No country and no education

September 10, 2017

LEST anyone think that Palestinian frustration and rage are the result of incitement alone, when a total of 55 West Bank schools are currently threatened with demolition and “stop-work” orders, when school facilities in four Palestinian communities were destroyed just before the beginning of the new school year, Israel violates the universal right to education and contravenes its international obligations as an occupying power, not to mention breaks the hearts of Palestinian children and upends the dreams of their parents who seek a decent future for their offspring.

Six newly installed steel terrapin cabins were recently erected in the village of Jubbet Al-Dhib so that local children did not have to walk an hour to get to school. Sixty-four children from the first to the fourth grade had only been back in class for three days when Israeli forces arrived to demolish the school. Now they’ve been left with only a tent to shelter from the searing heat of the sun — and no tables to sit and study at.

Israel claims that these schools were built illegally, however, they were not built by Palestinians, but by EU member countries who are not going to build something without proper planning permission. Belgian officials who funded the project say these new demolitions and seizures of essential infrastructure are unacceptable, not only because Belgium’s projects aim to meet humanitarian needs but because they are carried out in strict respect of international humanitarian law. They noted that the Jubbet Al-Dhib demolition comes on top of the destruction of school facilities in three other West Bank villages in the last two weeks, all donated by international bodies and NGOs, and all destroyed on the same planning permission grounds.

One of the biggest problems facing Palestinians is that it is extremely difficult for Palestinians to obtain permits in areas of the West Bank under full Israeli control, known as Area C and which accounts for about 60 percent of the territory. That’s because Area C, excluding East Jerusalem, is home to 385,900 Israeli settlers and approximately 300,000 Palestinians. According to the Norwegian Refugee Council, Israeli planning and zoning regimes in Area C all but prohibit Palestinian construction in almost 70 percent this zone, and render the obtaining of permits in the remaining 30 percent nearly impossible. From 2000 to 2012, only 211 Palestinian submissions for Israeli permits were given the green light out of 3,750 applications.

Since the majority of planning requests are denied, the NRC says that leaves international donors and Palestinians alike with no choice but to build anyway.

Palestinians take education seriously; enrollment rates amongst Palestinians are relatively high by regional and global standards and the national literacy rate is 91.1 percent.

Israel is not just tearing down Palestinian schools. The EU says about 100 structures — homes, shelters, water networks, as well as schools — in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, for which the EU or EU member states have provided funding, have been demolished or seized over the past year.

What threat do these schools pose to the Israeli authorities? What are they planning to achieve by denying thousands of children their fundamental right to education? Earlier this year, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu stated that one of the two reasons Israel cannot reach a peace deal is incitement, that Palestinians “continue to call for Israel’s destruction inside their schools, inside their mosques, inside their textbooks”. But the Palestinians have conducted considerable reform in this regard and that studies, including a multi-year study funded by the US government, have shown that incitement has largely been removed from the Palestinian Authority education’s curriculum.

It’s hard to imagine that in 2017 Palestinians still have to fight to get their children educated. By the same token, it’s hard to imagine that up until today, a people are still fighting for possession of their own country.

September 10, 2017
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