Israel Hayom’s new target: Conscientious objector’s mother

‘Israel Hayom’ put a high school principal in its crosshairs after she expressed support for her daughter’s refusal to serve in the IDF. This is what a witch hunt looks like.

By Yali (Yael) Marom

Iris Gur, mother of conscientious objector Noa Gur Golan, protests in support of her daughter, who sat in prison for 98 over her refusal to serve in the IDF. (Courtesy of Mesarvot)
Iris Gur, mother of conscientious objector Noa Gur Golan, protests in support of her daughter, who served 98 days in prison for her refusal to serve in the IDF. (Courtesy of Mesarvot)

Israel Hayom, the newspaper funded by Netanyahu patron Sheldon Adelson, and the country’s most circulated daily, has found yet another target. After an unsuccessful attempt last week to bring about the firing of Palestinian-Israeli journalist Makbula Nassar a week earlier, this week  Israel Hayom put Iris Gur, the mother of conscientious objector Noa Gur Golan, in its crosshairs.

Gur, an elementary school principal, has expressed support and pride for her daughter, who served 98 days in military prison after refusing to be conscripted into the IDF. According to Israel Hayom, this makes Iris an “Israel hater” who is unfit for her job as a teacher. Or as Matan Peleg, from the far-right group Im Tirzu, put it: “It is inconceivable that schools will be led by principals that do not believe in the right of the state to protect itself.”

The article, published last Tuesday by Yair Altman, opens with the following: “Educating toward conscientious objection? Iris Gur, the principal of a state elementary school and an employee of the Ministry of Education, published a post on her Facebook page that praises and encourages her daughter and others to refuse to enlist in the IDF.” Altman writes that Iris accompanied her daughter to military prison and even participated in a protest to support her daughter. Altman adds that Gur’s personal Facebook page is full of “extreme and controversial political statements, including articles from Palestinian websites about the army arresting children, as well posts about ‘terror against children’ and posts by Women Wage Peace.”

On Thursday morning, Israel Hayom reported that the campaign had succeeded. The Education Ministry will reportedly summon Iris Gur to clarify that the contents of her Facebook page “do not constitute part of the school’s educational environment.”

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Not Zionist enough?

Noa Gur Golan refused to serve in the army because of her commitment to pacifism and nonviolence, and says she believes that she must personally work to bring about peace. She requested that the IDF recognize her as a conscientious objector and permit her to perform civil service instead. Two weeks ago, the army discharged her after 98 days in prison, labeling her behavior “serious misconduct.”

Israeli conscientious objector Noa Gur Golan. (Courtesy of Mesarvot)
Israeli conscientious objector Noa Gur Golan. (Courtesy of Mesarvot)

In an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth earlier this year, Iris said:

If my daughter is willing to pay the price and go to prison, then I too am willing to pay. If someone thinks I am doing the wrong thing, then I am willing to pay any price to support my daughter. I am, first and foremost, her mother. They say that I am putting my job at risk, but I have been in the education system for 30 years, and I find it hard to believe that I will be fired for saying I support my daughter. At worst I will be given a warning or summoned for a meeting. The teachers at my school know about Noa’s decision not to enlist… I really have nothing to hide.

Noa is 19 and made her choice and I support her, because she deserves to live according to her worldview. We had many conversations during which I asked her repeatedly if she was sure of what she was doing… after these conversations, I understood that this is her truth and that she can’t do otherwise.

Gur Golan is part of the Mesarvot network, which supports conscientious objectors. Following the attacks on her mother, Mesarvot issued the following statement:

Every year, many young people choose to refrain from IDF service in one way or another, some of them do so while declaring their opposition to the occupation and Israeli policies, and often pay the price of lengthy prison sentences. These are brave young people who, despite all the norms of Israeli society, choose to take a stand and take responsibility.

This is certainly not the first time Israel Hayom has targeted people, and government employees in particular, for being insufficiently Zionist, for being too left-wing, or for being Palestinian. Netanyahu’s confidants as well as his supporters are busy the cleansing civil service of those whose views do not match the prime minister’s. This is especially true for teachers who dare to express opinions seen as left wing, and that do not conform to the idea that militaristic education and violence are morally justifiable. Employees in the Education Ministry are legally allowed to express political opinions. However, as the list of persecuted teachers grows longer, the message is clear: some opinions are legitimate, others aren’t — and you better think twice before writing words like “peace” on your Facebook page.

Yael Marom is Just Vision’s public engagement manager in Israel and a co-editor of Local Call, where a version of this article was originally published in Hebrew.