'How can educating on tolerance, equality be incitement?'

Teacher suspended for leading class discussion on judicial overhaul plan – report

School administration accuses Amir Kliger of ‘incitement’; Education Ministry has warned teachers to refrain from voicing political opinions in class

Illustrative (Michael Giladi/Flash90)
Illustrative (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

A teacher at a school in Rishon Lezion has been suspended and summoned for a dismissal hearing, reportedly after dedicating a class earlier this week to discussing the government’s controversial legal overhaul bills.

Amir Kliger, 43, was summoned by the school’s administration shortly after the class discussion for a hearing on the termination of his employment contract due to allegations of “incitement” on his part, Haaretz reported Thursday.

Kliger told the paper that he had never faced such complaints before.

“Over the 10 years of my leading more than 300 class discussions, I’ve never faced complaints regarding their content,” he said. “These accusations have only surfaced amid the rise of this current government.”

Kliger said he opened the class discussion by reading an article about the level of youth participation in the current political crisis, and asking his students whether they wanted to debate the topic further. Most were curious and asked questions, leading to a lively and lengthy discussion, which included the screening of a presentation that illustrated some of the risks that the legal overhaul posed to the system of checks and balances in Israel, he said.

“I called on them to see reality clearly, to face the facts and set red lines for themselves within their own world views. How can educating toward humanism, tolerance, equality and the rule of law be considered incitement?” Kliger asked.

The hard-right coalition led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been rapidly advancing its plans to impose radical, sweeping changes to the judicial system.

These include granting itself total control over the appointment of judges, including to the High Court, all but eliminating the High Court’s ability to review and strike down legislation, and allowing politicians to appoint — and fire — their own legal advisers. The plans have spurred mass weekly protests in major cities, alarmed warnings from economists, legal professionals and tech entrepreneurs inside and outside Israel, and fierce criticism from the opposition. The coalition insists the changes are overdue and will bolster democracy.

It isn’t the first time Kliger is facing criticism for his class discussions. Earlier this year, he was reprimanded by the school’s principal after one of the students’ parents filed a complaint over a class discussion relating to the anti-LGBTQ deputy minister Avi Moaz, who was granted significant control over education programming and who recently introduced legislation that would bar schools from teaching lessons on sexual orientation before 9th grade.

The director-general of the Education Ministry, Assaf Tselal, recently sent a letter to the employees of the education system warning them to keep students in a so-called “balanced bubble,” and refrain from expressing views on the judicial overhaul.

The Education Ministry did not respond to a request to comment for the Haaretz report, saying that it was not Kliger’s employer.

The case echoes a similar incident in 2014.

Adam Verta, a Jewish philosophy teacher at the ORT Greenberg high school in Kiryat Tivon, was dismissed after a student complained about his “extreme leftist” views. ORT denied the dismissal was political, citing budget cuts.

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