Education minister bans NGO Breaking the Silence from schools
Breaking the Silence spokesman Dean Issacharoff delivers the testimony that was found to be false
Ban comes after investigation finds that beating of Palestinian described by NGO spokesman Dean Issacharoff never occurred • “Anyone who slanders IDF soldiers will not set foot inside a school,” says minister • Some parents outraged at “censorship.”
Noam Dvir and Yair Altman
Representatives of the NGO Breaking the Silence, which advocates against the IDF’s presence in Palestinian territories, will not be allowed to meet with students in Israel’s public schools, regardless of parents’ wishes, Education Minister Naftali Bennett announced Thursday.
“Anyone who slanders IDF soldiers will not set foot inside a school,” Bennett said.
“This is the decision and it stands. Today, anyone who attacked me for banning Breaking the Silence from schools understands that they have no place in the education of the next generation.”
Breaking the Silence collects testimonies from IDF soldiers of reported Israeli military misconduct directed at Palestinians in the territories.
The director of the Northern District in the Education Ministry, Dr. Orna Simchon, has sent the parents of students at the experimental high school on Kibbutz Harduf in the Jezreel Valley a letter notifying them of the ministry’s decision to ban the organization from schools.
Last week, 12th graders at the school were not allowed to meet with Breaking the Silence representatives as part of a seminar probing the Jewish-Arab conflict, although they were permitted to meet with Jewish settlers from Hebron, Israel Police commanders, Knesset members, and left-wing activists from other groups.
The ban angered the parents, who sent a strongly worded response to the supervisor of the Northern District.
“To the best of our knowledge, the NGO Breaking the Silence has not been outlawed. We are astonished and outraged over this infuriating decision and also the way in which it was made. The role of the Education Ministry is to encourage study and learning, not to censor,” the parents wrote.
Also on Thursday, the State Prosecutor’s Office stated that the events recounted in the testimony of Breaking the Silence spokesman Lt. (res.) Dean Issacharoff – in which he said that during his army service he had brutally beaten an innocent Palestinian while on duty in Hebron – never occurred. The announcement prompted Bennett to ban representatives of the NGO from schools.
A year ago, Bennett said he would take steps to pass a law banning groups that malign the IDF from schools and giving the education minister the authority to ban specific individuals and groups from holding activities in educational institutions if the minister thinks their activities undermine the goals of Israeli education or actually do harm to IDF soldiers. Bennett’s bill passed a preliminary reading but has not yet been voted into law.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, also of Habayit Hayehudi, backed Bennett, saying: “It appears that the spokesman for Breaking the Silence is a liar who slanders Israel internationally. Good for his fellow soldiers, who did not remain apathetic and were unwilling to ignore his lies. It’s good that the truth about this organization, which profits at the expense of IDF soldiers and the citizens of Israel, has come to light.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Breaking the Silence lies and slanders our soldiers throughout the world. Today, additional proof of that fact was provided, if anyone had any doubt. The truth is victorious.”
Deputy State Prosecutor Nurit Litman announced the State Prosecutor’s Office decision to shelve its case against Issacharoff due to lack of evidence. Issacharoff originally related his version of events at a Breaking the Silence conference, telling the audience that while on operations in Hebron, he had beaten a Palestinian man into unconsciousness.
Following Issacharoff’s account, soldiers and officers who served in his company issued a response denying that the incident ever took place and calling him a liar.
After the Military Advocate General contacted the State Prosecutor’s Office, the latter decided to launch an investigation into the Issacharoff case.
Issacharoff and his commanding officer at the time were questioned. The prosecution eventually concluded that the Palestinian in question was a man named Hassan Julani, who was arrested in February 2014 for throwing rocks at IDF forces.
When questioned, Issacharoff said he had needed to exert force to handcuff and arrest Julani. Juliani, however, denied that the soldiers had treated him violently during the arrest and said he had not been beaten or harmed and that he had not shed blood or fainted. The prosecution noted that Julani’s version of the incident “matches the company commander’s version that describes the circumstances of the arrest in a manner identical to the way Julani did. … The evidence shows that the events [described by Issacharoff] never took place.”
Neither Breaking the Silence nor Issacharoff commented on the latest development.