Israel passed a law Tuesday titled “Breaking the Silence” that attempts to ban speakers that are critical of the Israeli government as well as the military from entering school premises and speaking to students.
The amendment to the education act was passed 43 to 24 in the 120-member Knesset and is named after a left-wing Israeli advocacy group that seeks to publish claims from veterans of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) who allege misconduct and poor treatment of Palestinians during years of conflict.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, also head of the Zionist, anti-Palestine Jewish Home party, claims the organization unnecessarily puts Israel’s soldiers at risk for prosecution of alleged war crimes and gives Israel a bad name on the international stage, Reuters reported.
“As long as they act against the State of Israel and the IDF, I will not allow them to operate in the education system. You want to operate? Operate at home. In the education system, the belief in shaping the future generation will not be expressed by such voices,” Bennett said in a statement.
The law will also apply to anyone abroad who is critical of the state’s policies towards Palestine or supports institutions that delegitimize Israel in any way. (RELATED: Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez Fumbles Through Questions On Israel And Palestine)
“Anyone who wanders around the world attacking IDF soldiers, will not enter a school,” he added.
Critics of the law say it is an offense to free speech and an effort by the strongly nationalistic government to weaken certain advocacy groups and nonprofit organizations that disagree with the Israeli government’s positions.
“As a principal, as an educator, it is my duty to stand up and say – no more,” Ram Cohen, a headmaster at Tel Aviv’s Tichonet high school told Ynet news. “These laws are meant to harm democracy. I shall not be a part of it. I do not agree with it and I shall object to it.”
Amir Fuchs, head of the Israel Democracy Institute’s Defending Democratic Values Program, is also a critic of the government’s efforts to silence opposing voices.
“Education is about thinking critically. It’s about hearing people you don’t agree with,” Fuchs said. “In order for us to educate our young people to be democratic, to be liberal, they have to hear the other side.”
Breaking the Silence organization’s website says they are made up of veteran combatants “who have served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories.”
The Second Intifada refers to a period of intensified violence and conflict between Israel and Palestine in the early 2000s, and the organization claims the “cases of abuse towards Palestinians” that the soldiers witnessed has “changed them immensely.”
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