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Israel’s Shin Bet ‘illegally interfering’ in Palestinian citizens’ education system

Palestinian students sit inside a classroom at their school belonging to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in Deir Al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, on 29 August, 2018 [Ashraf Amra/Apaimages]
Palestinian students seen at United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) school in Gaza on 29 August 2018 [Ashraf Amra/Apaimages]

Israeli legal rights centre Adalah has sent an urgent letter to the director general of the Education Ministry, demanding details of a recent meeting with agents from the Shin Bet security agency.

Last November, Director General Shmuel Abuav met with two Shin Bet agents “to discuss issues related to the Palestinian Arab education system in Israel, including the participation of Arab school children in youth movements and the blocking of “extremist” teachers”, stated Adalah.

The revelations came to light thanks to a Freedom of Information request.

As explained by Adalah, “it is illegal for the Shin Bet to intervene or interfere in the Arab education system”, the result of a 2004 Supreme Court petition by the centre and the National Association of Arab Parents’ Education Committees.

“The state subsequently committed that the Shin Bet – which had been actively involved in the Arab education system since the establishment of the state – would cease its intervention in the selection or hiring of teachers in the Arab school system,” Adalah stated.

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Despite this pledge, Adalah continued, “the Shin Bet illegally involved itself once again in Arab education when its agents met with Abuav on 24 November 2019, violating the state’s earlier commitments before the Supreme Court.”

Adalah is now seeking the transcript of that meeting, “as well as detailed reports of all meetings between Education Ministry officials and Shin Bet agents that have taken place over the past four years”. Adalah is also demanding that “the Shin Bet immediately halt all interference in the Arab education system.

In the letter to Abuav, Adalah lawyer Aiah Haj Odeh stressed that: “Shin Bet agents are not educators, and there is no connection between them and the pedagogical role.”

“This intervention indicates that the [Israeli] Education Ministry of Education perceives Arab society – including its education system – as a potential enemy and a threat.”

“[This creates] an atmosphere of fear, control, and supports a culture of silence which isolates the Arab education system and its teaching staff in particular.”

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