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‘Witch hunts in Israel’: Teacher in solitary confinement for criticizing Gaza killings

The Israeli regime has held a history teacher in solitary confinement and fired him for raising concerns on social media about the Zionist forces killing of Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip and criticizing the military.

Meir Baruchin was kept in solitary confinement in a high-security jail in early November, over a series of Facebook posts he’d made, mourning the civilians killed in Gaza, criticizing the Israeli military, and warning against wars of revenge.

“Horrific images are pouring in from Gaza. Entire families were wiped out. I don’t usually upload pictures like this, but look what we do in revenge,” said his message on 8 October, a day after the Israeli regime started a genocidal war in Gaza in response to Hamas’ October 7 Operation Al-Aqsa Strom.

“Anyone who thinks this is justified because of what happened yesterday should unfriend themselves. I ask everyone else to do everything possible to stop this madness. Stop it now. Not later, Now!!!” he wrote below a picture of the family of Abu Daqqa, killed in one of the first airstrikes on Gaza.

Ten days after that Facebook message, he was fired from his teaching job in Petach Tikvah municipality. Less than a month later he was in the solitary confinement wing of al-Qud’s notorious “Russian Compound” prison, detained to give police more time to investigate critical views he had never tried to hide.

Baruchin was initially told to come to a police station for questioning over charges of sedition. When he pointed out to police that they needed a warrant from the attorney general to charge an Israeli citizen with that offense, treason charges were duly drawn up.

When he arrived at the police station, his arms and ankles were cuffed, and he was shown a warrant to search his home. Five detectives escorted him there, turned his apartment upside down, and eventually confiscated two laptops and six hard drives. The police then asked for more time to investigate, and a judge ordered that he be detained.

“I wasn’t allowed to take anything with me to the cell,” he told the Observer. “I walked in with my clothes on and stayed with the same clothes for four days. There were cold-water showers, a tiny piece of soap, two blankets stinking from cigarette smoke, and a tiny towel,” he said.

He was interrogated again before a second judge ordered his release.

But he is living on savings while he waits for the verdict and even if he wins the treason charges have not been dropped: he could live in their shadow for five years, the limit for the police to prosecute.

He is not the only teacher to be targeted. Authorities also summoned Yael Ayalon, head of a Tel Aviv high school, after she shared a Haaretz article warning that Israeli media was hiding the suffering of Gaza’s civilians. “Israeli citizens need to be aware of this reality,” the piece said.

“This story is much bigger than my personal story, or Yael’s personal story. It is a time of witch hunts in Israel, of political persecution,” he said. “I became a ‘Hamas supporter’ because I expressed my opposition to targeting innocent civilians.”

He said he’d received hundreds of private messages of support from fellow teachers and students who were too frightened to go public, and showed several to the Observer.

“The message is crystal clear: keep silent, watch out,” he says, adding that they strengthened his conviction about speaking out. “I thought to myself, when I retire, I might conclude this is the most significant lesson I ever gave in civics.”

He still follows what is happening in Gaza closely, and flicks on his phone through images of the recent dead, a journalist, a violinist, a baby.

His latest post before the interview with the Observer was an image of an improvised grave marker, that looks like part of a broken piece of furniture. “Unknown martyr, green jacket and trainers,” the inscription reads.

“The whole story in one picture,” he says. “The Israeli mainstream media don’t broadcast this picture. They don’t get this picture, and don’t want to get this picture.”

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