Ministry of Education Recommends Dismissal of Bedouin Education Authority Head Moshe Shohat in Response to Adalah's Petition
On 25 March 2002, the Ministry of Education (hereafter "the Ministry") informed the Supreme Court that it intends to recommend the dismissal of Moshe Shohat, the Head of the Bedouin Education Authority. Adalah requested that Mr. Shohat be dismissed in a petition filed on 23 September 2001, because of racist statements he made about the Bedouin community. In a July 2001 newspaper interview, Mr. Shohat described the community as "blood-thirsty Bedouins who commit polygamy, have 30 children and continue to expand their illegal settlements, taking over state land." Mr. Shohat further commented, "In their culture they take care of their needs outdoors … They don't even know how to flush a toilet." Adalah Staff Attorney Marwan Dalal filed the petition on behalf of forty-nine petitioners, including the Arab National Parents' Committee, pupils and other NGOs.
On 15 January 2002, the Court issued an order nisi in response to Adalah's petition, giving the Ministry 45 days to explain why it had failed to meet the petition's demands, which included the dismissal of Mr. Shohat from his position and bidding for a replacement Head from among the Palestinian community in the Naqab.
While the Ministry agreed to recommend that Mr. Shohat be dismissed, it continued to defend his statements, arguing that they were not racist and needed to be understood in the context in which they were made. The Ministry stated that it would recommend the dismissal of Mr. Shohat not as a result of his comments, but because of defects in the management of the Authority discovered by an external examiner. These defects included mismanagement and misuse of the Authority's funds.
The Ministry claimed that it did not have the authority to directly dismiss Mr. Shohat, and that it could only recommend to the Bedouin Education Authority that he be dismissed. Adalah countered that the Ministry did in fact have the power to dismiss Mr. Shohat, as it established the Authority and supplies its budget, including Mr. Shohat's salary. Adalah pointed out that, following the public outcry in response to Mr. Shohat's remarks, the Ministry had appointed an examiner to investigate his statements, and had asked him not to repeat them, indicating that it understood Mr. Shohat to be under its authority. Adalah further noted that when a petition is filed against the Ministry requesting the establishment of a school in an unrecognized village in the Naqab, Mr. Shohat receives orders to build the school from the Ministry. According to the Ministry, Mr. Shohat is under the jurisdiction of its southern district.
Adalah will monitor Mr. Shohat's dismissal, in order to ensure that it is promptly carried out. The issue of opening the position of Head of the Bedouin Education Authority to bids from qualified candidates within the Bedouin community in the Naqab is still pending before the Court.