Student’s ‘political persecution’ of teacher reaches national stage

An Israeli student’s accusations that her teacher expressed leftist views, amplified by a far-right political figure, now have the teacher fighting for his job.

Israel’s education minister ordered the Ort school system to investigate a complaint against a high school teacher from one of its schools in the north of Israel, following a letter from a 12th-grade student. The student wrote to the minister alleging that her teacher promoted extreme-left political opinions in class, including criticism of the IDF and saying that Israel was not a state for Jews, but rather for Palestinians. The teacher was called in for a hearing, and his job appears to be on the line; Haaretz reports that he has stated he will not resign.

Former MK Michael Ben Ari, one of the most outspoken far-right members of the far-right party National Union party in the previous Knesset, published the letter on his Facebook site.

Adam emphasizes his political views in every class. He explained that he’s an extreme leftist, that…our state is not even the state of the Jews but it’s for the Palestinians, and that we (Jews) shouldn’t be here. He also emphasized that the IDF is unusually cruel and violent, by contrast to other armies…the IDF is completely immoral and he’s ashamed of his state. Adam also told us that during a conference abroad, he shouted ‘Viva Palestine.’ When I expressed my opinion and said that I don’t agree with those things he laughed and said: ‘You would just kill all the Arabs – that’s what you want.’ Of course that’s not my intention and I explained that to him, but he ignored me and continued to humiliate me and to insult me in front of the whole class. When I went to the administration about this, they held several conversations with him, where Adam admitted that he laughed at what I said and even apologized.

The main thing is not that he ridiculed me in front of the class, but the fact that he is part of the education system, and he uses his position to drive these wrongful thoughts into the students, about our state and our army…”

The ensuing debate has rankled students in the small northern town of Kiryat Tivon, sparked a brutal online debate, and has reverberated through Ort school system, which is part of the national education system.

Haaretz reported that after the student, Sapir Sabah, wrote to the Education Minister, he directed the central office of the Ort school system to look into the matter and the latter held a hearing. Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post reported that he was about to be fired, or that Ort administrators had proposed that he step down; he refused. Spokespeople for the Ort school system told +972 Magazine that it was Adam Verete himself who, at the end of the hearing, decided he was unable to teach that student or class, and considered stepping down.

According to Haaretz, the trouble started a year earlier (my translation).

“Verta told his friends at the school that the first conflict with Sabah was the previous year, when she expressed support for the statement that ‘All the Arabs should be thrown into the sea,’ and his first response was to laugh. Sabah complained that Verete humiliated her and after a talk with the school administration, he apologized…A few months later, in a discussion after class, Verta told his friends that Sabah had said to him: ‘the State of Israel has death penalty for traitors,’ and that he is a traitor. According to him [Verete – ds] the high school principal demanded that Sabah apologize for what she had said, and that she refused.”

But the story of a teacher being persecuted by a student for expressing unpalatable views is nearly overshadowed by the deep vitriol the case has exposed, which can hardly be distinguished from incitement – not so much against Arabs or Palestinians, but against the Left.

In introducing the letter on his Facebook site, Michael Ben-Ari  wrote the following status update: “Sapir from Kiryat Tivon writes to Education Minister Shai Piron, [sic] will he call on her to hear how the anti-Zionist left is poisoning the wells of the education system.” In the Middle Ages, Jews were charged with poisoning wells and spreading the Black Death, as incitement to justify subsequent pogroms.

Users claiming to be Sapir Sabah and her brother and sister were active participants in the lengthy discussion on Ben Ari’s Facebook page. Comments included the following (my translation)

 “How can we…ensure that this teacher doesn’t continue to teach?”

“Stupid. Zero. Coward. Leftist. Traitor…Punishment: Tattoo a Star of David on his forehead and parachute him into Gaza.”

“Maybe the Satanic teacher wants to move to Syria…”

“His mother fucked an Arab.”

“I would pull down this teacher’s underwear and whip him on the ass – with the whip in my right hand!”

“One day all the MKs and judges will be leftists and we’ll be a minority…oh, oops, it’s already happening…in schools, in the Knesset, in the Supreme Court, we are turning into a minority and after all that’s happened, the day is not far when they’ll recommend hanging us in the town square.”

Numerous users who claimed to be Verete’s pupils struck back, saying they had never experienced anything remotely coercive about his attitudes in class. Many insisted that he always encouraged and fostered open debate and respected the opinions of all students; the Jerusalem Post reported that some of them signed a petition insisting that he “always fostered free exchange of views.”

The laconic response given by spokespeople on behalf of the Ort system sought mainly to reassure readers of its commitment to IDF and made no attempt to defend its teacher. As part of the education system of Israel, said the written response, the Ort system “carries the banner of values through education in all its institutions, and guides its students towards being drafted into the IDF.” The statement also said that as a result of cooperative educational activities with the IDF, the draft rate of its students is among the highest in the country.

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