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This bill seeks to intensify the supervision of Arab educators in order to remove “supporters of terror” from the system. The bill effectively labels the entire Arab public as potential terrorists. The education system is already empowered to dismiss educational staff who are unsuitable for their positions, including cases when “the employee was convicted of an offense that could harm the security of the state” (Inspection of Schools Law). Accordingly, it is clear that the sole purpose of the bill is to intimidate Arab citizens and residents, stigmatize them as a fifth column, and eliminate their already limited freedom of expression.

A survey commissioned by Givat Haviva found that 50% of Arabs and 72% of Jews are pessimistic about the prospects for coexistence between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel. The fear and suspicion seen since the appalling massacre by Hamas on October 7 are natural human reactions. Arab society is also undergoing a difficult period of silencing and racism, and both Arabs and Jews are confronting serious concerns. State institutions should take proactive steps to protect relations and prevent an escalation. This bill does the opposite.

The bill is particularly damaging since it seeks to establish a mechanism that goes beyond McCarthyism. The proposed Council to Prevent Support for Terror is supposed to include representatives of the Israel Police and the Israel Security Agency (ISA) who have nothing to do with education and pedagogy. This oversight mechanism will actually serve to regiment and intimidate Arab teachers and is inherently antidemocratic.

For many years a senior position in the Arab Education Department was filled by an ISA representative, allowing the agency to inspect the Arab education system. This practice was abolished in 2005 following a Supreme Court petition (8193/04 National Association of Arab Parent Committees in Israel et al. v Education Ministry et al.) and the decision of the Dovrat Committee. The current proposal seems to seek to reimpose this inspection, contrary to the recommendation of the Dovrat Committee that “no similar position will exist in the future in the Arab Education Department or any of its branches. The regional educational authority and the Ministry of Education will be responsible for preventing appointments or for dismissing teachers, principals, and other employees who fail to observe the goals of state education – Jews and Arabs alike” (Dovrat Committee, Recommendation 7.7.3, sub-section 6).

In addition, and in view of the widespread perception that any controversial statement by an Arab citizen constitutes explicit support for terrorism, a perception which has become more prevalent and extreme since the vicious attack by Hamas on October 7, this bill could exacerbate the massive problem of unemployment faced by teachers in Arab society. Accordingly, the proposed measure is not only completely superfluous, it could lead to the unjustified dismissal of teachers when there are already 12,000 unemployed teachers in Arab society.

Issues of identity are a key part of the educational work for which teachers are responsible across the education system, including in Arab education. It is unacceptable that any statement concerning the identity, culture, and history of the Arabs in Israel is defined as support for terror and therefore silenced. It is irresponsible to exploit the current difficult period facing Israeli society in order to promote this bill.

The Abraham Initiatives demands the total rejection of this bill. In addition, we propose a plan to integrate Arab teachers in Jewish schools. The plan will help reduce the level of unemployment among Arab teachers, meet the urgent need for teachers in the Hebrew education system, and contribute significantly to familiarity and alleviating fears and alienation between Jews and Arabs in Israel. This is a necessary step in order to maintain good relations between the different populations in Israel.

 

Submitted to the Knesset’s Education Committee, January 2024.

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