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For Israel's Education Minister, School Is a Bore

Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial
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Yoav Gallant, in Jerusalem, May 18, 2020.
Yoav Gallant, in Jerusalem, May 18, 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

Yoav Gallant found a solution to his lack of interest in the Education Ministry. Like a bored pupil who spends his time disrupting instead of learning, Galant prefers to pass the time until the election by silencing people and other acts of political persecution, instead of dealing with the problems that really need to be addressed by the education minister.

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The ministry director-general called the principal of the Reali High School in Haifa, Mendi Rabinowitz, on the carpet along with the director-general of the school’s ownership, Yossi  Ben-Dov, after their refusal to cancel an invitation to the director of the B’Tselem human rights NGO, Hagai El-Ad, to speak at the school. On Sunday the minister ordered his director-general to bar the school from hosting organizations that “operate in a manner that mocks IDF soldiers and labels Israel an apartheid state.” The Reali School did not hasten to obey; they asked the ministry for the legal basis for the minister’s decision to censor those who don’t fall in line politically with the ruling party. When that information wasn’t forthcoming, they went ahead with the planned lecture the following day.

The heads of the Reali School acted as they should have in light of the illegal government bullying and gave their pupils an important civics lesson. The minister’s bureau also refused to tell Haaretz of the legal opinion that Gallant’s instructions might have been based on, and insisted that the ban was based on the minister’s right to “set policy.” This response amounted to a whitewash: What Gallant did was to silence political viewpoints, and the summoning of the Reali School heads amounted to political persecution.

The Education Ministry continued to make a mockery of itself by claiming that “the school’s principal allowed the meeting [with El-Ad] to take place, ignoring and violating the instructions of the education minister and the Haifa district inspector that they were given in accordance with the law.” Exactly what law are they basing this on? What crime did the heads of the school commit? By what authority were they called on the carpet for a hearing?

Even if the ministry claims that the school acted against instructions which hold that when a school invites outside groups for a political dialogue, it must balance the dialogue by presenting a range of views on all issues – this is a bogus argument. The Reali School went out of its way to “balance the dialogue” by inviting a spokeswoman identified with the right, as Nave Dromi described herself, as reported by Haaretz on Monday. This is why El-Ad’s lecture was postponed after it was originally scheduled to take place a month ago.

Gallant’s attempts to turn the Education Ministry into a Defense Ministry, and the Reali School into a domestic enemy that must be neutralized, are wrong and must stop. Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit must immediately intervene and set some boundaries for the minister on his turf. If Gallant is bored, he should be bothering the person who appointed him to a job he wasn’t interested in.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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