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Education Ministry bans Israeli-Palestinian NGO from schools

According to critics, the Parents Circle "draw[s] an immoral equivalence between terror victims and terrorists."

Supporters of the Parents Circle-Families Forum rally outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem, July 30, 2013. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
Supporters of the Parents Circle-Families Forum rally outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem, July 30, 2013. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.

Israeli Education Minister Yoav Kisch has recently moved to ban an Israeli-Palestinian NGO accused of whitewashing terrorism from conducting programs in public schools.

Under the new regulations, the Parents Circle-Families Forum (PCFF) is also barred from receiving state funding for its programs.

The order reportedly came after the group failed to refute accusations against its work during a hearing in July.

The Parents Circle-Families Forum, which has offices in Ramat Gan and in the Palestinian Authority town of Beit Jala in Judea, is mainly financed by the U.S.-based New Israel Fund as well as Swiss, German, and other European Union donors.

The organization claims to promote “peace and reconciliation” by bringing together “Israeli and Palestinian families who have all lost an immediate family member in the conflict.”

However, according to the NGO Monitor watchdog group, its campaigns “promote a highly biased view of the conflict based on the Palestinian narrative and draw an immoral equivalence between terror victims and terrorists.”

Among other activities, the Parents Circle-Families Forum co-organizes the annual joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony in Tel Aviv. The event equates slain Israeli soldiers with the terrorists who attacked them and minimizes the struggle for Israel’s survival.

In the past, bereaved Israeli parents have spoken out against the organization, with some stating that while the forum “claims to speak for five or six hundred bereaved Israeli or Palestinian members,” it “exploit[s] bereavement to raise funds and to promote specific ideological positions.”

Kisch said in his decision on the matter, “Any comparison of the grief over fallen IDF soldiers and victims of terrorist attacks with the grief over those harmed in defensive IDF activities while protecting the State of Israel is unacceptable and does not fit with the values promoted by the Education Ministry.”

While the ministry emphasized the importance of cultivating diverse viewpoints, it said that the Parents Circle-Families Forum must follow government guidelines when activities concern “young students who are a captive audience.”

The forum charged in its response, “In a dictatorship, the education minister decides what is forbidden to know.

“The decision by Yoav Kisch to ban PCFF activities at schools is another act in the coup—suppression of democracy and zero acceptance of other voices,” it added, in a reference to the government’s judicial reform plans.

Shai Glick, CEO of Israeli human rights organization B’Tsalmo, welcomed Kisch’s decision.

“High school students, right before they enlist [into the IDF], are supposed to learn the values of defending the citizens of Israel and defending the homeland, not values of terrorism, incitement and hatred of the State of Israel and the like,” stated B’Tsalmo.

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