Groups that call Israel an “apartheid state” will be banned from giving lectures in schools, Israel’s education minister said.
The move targets one of Israel’s main human rights groups, B’Tselem, after it began to describe Israel and its control of the occupied Palestinian territories as a unique apartheid system.
Late Sunday, Israel’s Education Minister Yoav Galant tweeted that he had called on the ministry’s director general to “prevent the entry of organizations calling Israel” an apartheid state “or humiliating them. Israeli soldiers to give lectures in schools “.
In a report released last week, B’Tselem said that while Palestinians live under various forms of Israeli control in the illegally occupied West Bank, have blocked Gaza, occupied East Jerusalem and Israel itself, they have fewer rights than Jews. throughout the region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.
On Monday, the group said they would not be put off by the announcement and had given a virtual lecture on the topic at a school in the northern city of Haifa.
“B’Tselem is determined to continue its mission of documenting reality, analyzing it and making its findings known publicly to the Israeli public and around the world,” the group said in a statement sent to Al Jazeera.
“The Minister of Education … while ordering schools to ban B’Tselem, says he is against ‘lies’ and for a ‘Jewish and democratic’ Israel. But it is Minister Galant who is lying, because Israel cannot be considered a democracy, for it works to advance and perpetuate the supremacy of one group of people, the Jews, over another, the Palestinians, within of the same binational political regime. statement read.
“It’s Israel’s apartheid regime. No one can censor reality.
‘No legal authority’
Adalah, an Arab legal rights group, said it had called on the country’s attorney general to overturn the directive, saying it was made without the proper authority and was aimed at “silencing the legitimate voices ”.
It was not immediately clear whether Galant had the power to ban speakers from schools.
“The Israeli Minister of Education has no legal authority to prevent human rights organizations from meeting with students simply because they have criticized the definition of Israel as a Jewish Zionist state,” he said. Adalah said in a statement sent to Al Jazeera.
“Minister Galant’s order prevents students from receiving an education that exposes them to legitimate, diverse and pluralist views and positions – especially those of civil society and human rights organizations.
In 2018, Israel passed a law banning lectures or activities in schools by groups that support legal proceedings against Israeli soldiers abroad.
The law was apparently drafted in response to the work of Breaking the Silence, a group of whistleblowers of former Israeli soldiers who oppose policies in the occupied West Bank. It was not clear whether Galant’s decree was rooted in the 2018 law.
Israel has long presented itself as a thriving democracy and claims that its Palestinian citizens, who make up about 20% of its population of 9.2 million, have equal rights.
However, these Palestinians suffer from being treated as second or third class citizens at the institutional level, with around 60 laws that actively discriminate against them in the areas of housing, education and health, among others.
B’Tselem and other rights groups say the borders separating Israel and the occupied West Bank are long gone, at least for illegal Israeli settlers, who can freely travel both ways, while Palestinians need permits difficult to obtain to enter Israel.
Israel categorically rejects the term apartheid, saying the restrictions it imposes on Gaza and the occupied West Bank are temporary security measures.
Most Palestinians in the occupied West Bank live in areas ruled by the Palestinian Authority, but these areas are surrounded by Israeli checkpoints and Israeli soldiers can enter at any time, with Israel having full military control over 60% of the area. .