domingo, 26 de janeiro de 2014

Israel- Hundreds gather to support politically 'persecuted' teacher

 |Published January 26, 2014
Hundreds gather to support politically 'persecuted' teacher
Some 500 high school students and teachers demonstrated at the entrance to the town of Kiryat Tivon Saturday night to show their support for Adam Verete, a local teacher who is facing possible sacking over proclaiming his left-wing political views in class.

“Silencing? Not in our school.” Kiryat Tivon demonstration (Photo: Oren Ziv /
The usually tranquil town of Kiryat Tivon, just outside of Haifa, was rattled this past week over the local ORT high school’s attempts to fire philosophy teacher Adam Verete following a student’s accusations that he made derogatory remarks against the IDF and the State of Israel. The story was all over the national news with Verete’s students and colleagues leading a campaign of support for him. The Knesset Education Committee debated the case but it has been completely ignored by the Education Ministry. Verete will face a second hearing at the school later this week, which will determine whether or not he keeps his job.
At the Kiryat Tivon protest Saturday night high school teachers, students and their parents were adamant in their support of Verete, chanting “free speech is great – in the classroom and the street” and “We will not let sacking silence our teachers.” They demonstrated at the entrance to town carrying signs and candles, some with tape over their mouths, for a little over two hours. A small group of a dozen or so far-right wingers staged a counter-protest, calling to banish all leftists from the country and at some point throwing a few eggs at the main protest. No one was arrested.
Although Verete is being persecuted for his left-wing views, protestors tried to focus their calls on free speech and the need for critical thinking in schools. When Prof. Gaby Solomon, winner of the Israel Prize for Education, gave a speech saying that the right-wing regime has to be stopped, many called out against him saying that was not at all the case.
Another controversy between demonstrators centered on the extent of their protest’s demands. Some said they just wanted to support Verete and help him keep his job. Others demanded that both the school’s principal and the head of the ORT school network  be fired. A third and more far-reaching demand by some was that ORT be removed altogether from Kiryat Tivon and replaced with a locally run school – like the school was structured up until some 20 years ago.

Protest to support Adam Verete: “ORT – a house of values?” (Photo: Oren Ziv /
“When I first came to this school our work was all about encouraging critical thinking and debate,” said Aviva Sela, a teacher of literature at ORT Kiryat Tivon who came to support her colleague. “We used to organize alternative trips to the concentration camps in Poland, trips within Israel raising questions about our neighbors, our identity, morals, the army and enlistment.”
“We used to say that the true [matriculation] exams are not the ones taken in writing but the ones our students face in the outside world. This was not just the attitude of one teacher like Adam – it was what the whole school was about,” Sela added.
“Ever since ORT came in and principals started being appointed from the outside, foreign to the local community, everything started becoming about grades and filling out forms, and our wings of imagination were chopped off,” she continued. “The one good thing about this passing week is that once the teachers’ committee in the school stated that we all support Adam the atmosphere has changed. We feel empowered once again, and we feel it is a time for change, a time to get ORT out of Tivon and become reconnected to our values and community.”

Teacher Adam Verete arrives at ORT Greenberg high school in Kiryat Tivon, Jan. 23, 2014. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum

