Ministry Walks Back Demand for External Educators to Pledge to Uphold Nakba Law

New wording applies criteria only to content of programs offered by outside providers, not the educators themselves

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A demonstration marking Nakba Day at Tel Aviv University in 2016.
A demonstration marking Nakba Day at Tel Aviv University in 2016.Credit: Moti Milrod

The Education Ministry eased hiring requirements for schools on Thursday previously enacted in April that required outside educational program administrators to declare that their presentations don’t challenge Israel’s identity as a Jewish and democratic state, portray Independence Day as a day of mourning, or promote Holocaust denial.

The ministry's revised wording states that such administrators must pledge their programs do not contradict the "goals of state education," while the earlier and stricter version had applied the pledge to all the organizations’ “goals or actions, including spoken statements,” rather than merely to their programming.

Adalah, an Arab rights advocacy group, petitioned the High Court of Justice following the ministry's April requirements taken from a 2011 law that bars government funding for activities that promote such ideas, sometimes known as the Nakba Law.

The initial requirements in April were part of a ministry project to invite school administrators to browse and choose through a database of programming offered by private organizations, which went live for the current school year. To join the database, operators must meet several requirements, including signing the pledge.

The pledge includes 12 provisions, that among other things, operators must promise that their programming won’t encourage violence, incitement, racism or terrorism against the state and that it won’t “reject Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state,” deny the Holocaust or treat “Independence Day or the day of Israel’s establishment as a day or mourning.”

The seeming redundancy of that last provision is meant to cover both the Hebrew and English dates of Israel’s establishment. The former is used for Independence Day, but Palestinians use the latter for their Nakba Day.

In response to the revised pledge, Adalah, the organization that filed the petition, agreed to withdraw it, but said it reserves the right to go back to court.

Attorney Salam Irsheid of Adalah charged that even in its new version applies the principles of the "Nakba Law," thus "trampling over the freedom of expression of Arab program operators and educators in schools.” Adalah will continue to fight against “policies that bars bringing content at the heart of Palestinians’ collective identity into the education system,” Irsheid said.

“At this stage, the Education Ministry has already grasped that the law doesn’t allow political persecution of program operators over actions outside school walls,” she added. “We intended to make it realize that it also isn’t entitled to do so inside them.”

Adalah’s petition said the earlier version was the Education Ministry’s first use of the Nakba Law, as well as the first time the government has ever used the law as a precondition for participating in a government project. Consequently, it said, the rule “severely undermined” Arab organizations’ right to equal participation in the database project.

That 2011 amendment, popularly known as the Nakba Law, says that organizations funded by the state may not reject Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state or treat Independence Day as a day of mourning. Organizations that violate these stipulations can be stripped of their state funding.

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