Four Israeli school employees have been indicted on charges which include distributing an illegal organization’s materials, supporting a terrorist organization, conspiracy to commit a crime, and illegally exiting the country.
Ben Hartman and Hayah Goldlist-Eichler, writing for The Jerusalem Post, say news of the arrests were made public this week as the four teachers and two additional suspects were indicted in the Beersheba District Court in connection with their support of the Islamic State.
Last September, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon declared the Islamic State an illegal organization. The Israel Security Agency says the six offenders held secret gatherings during which they shared Islamic ideology, and watched videos and speeches by Islamic leaders. There were also some in the group of men who planned to join the terrorist organization’s fighting in Syria.
All the but one of the men were in their late twenties, with the remaining suspect aged 30, and all but two were teachers. The security agency said others who were questioned included a school principal and several teachers suspected of knowing about the activities of the suspects, but not reporting the information.
“Over the last few months, Beduin teachers in Hura have been advancing the ideology of Islamic State among their pupils,” said Education Minister Naftali Bennett.
“Teachers will not be terrorists in Israel. I asked them to be fired for educating for terror. We will have zero tolerance for those who advance terror.”
The education minister has called for the revocation of the suspects’ teaching licenses. He pledged to continue to maintain the safety of Israeli students and will work toward restoring confidence and stability to educators and their students.
Marissa Newman of The Times of Israel reports that Bennett condemned the school employees’ actions:
“We will severely punish those teachers who took advantage of their role in a despicable way and rather than protect the students, harmed them,” Bennett said in a statement. “We have zero tolerance for those who harm our country. We will work to keep the Education Ministry clean, and we won’t let anyone contaminate our children.”
The Israel Security Agency has indicted many Arab Israelis over the past two years over their support of the Islamic State. The agency has also stopped Islamic State-affiliated groups which were planning to carry out attacks on Israeli citizens.
Israeli officials have alleged that the teachers in question played ISIS songs for the children and have had them draw maps of ISIS territory. The International Business Times’ Julia Glum writes that the teachers are not the first Israeli citizens to be recruited by ISIS, which is well-known for its strong presence online. Already, at least six young men have been killed while fighting for the group in Syria. In December, three other men were indicted for creating a terror group in the West Bank.
The three men in their early twenties set up an Islamic terrorist cell, plotted attacks, and built a number of bombs, write Yaakov Lappin and Yohah Jeremy Bob of The Jerusalem Post. Their plan was to kill an Israel Defense Forces soldier and use his uniform and weapon to execute a shooting attack.