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Israeli teacher who almost lost job for 'leftist' views gets fired

Adam Verete, the Israeli high school teacher who almost lost his job in January due to complaints by a student that he expressed “left-wing” views in the classroom, was fired by the school on Sunday. According to reports in Israeli media, the ORT school in Kiryat Tivon notified Verete that he was being dismissed due to budget cuts, which include cutting the subject he was teaching: Jewish thought/philosophy. Other teachers are reportedly being fired and some are having their hours scaled back due to the budget constraints.

Back in January, Sapir Sabah, a student identified with the extreme right in Israel, filed a complaint with the education minister claiming that Verete had called the Israel Defense Forces an immoral army and by doing so, was disparaging the state of Israel. Verete was called by the school administration for a hearing which, from the recordings, can only be described as modern-day Israeli McCarthy-style tribunal.

Sapir Sabah recieves a "Jewish State" award, during a ceremony orgenized by Michael Ben-Ari , Israel, February 9, 2014. (Activestills.org)

Sapir Sabah recieves a “Jewish State” award, during a ceremony orgenized by Michael Ben-Ari , Israel, February 9, 2014. (Activestills.org)

The school immediately treated him as guilty, and  at the time said that it cannot employ teachers who discourage students from enlisting in the IDF – since this is one of its core values – and suggested he save everyone the trouble and resign. Verete insisted that he was facilitating a critical and open discussion of the notion brought up by a students that the “IDF is the most moral army in the world.”

Verete said at the end of the hearing: “It is our bad luck in this country that a discussion of human rights is considered to be delusional leftism. If I say that certain acts contradict human rights — whether that person is a refugee from Africa or a Palestinian at a checkpoint — if that’s considered a political statement, then the situation is severe. It can’t be that basic humanistic values are a political statement. They’re not.” After two hearings and a minor media storm, ORT decided not to fire him.

At the time I wrote in The Forward that the most disturbing part of the affair is what it says about how values are categorized in Israel as left or right: “Adam Verete is “left” because he prompts critical thinking of the state’s most sacred pillars — security and military — whereas Sapir Sabah is “right” because she is  patriotic and blindly pro-IDF.

While the ORT school may indeed be in financial trouble, let’s just say that of all teachers to fire, I think they let one of the good ones get away.

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    1. Tzutzik

      This is what the Jerusalem Post wrote about the history of this affair:

      “Following the incident, classmates of Sabah and Kiryat Tivon parents and residents spoke out in solidarity with Verta and said his classes allowed for an “open discussion.” In the wake of the incident, Education Minister Shai Piron penned a letter in February in which he said he would appoint a committee to examine the he proper relationship between politics and education.

      In the letter the education minister said unequivocally that “even if a teacher is wrong, there is no room for dismissal.”

      “Not every forbidden expression should turn into an exciting stormy affair, but at the same time not every inquiry, alert or warning should immediately turn into a war of annihilation of freedom of expression and human rights,” wrote Piron.”

      According to the article, other teachers are being dismissed as of next year, like Adam, as part of a budget cut. Adam Verte himself admits this.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Peter Lake

      I think the McCarthy analogy is ‘spot on’.
      Remarkable coming from “The Only Democracy” (TM)

      Reply to Comment
      • Tzutzik

        I think that our mistake is to call ourselves the only democracy in the Middle East. If we wouldn’t do that, we would be the darlings of so called liberals (sarcasm).

        How do I know? Because one never hears them criticising anyone else in the Middle East. We are theor one and only obsession.

        Then again, who cares about what they think or say? One only pays attention to one’s friends. What our enemies think of us we care not.

        Reply to Comment
        • Reza Lustig

          I’m not liberal, but I’d expect that liberals would prefer a little more truth in advertising. So yes, do tone down the claims that Israel is anywhere near the “democracies” we enjoy in the West. You wanna sit at the big boy table? Get your acts together and see a psychiatrist about your untreated narcissism.

          Reply to Comment
    3. Tzutzik

      “I’m not liberal, but I’d expect that liberals would prefer a little more truth in advertising.”

      If you are not a liberal then you don’t really know what liberals prefer.

      I am not a liberal either. But from what I hear from them, there are liberals and there are liberals.

      Some liberals like us even if they are critical of some of the things we do. But at least their criticism is measured and proportional. Others are just masquerading as liberals and they want our destruction.

      “So yes, do tone down the claims that Israel is anywhere near the “democracies” we enjoy in the West.”

      There is no need to tone anything down. We ARE at least as democratic as most western democracies. Certainly if we compare our behaviour to theirs during their war of survival in WW2. Trust me, they come out second best compared to us.

      But if you insist to compare our behaviour during our 100 year war to theirs during the peace and prosperity that they have enjoyed since WW2 then you might find some chinks in our armour. Even then, not so much.

      One compares apples to apples. Not apples to oranges.

      “You wanna sit at the big boy table?”

      Spare me. Read up on the fire bombing of Dresden and Hiroshima Nagasaki. And that’s just for starters …

      “Get your acts together and see a psychiatrist about your untreated narcissism.”

      Thanks for your free advice doctor Reza but no thanks. I won’t ask you to brush up on history and read both sides of the argument because I don’t think you have it in you. You sound like a paid up polemicist.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Lauren

      As a citizen and an educator in Israel, I am saddened and upset by the decision to fire this dedicated teacher. I understand that there are budget cuts but feel this cuts much deeper and is reminiscent of McCarthyism.

      Reply to Comment
      • Exactly – except the question might be changed to “Are you now or have you ever entertained ideas of humanity, equality or justice?”

        Reply to Comment