Chairman of Central Elections Committee rules against mobilizing Shas teachers
Justice Salim Joubran asserts that state funded school networks are subject to Israeli Propaganda Law
Justice Joubran: "Common sense and reason cannot tolerate Shas’s legal interpretation, according to which a teacher could influence a student’s parents." Rabbi Regev: “This is an important precedent that will affect a host of educational networks and future elections campaigns. The mobilization of armies of teachers has been prohibited.”
Justice Salim Joubran
Central Elections Commission Chairman Justice Salim Joubran established that the legal restrictions on election campaigning apply to the Shas party’s educational network, Ma’ayan Torah Education, and its teachers. Joubran declared that common sense and logic cannot accept Shas’s interpretation of the law, according to which its limits do not apply to teachers in general and to teachers of the Ma’ayan Torah Education network in particular. He accepted HIddush’s position on this matter, and rejected Shas’s position. However, Joubran rejected Hiddush’s petition for an injunction against Shas and the Ma’ayan Torah Education network, stating that there was not sufficient media coverage to prove such violations of the election laws.
For attorneys on both sides, this controversial question was a matter of principle. Shas had launched its educational campaign office with a conference, attended by hundreds of school principals from Shas’s Ma’ayan Torah Education network. At the conference, one after another, Shas’s party leaders and members of Shas’s Council of Torah Sages called upon the school principals to join the party’s electoral campaign. Hiddush Director Rabbi Uri Regev, Esq. appealed to Shas’s legal advisor Nadav Asael, and requested that Shas make a commitment to stop mobilizing their educational network for the party’s electoral campaign. Asael made this commitment in relation to the school principals, but claimed that the restrictions of the election laws did not apply to the Ma’ayan Torah Education network’s teachers.
Regev explained that this essentially meant that Shas could mobilize “an army of teachers” in the elections, and turned to the Chairman of the Central Elections Committee, requesting his opinion on this exceptional matter. Shas objected to the hearing and claimed that the Chairman of the Central Elections Committee doesn’t have the authority to make such fundamental rulings. Despite Shas’s opposition, Justice Joubran held the hearing, and issued a ruling.
Hiddush’s petition was necessary due to the sickly deterioration of private education in Israel that should have long ago passed away from this world. But for as long as political parties are allowed to operate private education systems, we must remain vigilant that schools will not be converted into election campaign headquarters.
Joubran wrote in the decision: “In my view, there is a strong justification for applying legal restrictions upon the organization of teachers in their capacities as teaching professionals for electioneering purposes. Can you imagine that teachers - all teachers and all educational institutions – would take advantage of their authority to influence a student’s worldview? And perhaps thereby to even reach his parents? In my opinion, common sense and reason cannot tolerate this kind of legal interpretation.”
Shas attorneys and the Ma’ayan Torah education network claimed that election campaign law restrictions do not apply to the Ma’ayan Torah education network because it is a private entity and not a state institution. Joubran rejected this interpretation, stating that “since there is no dispute that the Ma'ayan Torah Education network is supported by state funds, its teachers are restricted under section 2A of the propaganda law.” He rejected the Attorney General’s claims that such a ruling would lead to campaign restrictions being applied to many state supported organizations, such as theaters. Joubran ruled that the Central Elections Commission would examine each case on its merits.
President of Hiddush Rabbi Uri Regev expressed satisfaction with the decision. “Justice Joubran ruled that there must exist a dividing wall between the school teachers of the Ma’ayan Torah Education network and the political party and its election campaign. Teachers of education networks are not permitted to mobilize as an army of Shas activists, campaigning in the elections, for this would be a violation of the law. This is an important precedent that will impact all state funded educational networks, including even those that are not state institutions, in all future elections.”
According to Regev, “Hiddush’s petition was necessary due to the sickly deterioration of private education in Israel that should have long ago passed away from this world. But for as long as political parties are allowed to operate private education systems, we must remain vigilant that schools will not be converted into election campaign headquarters.”