MIFTAH
Saturday, 3 December. 2022
 
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'Israelizing' education in Occupied Jerusalem
 

Palestinian Jerusalemites face a myriad of challenges in the occupied city, one of which is education. The Israeli occupation interferes in every detail of life in Jerusalem, in a bid to stifle Palestinian national identity among Jerusalemites from the day they are born. In this case, Israel is pushing to impose the Israeli curriculum on Palestinian students, thus muddling the concept of citizenship for children given the dichotomy between what they are taught in school and the oppressive measures of the occupation they are exposed to every day. These authorities also place restrictions on the freedom of movement, hindering and delaying students from reaching their schools.

Israel began its efforts to Israelize the curriculum immediately after 1967, through passing a law placing education under its authority following the illegal annexation of the city. Its efforts continued even after the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, which stipulate that schools in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, would teach the Palestinian curriculum.

According to the 2020-2021 statistics from the Israeli Ministry of Education and the illegitimate Jerusalem municipality, there are approximately 90,000 Palestinian Jerusalemite students in the city, 51.8% of who go to the 141 PA-run schools in Jerusalem, or 59.2% of the overall number of schools in the city. The shortage of classrooms in Jerusalem (for the Palestinian and Israeli-run schools) stood at 3,794, of which 2,100 were in Palestinian schools alone, or 55.3%.

Getting to School:

Students and teachers must face 13 Israeli military checkpoints, strict measures, inspections and the annexation wall in order to reach their schools in Jerusalem every day.

Since 2000, Israeli occupation authorities have made it more and more difficult for teachers with West Bank IDs to work in occupied Jerusalem by denying them work permits, holding them up at military checkpoints or even arresting them. Today, they are less than 20% of the teaching staff in the city after comprising 60%.

Girls in particular, face harassment on their way to school. In a factsheet prepared by MIFTAH, in cooperation with the Women’s Studies Center, 30 female students from different schools in the city were interviewed, all of whom gave accounts of harassment at military checkpoints, on the street or in crowded public transportation, by Israeli army soldiers and/or settlers:

Ali and Eliya…fighting Israelization with awareness

Every morning, Ali and Eliya Farrah leave the house early to get to school, riding with their mother from the town of Sur Baher, south of Jerusalem, all the way to the Ibrahimieh School in Suwwana, east of the Old City. Every day, they try to reach on time because of the bad traffic due to military checkpoints, some permanent, others unexpected. The congestion is especially bad in areas such as Kufr Aqab and Qalandiya, which are surrounded by the annexation wall. This usually means parents leave the house with their children a good two hours before the first bell rings.

Today, siblings Ali and Eliya face yet another challenge. The illegitimate Israeli Jerusalem municipality is trying to impose the Israeli curriculum in their schools. The children are defiant, refusing to accept Israeli schoolbooks, saying this goes against their convictions, culture and national identity.

Five-year Israelization plan

Israeli occupation authorities formulated a (2018-2022) five-year plan to take control over education in Jerusalem. The plan is based on six points:

One: Emptying the Old City of schools, taking control of its historical buildings and turning some of them into tourist attractions.
Two: Closing UNRWA schools in Jerusalem and absorbing its students in schools that teach the Israeli curriculum
Three: Closing private schools in the city that refuse to teach the Israeli curriculum
Four: Closing private kindergartens and opening municipality-run kindergartens.
Five: Opening community centers aimed at normalizing with Israel through various activities targeting children and youth.
Six: Deploying “citizen police” in Jerusalem neighborhoods, which work in conjunction with the Israeli Ministry of Social Affairs.

Palestinian Jerusalemites are trying to stand up to Israeli occupation authorities, which want to erase the Palestinian national identity by every possible measure and tactic. They are using the limited resources at their disposal and must make do with unfit buildings and largely unsuitable educational facilities in addition to dealing with multiple educational references in the city.

In order for the occupation to take full control over education, it conditioned financial support and funding for schools with their application of the Israeli curriculum, to the letter.

How are Jerusalemites confronting the Israelization of their curriculum?

Jerusalemites have been fighting Israeli attempts to impose their curriculum on schools through insisting on the Palestinian curriculum and keeping their Palestinian identity alive at home, even when students are forced to deal with the Israeli curriculum.

Palestinians also carried out several popular initiatives, endorsed by the Palestinian Ministry of Education and the Faisal Husseini Foundation, including the creation of parents’ committees to distribute Palestinian schoolbooks for free, to the targeted schools. They held demonstrations in front of schools, while official Palestinian parties promised to support and fund plans to improve the quality of competitive education in the city, the goal of which is to promote Palestinian identity and deepen Jerusalemites’ awareness of the importance of national education, the pitfalls of Israel’s plans and means of challenging them.

Meanwhile, a local initiative was launched, led by popular bodies and youth movements to encourage a return to schools in the Old City, namely “Al Aytam School.” The objective was to encourage hundreds of students to re-enroll in the school by offering incentives such as distributing schoolbooks to the students and even providing pocket money for each child to alleviate some of the financial burdens on parents.

Education and the Law:

Several international human rights conventions guarantee the right to education as a basic human right, placing safeguards for its protection. The right to education is a human right. Education, which is considered a right for empowerment, is the main tool that enables the old, the young and the economically and social marginalized, to pull themselves out of poverty and obtain means to fully participate in their communities. Education also plays a vital role in the empowerment of women and in the protection of children from dangerous child labor and exploitation.

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is considered the most comprehensive and detailed agreement that addresses the right to education in terms of its objective, the nature of the educational process and the means for all persons to acquire it, without discrimination.

The State Parties to the Covenant undertake to respect the freedom of parents or guardians to choose schools for their children other than public schools, as long as these schools adhere to the minimum educational standards imposed or approved by the state. They also pledge to ensure that the religious and moral upbringing of the children is in accordance with their convictions.

Hence, the practices of the occupying power are a flagrant violation of international law by erasing cultural heritage. They also contravene with Israel’s obligations under CEDAW (Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women) in occupied Jerusalem.

 
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