Bill curtailing Israel-bashers in public schools advances in Knesset

A bill preventing left-wing activists critical of Israel from addressing students in the nation’s educational institutions passed its last hurdle on the way to becoming law.

By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The so-called “Breaking the Silence” bill passed 7-5 in the Education, Culture and Sport Committee Tuesday, paving the way to second and third readings in the Knesset in the near future.

The law will enable the Minister of Education to determine rules for preventing entry to educational institutions of “external elements acting against the goals of education and against the Israel Defense Forces.”

Its informal moniker comes from the name of one of the most extreme leftist organizations, Breaking the Silence, which takes anonymous Israeli soldiers’ stories that smear the IDF and publicizes them around the world to Israel’s detriment.

During the committee’s discussion, Dr. Amir Fuchs of the Israel Democracy Institute criticized the bill, saying that it “shut[s] down debate and prevent[s] public discussion.”

“There are organizations that I absolutely disagree with, but I would prefer a school principal to invite organizations to conduct a public debate within the school,” he added.

MK Yael Paran (Zionist Union) went further, charging that “shutting down debate is an anti-democratic process and a slippery slope.” Once politicians get involved in monitoring access to schools for activists such as Breaking the Silence’s representatives, there is no limiting principle, she argued.

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Paran added that her party unreservedly condemns any organization that denigrates the IDF.

Those who won the day focused on the dangers inherent in such organizations, especially if their representatives addressed high school seniors.

“Students of the Israeli education system are not and will not be the lab rats of Breaking the Silence and those similar to them,” said Likud MK Amir Ochana.

“We heard testimony from students in which they said that what the Breaking the Silence people had to say to them just before they enlisted in the IDF was that it would be better not to serve in an army of ‘kalgasim’ (a derogatory term for soldiers), or at least not do any significant service. We will put an end to such absurdity.”

MK Meir Cohen of Yesh Atid, which sponsored the bill together with the Jewish Home party, welcomed the approval, which he voted for.

“Education about national service is one of the foundations of Israel’s educational system,” he explained. “Whoever undermines this will do so outside the confines of the schools, outside the system.”

The bill will be brought for its final readings in the Knesset on Monday.