On more than one occasion, Meir Baruchin personally paid the price for expressing his ideas and telling his students not to be swayed by the prevailing views and to look at every issue critically. A 63-year-old Jerusalem native and a teacher of history and civics education, he was fired from a school in Rishon Lezion in 2020 because he expressed his views on the conflict with the Palestinians in the classroom.
He explained to school officials that he had only tried to generate debate among the students so as to lead them to think independently. It was no use – he was sent home.
Pressure from right-wingers weighed heavily, who accused him of trying to indoctrinate his students with “defeatism and dangerous ideas.” Now, three years later, Baruchin has again lost his job, this time at a school in Petah Tikva, but it was even worse: he was also arrested, detained for four days and subjected to a campaign aimed to make him look like a “traitor” and a Hamas supporter.
On Monday, the judges ordered his release on bail and forbade him from posting on social media for the next two weeks.
His arrest was also due in part to a complaint filed with the police by the Petah Tikva municipality over photos and comments the teacher posted on Facebook against the bombing of Gaza and denouncing the suffering that Israeli military operations are causing to the Palestinian civilian population. His profile features photos of children who died in the air raids. Furthermore, comments he had posted before the Hamas attack in southern Israel on October 7 were used against him.
One of Baruchin’s posts that drew the most attention from the right wing and the police was from October 8. “Today the massacre still continues in the West Bank,” he wrote in reference to the killing of two Palestinians. “They were born under occupation and have lived under it all their lives,” he added. “They have never known a day of true freedom. They will never know one… They were executed tonight by our outstanding young men.”
These comments caused a loud uproar on the right, but the judges did not believe they justified prosecution for “high treason.” Baruchin was released from prison on Monday morning. However, it will be difficult for him to return to work. The newspaper Maariv wrote that since the beginning of the war, the Education Ministry has instructed schools to show zero tolerance towards so-called “expressions of incitement and support for terrorism” by teachers.
Nonetheless, some are pointing out that if the anti-war posts had been made by an Israeli Arab or a Palestinian in Jerusalem, the consequences would have been far worse, given the policy decided by the authorities and security forces.
In recent days, Mohammed Barakeh, a former MP, and members of the Arab Balad party were arrested for organizing a rally advocating for ceasefire in Gaza. The civil rights association Adalah has documented dozens of cases of Israeli Arab students and employees being severely punished by universities and employers for posting anti-war comments deemed to be in support of terrorism and Hamas.
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