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Israel minister bars critical veterans group from schools

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Jerusalem: Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett has announced he was prohibiting a group of veterans critical of the military’s actions from engaging with schools, accusing them of spreading “lies and incitement”.

Bennett ordered that his ministry’s guidelines be updated to prevent “organisations that incite against Israeli soldiers, such as Breaking the Silence,” to hold activities within the educational system, his office said yesterday.

“Our children are sent to the educational system where mutual responsibility is encouraged in them, not harming Israeli soldiers,” he said in a statement.

“Breaking the Silence’s actions cause Israel to be tarnished in the world, their goal being to harm their brothers, who protect us,” he said. “Lies and incitement won’t be accepted in our schools.”

Breaking the Silence is comprised of veterans who publicise abuses they have seen or taken part in during their military service in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Critics say its focus on audiences outside of Israel, and the foreign funding it receives, show its strives to impose external intervention on Israeli society, rather than to work for a change from within.

Some Israelis even consider the group’s members to be traitors.

Breaking the Silence recently made headlines after President Reuven Rivlin was under fire for speaking at a panel including a member of the group.

Rivlin later said he “never meant to participate in a Breaking the Silence conference,” stressing that the army was “the most moral army in the world.”

On Sunday, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon announced he was barring Breaking the Silence from any activities with soldiers.

The organisation said Monday it was “under attack through a pre-meditated campaign” by “members of the extreme right- wing, including Israeli parliamentarians and elected officials, along with public figures and right wing organisations” seeking “to silence both us”.

Meanwhile, a right-wing NGO launched a campaign yesterday against it and other groups critical of Israel or supportive of Palestinians that receive funding from foreign governments.

Im Tirzu posted a video accusing members of four groups who receive funding from Germany, Norway, the Netherlands and the EU of being “foreign agents”, attempting to garner public support for legislation that would outlaw the NGOs.