BY NAJLA M. SHAHWAN
AUG 11, 2022 – DAILY SABAH
As Marcus Garvey said: ‘A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.’ That is what Israeli authorities want by erasing Palestinian history
Education has been a source of both hope and transformation for the Palestinian people, contributing to sustaining national life and providing the skills for personal development and growth.
The Israeli authorities last week rescinded the permanent licenses previously granted to six Palestinian private schools in occupied East Jerusalem, claiming that their textbooks “incite against the State of Israel and the Israeli army.”
The decision, announced by Israeli Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton said that the targeted schools would be granted temporary licenses that would enable them to continue operating for a year, provided that work is done to amend the curricula.
The affected schools are the secondary section of Ibrahimieh College in the al-Sawana neighborhood in Jerusalem, with 288 male and female students, and five branches of the primary stage of Al-Eman Schools, which a total of 1,755 boys and girls attend.
The Israeli Ministry of Education claimed that it seized books from the aforementioned schools containing content “glorifying the prisoners and their armed struggle against the State of Israel,” accusations of Israel’s responsibility for the water crisis in areas run by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and “harsh allegations about killing, deportation and military massacres.”
Among Israeli conditions is the application of the censored version of the Palestinian curriculum, which edits out certain content before its distribution to students.
The censored content, includes the logo of the PA, the Palestinian flag, lessons that discuss the Palestinian struggle against occupation, adherence to the land, the right of return and prisoners, settlements, the immigration of settlers to Palestine, military checkpoints, the intifada, displaced villages and viewing Zionism as a racist political movement.
The Palestinian educational life over the past seven decades has had to contend with the oppressive and often violent conditions of the Israeli occupation.
Attempts to target Palestinian education have not stopped since the occupation of the city in 1967 through various measures. These included working to change educational curricula, limiting school construction and tempting secondary school students to join the labor market to encourage them to drop out of schools.
Schools under occupation
Four types of schools offer education to Palestinian Jerusalemites. The first are the Waqf Schools that adopt the Palestinian curriculum and operate under the Islamic Endowment Department. These schools became affiliated with the Palestinian Ministry of Education in 1994; therefore, the ninistry oversees the provision of school supplies and covers the payroll of its employees.
The second type is private schools that are owned by an individual, a group of individuals or operate under the supervision of charitable societies and churches. These schools rely on tuition fees or church donations to cover their expenses. However, 90% of private schools receive financial assistance from the Israeli Jerusalem municipality and hence adopt the Israeli curriculum.
The third type of school is run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which adopts the Palestinian curriculum and is responsible for paying salaries and providing school supplies.
The fourth type are the schools supervised jointly by the Israeli Ministry of Education and the Jerusalem Municipality, where the former supervises the technical and logistical processes of the schools and covers expenses of elementary schools, and the latter covers expenses for secondary schools, appoints teachers and administrators and covers their payroll. It goes without saying that the Israeli curriculum is fully adopted at these schools.
Tampering with Palestinian education
After former U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem, Israel gained its backing to go even further in its control over the Palestinian part of Jerusalem.
The Israeli government made a number of decisions as part of a $560 million five-year plan extending from October 2018 to October 2023 for the development of East Jerusalem. The objective of this plan is to mend the gap between East and West Jerusalem in the areas of education, employment, infrastructure and planning through investments. The largest share of the plan’s budget has been allocated toward encouraging the transition of Palestinian schools in East Jerusalem to the Israeli curriculum.
It also includes threats to withdraw the licenses of private schools that refuse to implement Israeli curriculums, as well as providing incentives to Jerusalemite Palestinian students and facilitating their admission to Israeli universities if they choose to study the Israeli curriculum.
In parallel, the Israeli authorities closed the bureau of the Palestinian Ministry of Education in East Jerusalem in November 2019.
A special report published last February by the Israeli Jerusalem and Heritage Ministry revealed that 51% of official schools in East Jerusalem currently adhere to the Israeli educational curriculum – marking a jump of 34% over the past four years.
The number of students in East Jerusalem being taught the Israeli curriculum – which includes preparations for matriculation exams along with subjects such as Hebrew, the bible and civics – is three times larger than prior to the launch of the government’s five-year plan.
This spike has come in the wake of a $135.9 million investment – consisting, among other things, of pedagogical and infrastructure incentives – which aim to expand the use of the Israeli curriculum in East Jerusalem.
Besides, the report shows that in the past four years, six new schools and 65 new preschools have opened in East Jerusalem and that nine new buildings have been rented out for schools using the Israeli curriculum.
The Israeli government, through its Ministry of Education and the Jerusalem Municipality, has adopted a dangerous strategic and well-thought plan to tamper with the education of Palestinians in Jerusalem through its conditional funding of schools that already suffer from various challenges that, in many cases, push them to accept Israeli funding in return for adopting the Israeli curriculum.
The Israeli curriculum
The Israeli curriculum was first introduced into the Palestinian education sector back in 2001. It has slowly but strategically been adapted and is designed to dissolve the image of the Palestinian story and the facts that have been documented throughout history in order to desensitize the young population, eventually normalizing the occupation. The Israeli curriculum is tailored to erase the Palestinian identity from the mindset of young Palestinian students and instill the concepts of Zionism while emphasizing loyalty toward the Israeli state.
The Israeli authorities are working to adopt dangerous policies regarding the education of Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem, undermining the Palestinian character, identity, personality and presence by imposing the Israeli curriculum and dictating the Israeli narrative by force.
This act by the occupation forces is a serious violation of international resolutions which affirm that the city of Jerusalem is occupied and an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territories.
Article 50 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantee the right of peoples under occupation to obtain education in line with their beliefs and to protect their culture and heritage from change or distortion.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Palestinian author, researcher and freelance journalist; recipient of two prizes from the Palestinian Union of Writers