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Israel steps up war on Palestinian schools

Punitive Israeli measures force more and more schools in Occupied Jerusalem to adopt Israeli curriculum

Image Credit: Reuters
A teacher gives a class to Palestinian Bedouin students outdoors near the Jewish colony of Maale Adumim (seen in the background), in the West Bank village of AlEizariya, east of Occupied Jerusalem.
Gulf News

Ramallah: More and more Palestinian schools are being forced to adopt the Israeli syllabus after a systematic carrot-and-stick policy exercised by Israeli authorities has proven effective.

Palestinian residents of the city have bravely resisted for a very long time, but Israel has made it increasingly difficult for schools to survive if they refuse.

Speaking to Gulf News, Jerusalem’s top Imam, Shaikh Ekrima Sabri, said that the Israeli curriculum goes against everything Palestinians hold dear.

“Our traditions, customs, history, religion, civilisation and values risk being corrupted,” he said.

The fear has reached such a fever pitch that Sabri issued a fatwa (religious pronouncement) against adopting the curriculum.

“Parents need to be aware of the dangers posed by the Israeli educational agenda to current and future generations of Palestinian Muslims,” he said.

The occupation forces have been trying to force its curriculum on Palestinians since Israel captured and occupied the eastern part of Jerusalem in 1967.

Those who agree to adopt the Israeli syllabus get funds for school renovations and their students find it easier to get accepted to Israeli colleges and universities.

Most recently, the occupation’s Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs allocated a special budget of more than $5 million (Dh18.37 million) for Palestinian schools that adopt the Israeli curriculum.

Out of Occupied Jerusalem’s 190 schools, 23 have already switched syllabus.

Requests to expand school buildings to accommodate student populations are rejected by Israeli authorities as a punitive measure.

Palestinians fear if their children study the Israeli curriculum, they will be more susceptible to indoctrination and lose their identity and pride.

Israel has been accused of trying to erase all Palestinian and Muslim identity from Occupied Jerusalem.

In 2016, Israeli passed a law that Palestinian schools in occupied East Jerusalem must adopt the Israeli curriculum in order to receive funding from the Israeli state.

“This is blackmail and pure extortion,” the Palestinian Education Ministry said in a statement at the time.

The move violates international conventions which ensure people living under occupation the right to preserve their culture and identity.

Israel has also shut down schools for teaching about the Palestinian resistance, claiming it is a source of ‘incitement’.

Classes are held outside the school premises as a form of resistance to the punitive Israeli measures.

In August, Israel demolished three schools across the Palestinian territories — some funded by the EU — just one day before the school year was set to begin.

Some 80 children from the Jub Al Deeb village near Bethlehem between the ages of five and 10 were forced to attend classes in tents under the hot sun, after the steel cabins used as school buildings, along with other educational equipment, was destroyed or confiscated by Israeli forces.

“The demolition of a school building the night before the start of the year epitomises the administrative cruelty and systematic harassment by authorities designed to drive Palestinians from their land,” said Roy Yellin of B’Tselem, an Israeli rights group said.

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