsel, the new directive will apparently refine policy with respect to comments directed at students by speakers, including “teachers and outside entities.”

The directive includes a provision that bars speakers from any group “whose activity undermines the very legitimacy of state entities (for example, the Israel Defense Forces and the courts).”

Parts of the directive were first broadcast on Channel 10 News on Thursday.

The veterans’ nonprofit collects testimony from soldiers who have served in the occupied territories, claiming that the rights of Palestinians have been violated. It has drawn criticism in the past for declining to disclose the identities of those who provide the testimony, and taking its message abroad.

This past week, two principals have been challenged for either hosting or seeking to invite Breaking the Silence to their schools. On Wednesday, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel accused the Education Ministry of illegally threatening to take measures against principals who invite the group to their schools.

In response to the news that the directive is set to be issued next week, Breaking the Silence said: “We don’t understand what the connection is between us and the [new directive]. Breaking the Silence doesn’t undermine any state institution. We are fighting the occupation and the settlement enterprise. The moment that [Education Minister Naftali] Bennett announces that the occupation is a state institution, we will probably no longer be allowed to enter the schools.”

A year ago, Bennett promised that he would bar Breaking the Silence from speaking in schools. However, no new directive that would provide for the change had ever been issued.

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