Embattled teacher compared to Dreyfus

The controversy surrounding an unsuspecting high-school teacher who was denounced by one of his twelfth-grade students for allegedly expressing left-wing views in class escalated rapidly this week. Adam Verete, the teacher from Kiryat Tivon, has unwittingly been dubbed ‘Dreyfus of Tivon’; a routine meeting of the Knesset Education Committee became a heated argument over the issue, two hundred students demonstrated in Verete’s defense while the Education Minister maintains radio silence, garnering criticism, and the country’s top PR experts working for the ORT school system where Varete teaches stutters over basic questions.
On Thursday, Haaretz published ‘highlights’ from a secret recording of a hearing, in which Verete is heard speaking with one of the ORT administrators. The idea of a hidden tape should add juice and intrigue, but listening to it is more painful than thrilling. At times the teacher’s voice is shaking, dropping nearly to a whisper when he discusses the frightening incitement against him on Facebook. He insists on what he did and did not say: he never said that Israel is not a state for the Jews but for the Arabs, he claims; he had “a philosophical discussion” about whether calling the IDF the most moral army in the world makes it so, or whether such an army is capable of doing immoral things. When students asked his own opinion, he says, he responded that among the things the IDF does, there are some immoral things.
When he expresses fear of returning to school the following day knowing that Sapir Sabah, who lodged the complaint, is going around calling him a traitor – she also said in class that Israel has the death penalty for traitors – the ORT administrator replies: “but that’s her opinion.”
ORT’s spokespeople have generated confusion about its own handling of the issue. Earlier this week, spokespeople said that Verete himself offered to resign due to his difficulty with that student and class. On the tape he clearly says that he does not want to resign, out of commitment to his students –whose effusive support “moved me to tears,” he says. In the hearing, he suggested the administration address the threat to his physical safety based on the violent comments on Facebook, implying that he wasn’t sure whether to continue under those circumstances. (He subsequently turned to the police.) The ORT administration made it clear that it would be best for both him and the system if he resigned. He has said that he will not.
Over the last few days, students have established a Facebook page supporting him; 17 students attended the Knesset hearing and several spoke there. One student later  wrote:
It’s not every day that you get an opportunity to stand up for your beliefs and defend a person who is dear to you…At a certain point I also sat at the table [at the Knesset hearing] and showed my point of view about Adam’s civics classes. I said that to come to the class and talk about opinions that are sometimes contrary to my own, and sometimes not, that is stimulating, it arouses deep thought and attention to the other…And when the day comes that they take away that possibility, then children will also be scared to say their opinion, because if they silence a man who’s older than you and threaten his life, then the option of doing that and worse to youth like you will silence your desire to say your opinion as well.”
No one from the Ministry of Education attended the hearing. Teachers at the ORT school in Kiryat Tivon, sent an urgent letter to the administration of the ORT system, expressing concern for what they called the “personal persecution” of a member of their staff.
The teachers feel that the educational ground on which we stand is disintegrating beneath our feet…the community of teacher is very disturbed by the actions of the bodies involved in this affair, and we are concerned about the consequences of this incident on the teacher-student dialogue and on the status of teachers in Israel. We teachers feel exposed when clear preference is given to the opinions of students and parents, and we receive no support from the system.”
The ORT system has made no statements or taken any action expressing defense of its employee, a teacher with, as far as known, no history of problems. ORT’s responses make no mention of giving the employee a fair process or defending its choice of teachers. When asked if there is a regular process for evaluating individual teachers, which perhaps might provide a counterweight to the complaint of a single student, ORT’s spokespeople – a glitzy Israeli PR firm – ignored the question.
Sabah’s accusation implied that Verete violated the Ministry’s of Education’s injunction against teachers bringing politics into the classroom. The public directiveof the Ministry of Education specifies that a teacher must not advocate for a political party, including raising funds, conducting campaigns or participating in party-conferences or meetings. Verete insists that he never advocated for a party, and that his discussions addressed sensitive public issues but provided opposing sides of the arguments and emphasized critical thinking. The directives also reject racism or incitement to violence. Verete wrote in a letter to his colleagues that the problems with Sabah began the previous year, when she expressed support for the opinion that “Arabs should be thrown into the sea,” and he laughed in response. Helater apologized.
The angriest debates in mainstream media center on whether someone who criticized the morality of the IDF should be allowed to teach. One pundit on Israeli radio put it bluntly: “I do not want my kid studying under someone who criticizes the IDF,” because he wants his son to be a full an active participant in society. Yuli Tamir, Former Education Minister under a Labor government, said in response that only weak societies are unable to criticize themselves or teach criticism of their own institutions.
In the recording from his hearing, Verete says at one point:
We have bad luck that a discussion of human rights is considered to be delusional leftism. If I say that something which contradicts the human rights of – that violate a person’s basic rights whether that person is a refugee from Africa or a Palestinian person at a checkpoint – that’s considered a political statement, then the situation is serious, it can’t be that basic humane values are a political statement. They’re not.”

Nenhum comentário:

Postar um comentário