Israel’s Shin Bet security agency illegally interfering in Arab education system

Education Ministry director general met with two Shin Bet agents in November 2019 to discuss Arab education, youth movements, and ‘extremist’ teachers; Adalah to ministry: Hand over transcripts and immediately halt all interference in Arab education system.

Israel’s internal security agency is illegally interfering in the country’s Arab education system despite earlier commitments to the Israeli Supreme Court to refrain from such actions.


Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel sent an urgent letter today, 27 February 2020, on behalf of the Follow-Up Committee for Arab Education to Israeli Education Ministry Director General Shmuel Abuav, demanding that he provide details on his recent meeting with two agents from Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency and on the agency’s inquiries into the Arab education system.


On 24 November 2019, Abuav met in his office with the two Shin Bet agents, “Shamir” and “Eran”, to discuss issues related to the Palestinian Arab education system in Israel, including the participation of Arab school children in youth movements and the blocking of “extremist” teachers.


The meeting, noted in Abuav’s personal schedule, was revealed to the public thanks to a petition filed by The Movement for Freedom of Information that was reported upon by Ynet News.


It is illegal for the Shin Bet to intervene or interfere in the Arab education system.


In 2004, Adalah and the National Association of Arab Parents’ Education Committees filed a Supreme Court petition against the Israeli Education Ministry relating to the Shin Bet’s interference in the hiring of Arab teaching staff. The state subsequently committed that the Shin Bet – which had been actively involved in the Arab education system since the establishment of the state – would cease its intervention in the selection or hiring of teachers in the Arab school system. At the time, Adalah provided letters from three former education ministers - Shulamit Aloni, Yossi Sarid, and Amnon Rubenstein – and an affidavit from a former senior Education Ministry employee, Dr. Daphna Golan, who all confirmed the practice of Shin Bet intervention in the appointment of Arab educators.


Nevertheless, the Shin Bet illegally involved itself once again in Arab education when its agents met with Abuav on 24 November 2019, violating the state's earlier commitments before the Supreme Court.


Adalah demands that the Education Ministry’s director general hand over the transcript of his November 2019 meeting with the Shin Bet agents, as well as detailed reports of all meetings between Education Ministry officials and Shin Bet agents that have taken place over the past four years. 


Adalah also demands the Shin Bet immediately halt all interference in the Arab education system.


According to Israeli law, the education system is intended to develop a child’s personality, to establish his or her understanding of human creativity, to strengthen the power of judgment and critique, and to provide equal opportunities. Shin Bet interference in education undermines these goals and, therefore, violates Arab children's constitutional right to education.


Adalah warned that Shin Bet intervention in the Arab school system is an attempt to illegally monitor the attitudes and activities of students and teachers in order to suppress sentiments that do not conform to the political positions of the Israeli government.


In the letter to Abuav, Adalah Attorney Aiah Haj Odeh stressed that:


“Shin Bet agents are not educators, and there is no connection between them and the pedagogical role … this intervention indicates that the [Israeli] Education Ministry of Education perceives Arab society – including its education system – as a potential enemy and a threat… [This creates] an atmosphere of fear, control, and supports a culture of silence which isolates the Arab education system and its teaching staff in particular.


CLICK HERE to read the letter [Hebrew]


(Images: Shin Bet/Facebook)