The row over Israeli apartheid took another authoritarian turn yesterday after the country's Education Ministry summoned the principal and managing director of Hebrew Reali School in Haifa to a hearing after they ignored a ministry order and went ahead with an online lecture by the director of B'Tselem, arguably Israel's most respected human rights organisation.
Earlier this month, Israel banned human rights groups from school visits to "prevent the entry of organisations calling Israel 'an apartheid state' or demeaning Israeli soldiers from lecturing at schools." The clampdown came days after B'Tselem released a landmark position paper branding Israel as an "apartheid" state that "promotes and perpetuates Jewish supremacy between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River."
B'Tselem concluded that after more than half a century, the Israeli regime and its occupation should be treated as a single entity guided by the core racist organising principle of "advancing and perpetuating the supremacy of one group – Jews – over another – Palestinians."
According to the rights group, the legal bar for defining Israel as an apartheid regime had been met, and that this determination was reached after considering the accumulation of policies and laws that have been devised to entrench Jewish control and privilege.
Ignoring the order of the Education Ministry, Hebrew Reali School hosted Hagai El-Ad over a week ago. The director of B'Tselem addressed around 300 students at the school in a Zoom lecture.
Haaretz reported that school officials asked the ministry for the legal basis on which it had taken the decision to ban human rights group from speaking at schools. The lecture went ahead when they received no reply.
Dozens of people, including civil rights organisations and school alumni, held a rally on Thursday in support of the high school's decision. The Association for Civil Rights (ACRI) demanded that the ministry hearing should be cancelled.
"They probably won't do anything to them in the end," said the principal of the Tichonet High School in Tel Aviv, Ram Cohen. "The goal is to make all school principals understand that [Hebrew Reali School's] fate will be your fate: to threaten school principals."