B’Tselem head defies ban, addresses students

Education minister had announced a ban on members of organizations that called “Israel false and derogatory names.” The ban came shortly after human rights group B’Tselem termed Israel an apartheid state

January 19, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Israel B’Tselem
Israeli education minister Yoav Gallant. (Photo: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Despite a ban from Israel’s education minister, the head of the human rights organization B’Tselem, Hagai El-Ad, took part in an online lecture with students of a school in Haifa on Monday, January 18. The organization had just last week called Israel an apartheid state, following which a ban was imposed on members of organizations spreading ‘lies about Israel.’

Israel’s education minister, Yoav Galant, in the ban order, said without taking the name of B’Tselem that certain organisations are calling “Israel false and derogatory names” and they should not be allowed to enter the educational institutions in the country.

The decision was announced after several members of Israeli parliament from the ultra-right-wing Likud party had objected to a Zoom session with the school in Haifa scheduled on Monday in which Hagai was the chief speaker.

Hagai El-Ad criticised the move saying that Gallant’s claims of Israel being Jewish and democratic are lies as it is “neither Jewish nor democratic” and “we live in a bi-national reality”.

The order to ban B’Tselem from school is based on a 2018 law which gives the state power to ban organisations critical of Israeli military’s human rights violations in the occupied territories.

The move to ban the prominent human rights organization was denounced by several organisations with some calling for the revocation of the decision. The Adalah legal centre, another organisation which works for the rights of Palestinians, called the ban invalid and an attempt to “silence legitimate voices.”

Last week B’Tselem followed several other organizations and recognized Israel as an apartheid state over its discriminatory policies towards Palestinians. According to the report, in the whole stretch between the river Jordan and Mediterranean Sea, Israel treats its citizens differently. One the one side, Jews live in contiguous areas with full rights and on the other side, Palestinians live in separate units with far fewer rights.   

Hagai had written an opinion piece in the Guardian calling Israel one entity which is not “democracy plus occupation” but rather “apartheid between the river and the sea”. The policies in Israel are designed, said the report, to uphold and promote the idea of Jewish supremacy. The report also acknowledged that discrimination has become institutionalised in the country, particularly after the passage of the Jewish Nation-State law in 2018.  

Several other groups both inside and outside Israel have started identifying Israel as an apartheid regime, claiming that it follows policies similar to that of the racist regime that was in power in South African until 1994.

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