Attendees of an Israeli Knesset Education Committee meeting on Tuesday called for the dismissal of former Foreign Ministry director Alon Liel after the official criticized the Israeli right and supported efforts to end Israel’s ongoing military occupation. Liel, also a former Israeli ambassador to South Africa, initially came under fire in January after video footage reportedly revealed him in a meeting with members of
Breaking the Silence, an Israeli NGO that documents testimonies of Israeli soldiers on their time in service. The recording aired Leil’s support of the group’s efforts to increase international pressure on Israel, citing such pressure as necessary because Israel’s “political system is lost.”
The ex-diplomat also praised members of Breaking the Silence as ”the most moral, wisest people who… were not brainwashed by right-wing messianic propaganda.”
Leil was later branded by many on the right as a “traitor” to Israel and several MK’s called for his dismissal as chairman of the board of a Hebrew high school in Tel Aviv.
MK Miki Zohar from the Likud party initiated Tuesday’s debate over the recording and questioned Leil’s continued standing as chairman, according to a Knesset press release.
“Freedom of speech is not freedom of incitement,” Zohar said during the hearing.
“It is unthinkable that a person who slanders our country wherever he can is responsible for our high school students. What values will Liel teach those students? Love for our homeland?” Zohar asked.
Several who attended the debate defended Liel, including Chairwoman of the Meretz party, Zehava Galon, who said he was “allowed to criticize the government’s policies in Israel and abroad.”
Alon Schvartzer, CEO of ultranationalist group Im Tirtzu, addressing the Educational Commitee said: ”Radicals from both sides — right and left” were trying to erase Israel’s “identity.”
The Im Tirtzu CEO said that “anti-Zionist leftists” like Liel were “trying to turn the State of Israel into a country of all its citizens and erase the Jewish element in the state`s definition.”
“By doing so, they also trump the democratic element,” Schvartzer added, requesting the committee to ask the attorney general to examine Liel`s activities and the possibility of prosecuting him.
The representative from the Foreign Ministry meanwhile called on all those who did not agree with the state’s position to resign.
Members of the Tel Aviv high school board, including Liel, were invited to the meeting but did not attend, according to Tuesday’s Knesset statement.
Liel is one of many Israelis to come under fire from the right for the support of Palestinian human rights, support that many Israeli politicians and right-wing groups say works against Israel.
The recording that Tuesday’s committee discussed was reportedly captured by a member of Ad Kan, a far-right Israeli group that “exposes” leftists and human rights activists in a self-described effort to protect “legitimization” of Israel.[Sourced from Ma’an News Agency]