Israel can now ban critics of the occupation from giving presentations to school children, according to a law passed Monday night by Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. Known as the “Breaking the Silence” law, the bill passed with a majority of 43 votes in favor and 24 against.
The bill was submitted by the right-wing Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s party and states individuals and groups that seek to “inflict harm upon IDF soldiers” are barred from entering educational institutions “when this activity is of a nature that undermines state education goals, or is such that endeavors to inflict harm upon IDF soldiers who are a consensus in Israeli society.”
The legislation specifically targets the the left-wing Israeli group Breaking the Silence (the organization’s name was in the official working title of the bill) which collects and publishes testimony from former Israeli army soldiers about the military’s human rights abuses against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The group regularly conducts tours inside the West Bank city of Hebron as well as lectures in Israeli schools.
One of the law’s clauses expands the reach to prohibit persons or groups who “initiate legal proceedings outside Israel against IDF soldiers for an action carried out in the course of their military duty.”
Haaretz reported lawmakers added this section in an eleventh hour amendment. It impacts people like Hagai El-Ad, the director of the left-wing Israeli NGO B’Tselem, which was the subject of previous legislation to strip human rights groups of the tax-exempt status.
In 2016 El-Ad asked members of the UN Security Council to sanction Israel for its settlement activity. Because of that speech, El-Ad will likely be prohibited under the new law from giving lectures inside Israeli educational institutions.
B’Tselem spokesperson Amit Gilutz told Mondoweiss he plans on ignoring the law. Gilutz said he is “certain all of our outreach activities to the Israeli public will continue regardless of this or another law. It is our basic duty.”
In a joint statement released by B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence, El-Ad responded,
“Control over the Palestinians requires control over Israel’s perceptions. Controlling Palestinians involves incessant violence, and the attempts to address Israeli opposition to this violence requires oppressing those who oppose and labeling them ‘enemies from within’,” El-Ad said. “When the occupation will finally end, this piece of legislation will not be worthy even of a footnote.”
In protest of the law members of Breaking the Silence took to the Knesset on Tuesday where they held a lecture for Israeli students. Ynet reported from event, quoting from Ido Even-Paz, the Breaking the Silence activist who led the session, “[T]he Breaking the Silence Law is only the harbinger of the actions being taken to silence opposing voices,” adding that “similar laws that will pass in the future will only raise the barrier against anyone who dares to resist. Now it requires us to be brave and fight.”