Prohibition of critical groups of the army in schools approved

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The measure that was co-sponsored by the Minister of Education is aimed at keeping students away from the organization Breaking the Silence, which warned that it will not shut up

A bill allowing the Minister of Education to ban the entry of schools to critical organizations of the Israeli army was approved by the Knesset on Tuesday morning.

This law aims to impede the activities of the organization Breaking the Silence, an Israeli group that collects and publishes stories, mostly anonymous, of former military personnel on alleged human rights violations against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank.

The bill was widely adopted in second and third readings.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the HaBayit HaYehudi party, hailed this endorsement saying it will be important for the education of future generations.

"The reality in which organizations sought to undermine Israel's legitimacy has come to an end today," said Bennett, who co-sponsored the text alongside his party colleague, Shuli Moalem-Refaeli.

"Breaking the Silence crossed the boundaries of legitimate discourse long ago, when its members chose to defame Israel on the international stage."

Education Minister Naftali Bennett arrives at the Prime Minister's Office to attend the weekly Cabinet meeting on May 6, 2018. (Jim Hollander / AFP)

"As long as the movement continues to act against Israel and its army abroad, I will not allow its activities in the school education system," continued Bennett.

"You wanted to act? Act here. In the education system, whose mission is to train future generations.

Breaking the Silence has been described by the right as a "traitor" and has often had violent quarrels with Israeli politicians and military officials, who have in the past tried to curb foreign funding that the NGO in question and others are beneficiaries.

According to critics, Breaking the Silence's information is dishonest, inaccurate and part of a campaign to undermine Israel's image abroad.

The organization and its supporters say they are taking on a vital service by exposing the Israeli public to the realities faced by the young Israeli soldiers who control the Palestinian civilian population on a daily basis.

Member of Parliament HaBayit HaYehudi Shuli Mualem at a meeting of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, July 25, 2017 (Yonatan Sindel / Flash90)

Moalem-Refaeli explained in a statement that "education has the mission of instilling the values ​​of love of the individual and the state and meaningful military service. Those who act against these basic values ​​will no longer be allowed to enter schools within the Jewish state. "

Breaking the Silence responded to this amendment by saying that Bennett and his followers were so afraid of their own politics that they were trying to silence all critics.

"Education Minister Naftali Bennett dreads Breaking the Silence so much that he has passed a 'law to silence occupation'," the organization said in a statement.

"This attempt to gag Breaking the Silence will fail to hide the occupation from the students. It shows how much Bennett and his friends fear their own ideology, "said Breaking the Silence. "You want to silence us? Put an end to the occupation.

Meretz MP Tamar Zandberg attends a meeting of the Knesset's Internal Affairs Committee in Jerusalem on November 30, 2017. (Miriam Alster / Flash90)

Tamar Zandberg, leader of the left-wing Meretz party, tweeted her support for the NGO.

"Breaking the Silence is not against the soldiers of the Israeli army. Breaking the Silence, this * are * soldiers of the Israeli army. Soldiers returning from the Territories and telling us the reality of military governance. Instead of closing our eyes and hoping that this reality will disappear, we must simply put an end to the occupation, "she wrote.

The right-wing organization Im Tirtzu, for its part, applauded this legislation and called for additional measures against left-wing groups.

"The amendment to the bill makes it clear once and for all that you can not have everything," she said in a statement.

"Those who act on the international stage against Israel can not do it inside the country. We hope that this law will make illegal other organizations advocating demilitarization. "

Bennett proposed the text for the first time in December 2016 after three high school principals ignored his instructions that the organization was not allowed to speak in front of the students.

Illustrative photo of a banner of the Breaking the Silence organization in Tel Aviv. (Tomer Neuberg / Flash90)

Last year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he would not meet with foreign dignitaries who would meet with representatives of the NGO.

He had even canceled a meeting that was planned with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, after the latter had defied the warning.

Two years ago, Israeli MPs approved the controversial transparency bill. The law targeted NGOs that obtain funding primarily from foreign governments - such as Breaking the Silence.

An analysis of this legislation carried out by the Ministry of Justice revealed that almost all the Israeli organizations concerned were groups opposed to the Israeli presence in the West Bank.

Source: © Prohibition of critical groups of the army in schools approved

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