Despite being specifically banned, members of the leftist Breaking the Silence group have been speaking at Israeli high schools, Israel Radio reported Thursday. On several occasions over the past several months, representatives of the group have been permitted to speak in front of students. The presentations given by the group’s representatives reportedly discussed the IDF’s activities in Yehudah and Shomron, and Breaking the Silence’s opposition to them.
Principals of the schools contacted refused to comment, said the report, because they feared reprisals from Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who last December specifically banned Breaking the Silence from making presentations to students.
In a statement, Bennett’s office said that the matter would be checked into thoroughly. “Groups that incite against IDF soldiers are not allowed into educational institutions,” the statement said.
A notification was sent out last December by Bennett outlining the policy. “Children are sent to educational institutions in order to reinforce mutual responsibility, and not to denigrate IDF soldiers,” the notice said, quoting Bennett. “Groups that incite against IDF soldiers, like Breaking the Silence, play into the hands of Israel’s enemies around the world when they attack the soldiers who defend us.”
At the same time, former Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon banned Breaking the Silence from activity on IDF bases. “If Breaking the Silence was truly worried about the morality of the IDF, they would work with us, instead of denigrating us abroad,” Yaalon said, announcing the ban.
Breaking the Silence is known for conducting protests in Israel and abroad against “massacres” by IDF soldiers, and has been accused of harassing individual soldiers by following them around and annoying and embarrassing them. The group has also been accused of supplying information to leftist groups abroad that seek to prosecute IDF soldiers in international court for their defensive actions against terrorists.
Commenting on the report, Breaking the Silence said that it would continue to violate Bennett’s ban. “The ban is not acceptable. Instead of trying to quiet us, Bennett should respect freedom of speech. We are very pleased that there are schools that have not buckled to the minister’s instructions.”