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Rights group B’Tselem undaunted by Israeli ‘ban on speaking in schools’

ISRAELI human rights group B’Tselem said today that it would ignore an apparent ban on addressing schools issued by Education Minister Yoav Galant on Sunday night.

“B’Tselem is determined to keep with its mission of documenting reality, analysing it, and making our findings publicly known to the Israeli public and worldwide,” it said, adding that it had delivered an online lecture to school students in Haifa this afternoon.

Mr Galant said on Sunday that he had instructed his ministry’s director-general to “prevent organisations calling Israel ‘an apartheid state’ or demeaning Israeli soldiers from lecturing in schools.”

B’Tselem issued a landmark report last week in which it described Israel as an apartheid regime for the first time.

It argued that while Palestinians live under different forms of Israeli control in the occupied West Bank, blockaded Gaza, annexed East Jerusalem and within Israel itself, they have fewer rights than Jews in the entire area between the Mediterranean sea and the Jordan river.

Mr Galant said his ban was part of the Education Ministry’s task of “advancing Jewish, democratic and zionist values.”

His legal authority to issue a ban on speakers in schools was unclear. 

The announcement parallels the crackdown on expressing support for Palestinian liberation in Britain, where Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has led a drive to force universities to adopt the contentious International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-semitism, which critics say conflates criticism of Israel with hostility to Jews. 

Mr Galant’s order follows a 2018 law preventing activities in schools by groups that support legal action being taken against Israeli soldiers abroad.

That year also saw the second-class status of Israel’s Arab citizens formalised with the Nation State law, which ascribed the right of self-determination in Israel to Jews exclusively and dropped Arabic as an official language.

Arab legal rights group Adalah said Mr Galant’s order was a bid to “silence legitimate voices” and called on Israel’s attorney-general to cancel it. 

On Sunday Israel advanced plans to build 800 more homes in illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank.

Anti-colonisation group Peace Now said the rush of approvals in the last days of Donald Trump’s US presidency sought to forestall any change of policy on the occupation by the incoming Joe Biden administration.

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