Adalah Petitions the Supreme Court to Order the Dismissal of the Head of the Bedouin Education Authority Due to His Racist Statements


On 23 September 2001, Adalah staff attorney Marwan Dalal filed a petition to the Supreme Court on behalf of forty-nine petitioners including Parents’ Committees, pupils and NGOs against the Minister of Education, Limor Livnat and the Head of the Bedouin Education Authority (BEA), Moshe Shohat. The petition asked the Supreme Court to order Minister Livnat to dismiss Mr. Shohat from his position in light of racist statements he made against the Arab Bedouin community. In addition, the petitioners asked the Supreme Court to order Minister Livnat to publicly advertise for a replacement for Mr. Shohat among the Palestinian community in the Negev.


In an interview with the New York-based newspaper The Jewish Week published 20 July 2001, Mr. Shohat made several racist statements regarding the Arab Bedouin community.  He spoke of “bloodthirsty Bedouins who commit polygamy, have thirty children, and continue to expand their illegal settlements, taking over state land.” Mr. Shohat added that, “In their culture, they take care of their needs outdoors. They don’t even know how to flush a toilet.”


Mr. Shohat has served as Head of the BEA for sixteen years. Founded in 1981, the BEA is the agency appointed by the Ministry of Education to manage the education system in the unrecognized villages in the Negev. The petitioners provided evidence to the Court of Mr. Shohat’s failures to uphold his responsibilities as Head of the BEA. These failures were also cited in the report of the Katz Committee, a Knesset-appointed body charged with reviewing the education system in the Negev.  In addition, the petitioners highlighted further questionable activities undertaken by Mr. Shohat, in particular the purchasing of an advertisement in support of himself and his work for the Arab Bedouin community in the Negev.


The petitioners claimed that allowing Mr. Shohat to remain in his position represents an unreasonable decision on the part of Minister Livnat. Further, the petitioners added, “[Minister Livnat] did not consider the damage done to moral and social values by allowing Mr. Shohat to continue in his position as Head of the BEA.”


The petitioners also asked for the right of the Bedouin community to be represented in the position, arguing that because “the position of the Head of the BEA is the highest official position in the agency, and because the declared goal of the BEA is the service of the Arab Bedouin population in the Negev, it is a requirement that the Head of the BEA be a qualified education specialist from the Arab population.”