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East Jerusalem schools empty as Palestinians reject Israeli curriculum

The parents are demanding that the Israeli government and municipality stop interfering in the academic freedom of Palestinian students in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem24 – Palestinian schools in occupied East Jerusalem are implementing a comprehensive strike today in rejection of attempts by the Israeli government to impose the Israeli curriculum.

The general strike was announced yesterday after the Council of Parents of Faith School Students in East Jerusalem held a sit-in on Saturday rejecting attempts to censor the Palestinian narrative and history.

The national and Islamic forces called on all Jerusalem schools to abide by the strike, asking the school administrations to respect the parents’ consensus, and calling on them not to “violate the national position.”

The parents are demanding that the Israeli government and municipality stop interfering in the academic life of Palestinian students in East Jerusalem and respect their right to learn their own history, rather than the narrative of the Israeli curriculum which distorts and omits historical facts.

During Saturday’s sit-in, participants carried banners bearing slogans such as: “No to the distorted curriculum”; “Together to preserve the identity of our children”; “No to the Israelization of education”; and “We refuse to receive the curriculum of the Israeli Ministry of Education”.

Tariq Akash, a member of the Parents Committee, said in a public statement on Saturday: “Our steps are deliberate and legal, and all the towns of Jerusalem completely reject the Israeli curriculum and do not accept that their children study only the curricula they [Israeli authorities] want.”

“Change your textbooks or face closure”

The Israeli Ministry of Education decided in July to rescind the permanent licenses previously granted to six Palestinian schools in East Jerusalem, claiming that their textbooks “incite against the State of Israel and the Israeli army”. The schools were granted temporary licenses for the duration of the present academic year, on the condition they amend their textbooks.

The ministry claims the books it seized from the schools contain 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, and “harsh allegations about killing, deportation and military massacres”.

The six institutions cater to over 2,000 students at different academic stages.

The ministry also sent letters in August to several other schools in East Jerusalem threatening to revoke their license in the event any school is caught using Palestinian textbooks that contain what it claims is “inciting” material.

The Chairman of the Central Committee for Parents, Ramadan Taha, tells Jerusalem24 that the strike extends to all Palestinian schools in Jerusalem: “The curriculum that does not represent our views and narratives, and the imposing of it goes against all international law and treaties. As occupied people we have the right to education, and the right to choose our curriculum.”

Taha mentions the discrimination Palestinian schools face when it comes to funding from the municipality, and associates this to the issue of the curriculum. “Schools that teach the Israeli [curriculum] get access to huge funds and resources that the other schools don’t.”

There are just under 100,000 Palestinian Jerusalemite students in the primary, preparatory and secondary stages, according to the Faisal Husseini Foundation. Around 45,500 of them go to 146 Palestinian schools (endowments, private schools, UNRWA schools), while the rest go to schools under the administration of the Israeli Ministry of Education.

Israeli authorities seek to increase the number of Palestinian students attending Israeli-run schools, by for example building new schools and classrooms, and have allocated NIS 200 million to this purpose under a five-year plan.

Parents of Jerusalemite students took to social media this morning to share photos of empty streets and shuttered schools.

School guardian Mahmoud Abu Sari stands in the empty courtyard of Al-Issawiya Elementary School for Boys, 19 September 2022. [Credit: Reema Mustafa/Jerusalem24]
East Jerusalem Schools on strike. Monday 19 September 2022. [Source: parents of the students/social media]
East Jerusalem schools on strike, Monday 19 September 2022. [Source: Social media]
East Jerusalem schools on strike, Monday 19 September 2022. [Source: Social media]
East Jerusalem schools on strike, Monday 19 September 2022. [Source: Social media]
East Jerusalem schools on strike, Monday 19 September 2022. [Source: Social media]
East Jerusalem schools on strike, Monday 19 September 2022. [Source: Social media]

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