TEL AVIV: As the war in Gaza drags on and the death toll mounts, fear is growing within a small sector of Israeli society opposed to the official stance on the Palestinian issue.

In a country that is often referred to as the only democracy in the Middle East, those who dare to share their views have found that freedom of speech can come at a heavy cost.

Among them is 62-year-old history and civics teacher Meir Baruchin. After Mr Baruchin posted on Facebook about Palestinian casualties in Gaza, some of his students spat and screamed at him, and told him to die. Their actions were captured by bystanders in a video. 

“For most Israelis, the Palestinians are nothing more than a vague image. They have no name, no face, no family, no hope. So, I’m trying to humanise the Palestinians,” he told CNA.

Mr Baruchin was subsequently dismissed from his position after the Jerusalem municipality filed a complaint against his Facebook posts, which also criticised the Israeli military, and warned against wars of revenge, as reported by British newspaper The Guardian. 

The teacher was then accused of sedition and incitement, and arrested.

“The general attorney said there’s no sedition and incitement in my Facebook posts, so the police decided to interrogate me for two other charges. One, committing an act of treason against the state of Israel and two, intention to disrupt public order,” he said. 

“The minute I walked into the police station they cuffed my hands and legs.”

He said that his home was searched but nothing was found. However, he was questioned again, he said. 

“The second part of the interrogation was not asking me questions, it was more of rhetoric. When you install the answer in the question, you don’t let the person choose their answer. Those were leading questions, they tried to put words in my mouth,” he said. 

Mr Baruchin was then held in solitary confinement for four days and classified as a high-risk prisoner.


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