Meir Baruchin: Why was this teacher arrested!
I first wrote about Meir Baruchin in 2020, when he was fired for telling high school students in his civics classes that they should not enlist in the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). Two days ago, on 9 November, he was arrested. The charge, according to Haaretz, the only English language news site to cover the case to date, is “revealing the decision to commit treason,” punishable by up to 10 years in prison. What is happening here?
A bit of history
He was fired from the school in Rishon LeZion, perhaps as much for his response to the school principal as for promoting draft dodging. When called into the principal’s office to discuss parent’s complaints about him, he said that he will call soldiers whatever he wants (meaning, calling them murderers), then said the meeting was over, and he walked out. We now learn that he was not prohibited from teaching as news of his arrest brought to the public’s attention that he has been teaching in Petach Tikva.
Maariv writes that, since the war, the Education Minister instructed schools to show zero tolerance for teaching staff expressions of incitement and support for terror. Recently, students and teachers have been calling for Baruchin to be fired.
We must not let extremist activists such as him teach our children, they said.
According to the article, one of the students called on parents to insist that he not teach there, adding:
In the first class, he came into the classroom and said ‘I am an extreme leftist troublemaker.’ and we asked him to leave his politics outside the classroom but that did not happen. I personally, was in a discussion with our homeroom teacher and the principal but they said to give him another chance. We know that if we just leave it, it will happen again.
He added that Baruchin was thrown out of another school and dropped on him in this school.
The police wanted him charged for incitement, but the prosecution did not think there was sufficient evidence for this particular charge. The court decision concludes thus (I translate from the Hebrew)
It is sufficient from the respondent’s calls that ‘our outstanding boys’ are executing Palestinians to establish reasonable suspicion. Such a statement is not a political position. I refer to documents marked 2-13 regarding the entirety of the posts and emphasize that we are in a time of war, and posts that the respondent made before and after October 7 were certainly liable, in the current situation, to disturb the peace.
Had an Arab resident made the post, the danger would have been clear. I do not believe that there is room for differentiating between an Arab post and a Jewish post. [Following sentence is missing from the linked page but included in Haaretz quote, so I add it here:] In his case, to a certain degree, the respondent is obliged to make such a distinction – a history teacher who, right after a bloody massacre, frames it as executing Palestinians.
All this means is that the judge gave the court four days to investigate and see if they can find evidence other than his 15 social media posts that would fit this or a more serious charge. It is not clear if what they currently have, given how the judge related to it in his decision, will be enough to continue on to put Baruchin on trial.
There is nothing in the English language press so far, except for the Haaretz article that takes a stand in his favour. Similarly, most of the English language posts on “X” come out clearly in support of Baruchin. The Haaretz journalist who wrote the article, Nir Hasson, showed some examples of Baruchin’s Facebook posts that got him into trouble:
המשטרה ערכה חיפוש בביתו ועצרה הערב את מאיר ברוכין, פעיל שמאל ירושלמי. מחר הוא יובא להארכת מעצרו, הסעיף בגינו הוא מואשם הוא סע’ 100 לחוק העונשין: “גילוי החלטה לבגוד” שדינו 10 שנים. אני לא יודע בודאות על מה הוא נעצר, אבל הסיבה היא כנראה הפוסטים האלו: >> pic.twitter.com/LqV6IHjkMu
— نير حسون Nir Hasson ניר חסון (@nirhasson) November 9, 2023
Baruchin took upon himself to introduce us to Gazans killed in the war by Israel (or perhaps by errant Hamas missiles? nobody raises that possibility), stating that most Israelis do not care about these deaths or these people. Baruchin claims that he is opposed to all murder and rape but nowhere did he express any opposition to the pogrom on 7 October. He would be a clear proponent of bothsideism if he was not so avidly anti-Israel and anti-IDF.
In a Hebrew language article, the Israel Communist Party website wrote that:
The academic headquarters established by lecturers at all higher education institutions to fight the regime coup published a message at noon that read, ‘The state of emergency and war necessitate restraint and self-control. Civil society organizations have all mobilized for the [war] effort. However, the extreme right-wing elements in the Israeli government are not holding back: they are taking advantage of the state of emergency to harm the rights of Israeli citizens, to limit freedom of expression and to create irreversible conditions that silence criticism and perpetuate the rule of those responsible for failure to prevent 7 October.’
One might say that this extreme leftist party is taking advantage of the mobilization of the authorities to prevent incitement at a time of ward to spew their anti-Israeli venom.
Is Baruchin guilty of an indictable crime? I don’t know. But I do know that he has no place in the Israeli education system. And he should have been forbidden from teaching after having been fired from the school in Rishon LeZion three years ago.
Feature image is a screenshot of his Facebook profile photo.