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Bereaved Families Forum Disqualification is Extremely Unreasonable

The Association for Civil Right in Israel and the Education Law and Policy Clinic at the University of Haifa submitted an appeal (Hebrew) against the decision of the Ministry of Education’s committee to disqualify the “Dialogue Meetings” program of the Bereaved Families Forum from the external programs database for the year 2024. After the deputy mayor of Jerusalem filed a complaint citing the comparison of Israeli and Palestinian bereaved families as a core issue, the committee held a hearing regarding the complaint. Following the hearing, the external programs manager of the Ministry of Education, Lilah Appleton, stated the decision to remove the program was because the Forum’s goals “are in contradiction to the values of the Education Ministry.”

The Bereaved Families for Peace and Bereaved Families Forum is a joint Israeli-Palestinian organization of over 600 families, all of whom have lost an immediate family member due to the conflict. The “dialogue meetings” for youth and adults are led by two members of the forum (Israeli and Palestinian) who share their personal stories of bereavement and their active choice to participate in dialogue rather than revenge. Over 8,500 of these meetings have taken place in schools, community centers and other frameworks comprising of about 250,000 participants over the span of 20 years.

In the appeal submitted by ACRI representing the Forum, we declare that the disqualification of the program and the reasons for it contradicts the goals of formal education. We concluded that the disqualification of the program for 2024, after its examination and inclusion in the 2023 program, is extremely unreasonable. Moreover, the role of the education system is to expose students to a complex reality and diverse perspectives, to develop critical thinking and "a relationship of respect for human rights, basic freedoms, democratic values, the rule of law, culture, and the perspectives of others, and to educate for a striving for peace and tolerance in relations between people and among nations" (from the State Education Law). The decision of the Ministry of Education to censor content and liberal perspectives that do not align with its agenda and to engage in undemocratic political purges, based on false and manipulative allegations, raises concerns that committee members yielded to political pressure preventing foreign and objectionable considerations.

ACRI is facilitating an extensive array of resources for educators, principals, and administrators including the establishment of an initiative: Education for Human Rights Forum in partnership with other organizations already endorsed by nearly 4,500 educators, male and female alike. Workshops and professional development programs for educational teams centered in education for democracy, human rights and the fight against racism have been conducted all over the country, creating a larger and stronger network of educators participating in the fight for upholding democratic education.

In addition, ACRI has published a now your rights guide entitled “Teacher, you are allowed to say it,” in both Hebrew and Arabic, providing information on everything educators need to know about freedom of expression within the educational context. ACRI staunchly believes in defending the democratic pillars of the education system and those who fight to support it and will continue to do so.

 

On February 12, 2024, the District Court accepted our request for an interim injunction, and ordered the Ministry of Education to allow the Bereaved Families Forum to register for the Ministry of Education's database of external programs for the next school year. Registration to the database does not attest to acceptance of the program, but only to its absorption and submission to the Ministry of Education for examination.


On April 22, 2024, the court accepted the petition and ruled that the Bereaved Families Forum's program will not be removed from the database for the current school year. The court ruled that the Ministry of Education's decision to remove the program from the database was not based on a real factual basis.

On May 6, 2024, we filed an urgent request under a contempt of court order against the Minister of Education and the Ministry of Education, after they did not comply with the ruling and the "Dialogue Meetings" program was not returned to the database. As a result, the ministry returned the program to the database.

 

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