Five Arab Israelis from southern Israel, three of whom are teachers in the Israeli education system, were indicted for supporting the Islamic State, the Shin Bet security agency said Monday.
The teachers were accused of promoting the jihadist ideology in their classes, “taking advantage of their status to win over people for the sake of Daesh [IS], among students and teachers, within the school walls,” the Shin Bet said.
A fourth teacher is suspected of backing the group, but was not indicted.
Several of the suspects, most of whom hailed from the Bedouin town of Hura, also planned to travel to Syria to join the ranks of IS, according to a statement from the security agency.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett ordered the suspension of the teachers on Monday, summoned them to a hearing, and was working to revoke their licenses.
“We will severely punish those teachers who took advantage of their role in a despicable way and rather than protect the students, harmed them,” Bennett said in a statement. “We have zero tolerance for those who harm our country. We will work to keep the Education Ministry clean, and we won’t let anyone contaminate our children.”
According to the security agency, Mahmoud Al’ab Ahmed Abu Alkiyan, 27, a high school teacher in Hura, admitted while in Shin Bet custody he was planning to head to Syria to join the Islamic State on July 15 under the pretense of traveling to Saudi Arabia for a religious pilgrimage, and said he participated in some local Islamic State meetings.
He was indicted last week. Issa Shahadah Hader Hassan Abu Alkiyan, 27, and Sharif Shahadah Razaq Abu Alkiyan, 23, were indicted on July 1 on the same charges.
Bashir Jibril Salim Abu Alkiyan, 26, an elementary school teacher in Hura, who confessed to sending IS videos to his relatives and friends and posting on social media in support of the terror group, was indicted for his activity on June 11.
Akram A’leb Ahmad Abu Alkiyan, 30, an elementary school teacher in Rahat, admitted to supporting the terror group and attending an IS meeting in Hura, and was indicted on June 22. Finally, Hamza Ali Abu Alkiyan, also a teacher, was implicated on the same charges, but has not yet been indicted.
Several other teachers and a principal were questioned on the suspicion they knew about the teachers’ activity, but have denied the allegations.
“The Shin Bet stresses that the vast majority of the Arab public in Israel opposes the Islamic State, to the point of disgust with the organization, and that the involvement of teachers in advocating for IS and the the activities attributed to them, is a cynical exploitation of their role, and harms the public trust granted to them by the Education Ministry, parents, and students,” it said in a statement.
In the past two years, the Shin Bet has indicted dozens of Arab Israelis for their support for the Islamic State, and has busted several IS-affiliated cells planning to carry out attacks on Israeli civilians.