Israel bans anti-war veterans from classrooms

The NGO Breaking the Silence barred from working with school children after it was accused of “lies and incitement”.

Breaking The Silence publishes testimonies of soldiers who have served in the occupied territories [EPA]
Breaking The Silence publishes testimonies of soldiers who have served in the occupied territories [EPA]

A group of veterans critical of the Israeli army’s conduct in the occupied Palestinian territories have been banned from engaging with schools.

Breaking the Silence, a nongovernmental organisation (NGO) made up of former Israeli soldiers, collects and distributes testimonies by veterans of their experiences in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.

Naftali Bennett, Israeli education minister, accused the group of “lies and incitement” on Tuesday, barring it from working with school children.

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“Whoever harms IDF [Israeli army] soldiers has no place in the Israeli education system,” Bennet said in a post on his Facebook page.

In a separate statement, he said: “Breaking the Silence’s actions cause Israel to be tarnished in the world, their goal being to harm their brothers, who protect us … lies and incitement won’t be accepted in our schools.”

Breaking the Silence condemned Bennet in a Twitter post on Wednesday and accused him of joining a “campaign of incitement” against it.

In an earlier tweet, Breaking the Silence said it was being targeted by right-wing groups that were “trying to silence the debate” about Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.

The decision to ban the group from schools comes as a far-right group posted a video on YouTube featuring four Israeli human rights activists and NGO chiefs it accuses of being foreign agents helping “terrorists”.

The video, titled The Foreign Agents Revealed, shows a Palestinian pulling out a knife and walking towards the camera.

The video then accuses activists Yishai Menuhin, Avner Gvaryahu, Sigi Ben-Ari, and Hagai El-Ad of wanting to protect the attacker.

The group behind the video, Im Tirtzu, wants to introduce legislation that would proscribe NGOs that are critical of Israeli military actions.

“While we fight terror, they fight us … the ‘Planted’ law can outlaw them…sign it,” the voiceover says.

The left-leaning +972 magazine spoke to El-Ad, one of the activists targted in the video, who called the video “incitement”.

“The government has no idea what it is doing, so its emissaries are busy dealing in incitement. We will continue to document and expose the occupation and its injustices,” El-Ad told the magazine.

In November, Israeli lawmakers introduced a bill that would impose restrictions on Israeli NGOs that received foreign funding.

The proposals would force NGOs to include names of the “foreign entities” that were supporting them on official documents, and to wear tags while attending sessions of Israel’s parliament.

B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights group, said Shaked’s bill reaches “unprecedented heights of cynicism”.

Source : AFP, Al Jazeera


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