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Education Ministry, Shin Bet said cooperating to identify terror-backing teachers

Report of collaboration – said to be revealed at closed-door Knesset panel hearing – prompts Labor MK to demand that PM, education minister explain the new procedure

Fadi Abu Shkhaydam, the terrorist who killed an Israeli civilian and wounded four others in a shooting attack in East Jerusalem's Old City on November 21, 2021. (Facebook)
Fadi Abu Shkhaydam, the terrorist who killed an Israeli civilian and wounded four others in a shooting attack in East Jerusalem's Old City on November 21, 2021. (Facebook)

The Education Ministry has begun working with the Shin Bet security service to identify teachers who support or are involved in terrorism, the Kan public broadcaster reported Monday.

In an effort to root out those who back terror from the education system, the Shin Bet has reportedly agreed to pass on to the ministry information it has obtained on possible suspects.

The new procedure was introduced after two recent terror attacks were carried out by Arab education staff, as well as other incidents of comments made by Arab teachers on social media networks, according to the report.

The terrorist who carried out a deadly stabbing and ramming attack in Beersheba in March was identified as Arab Israeli Mohammad Ghaleb Abu al-Qi’an from the southern Bedouin town of Hura, a former schoolteacher and Islamic State supporter, who had served time in prison on terror charges.

And in November last year, Hamas member Fadi Abu Shkhaydam, who was a Palestinian high school teacher in Jerusalem, shot dead Eli Kay and injured several others in an attack in the capital’s Old City. Abu Shkhaydam worked at an Islamic boys’ high school, the Rashidiya school, just outside the Old City and was on the Jerusalem Municipality payroll.

According to the report, Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton in March ordered her director-general, Dalit Stauber, to summon for a hearing an educator who was suspected of praising on her Facebook page Diaa Hamarsheh, the Palestinian terrorist who carried out a March terror attack in Bnei Brak that killed five people, including a police officer.

Mohammad Ghaleb Abu al-Qi’an. (Courtesy)

Arab Israeli lawmaker MK Ibtisam Mara’ana of the coalition’s Labor party responded to the Kan report by tweeting that she had sent a letter to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Shasha-Biton asking them to explain under what circumstances the decision was made to implement the procedure.

In the letter, which was also sent to the chair of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Mara’ana further demanded to know what methods will be used to locate the suspects.

The existence of cooperation between the ministry and the Shin Bet was revealed during a closed-door meeting of the Knesset Education Committee.

Ibtisam Mara’ana at the Knesset in Jerusalem on December 7, 2021 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Several MKs who participated in the committee gathering said they were told that at a recent meeting between the head of the Shin Bet and the ministry director-general, a decision was made that the agency would hand over to the Education Ministry information it obtains about teaching personnel suspected of supporting or being involved in terrorism.

The meeting itself was reportedly raucous, with Joint List MK Ofer Cassif clashing with Likud MK Keti Shitrit. A further meeting on the matter, the fourth such session so far, is to be held later Monday, according to the report.

In November, Kan reported that security officials were looking at requiring prospective East Jerusalem teachers to undergo a background check before being accepted for positions at municipal-run schools.

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