Jerusalem – Thousands of Palestinian children in East Jerusalem face crowded, sub-standard classrooms while Israel attempts to censor Palestinian identity in school.
Palestinian activists, parents and students are fighting against the Israeli authorities’ recent push to impose an Israeli curriculum on East Jerusalem schools, which they say threatens the city’s Palestinian culture and identity.
“Through the move of distortion in the Palestinian curriculum, the Israeli occupation authorities are willing to complete the project of achieving total domination over both the Palestinian land and the Palestinian human while depriving him from his culture and his history, thus tampering with the collective identity of Palestinians,” said Abdel Karim Lafi, the head of the Parents’ Committee Union, during a press conference in East Jerusalem in September.
“Our Palestinian curriculum expresses our past, present, and future. It fulfills what we need as an occupied Arab Palestinian community, and any [meddling] with that curriculum by the occupation influences it negatively,” he added.
In March of this year, the Jerusalem municipality sent a letter to private schools in East Jerusalem that receive allocations from the Israeli authorities. The letter stated that at the start of the 2011-2012 academic year, the schools would be obliged to purchase and only use textbooks prepared by the Jerusalem Education Administration (JEA), a joint body of the municipality and the Israeli ministry of education.
The move to introduce the Israeli curriculum came after Israeli parliament (Knesset) member Alex Miller from the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party, who heads the Knesset’s education committee, stated that in East Jerusalem, “the whole curriculum should and must be Israeli.”
In addition to using Israeli textbooks, the Israeli ministry of education requested that the Israeli Declaration of Independence be on display in both public and private schools in East Jerusalem.
“That means that they are trying to promote the Israeli story at the expense of the Palestinian story. If we talk about Jerusalem, Jerusalem is occupied like any other part of the West Bank so what’s going on is illegal and Israel is trying to promote the annexation of Jerusalem,” said Zakaria Odeh, director of the Civil Coalition to Defend Palestinians’ Rights in East Jerusalem.
“The Jerusalem municipality and Israeli ministry of education are trying to promote Israeli politics and culture and identity. That’s what the Declaration of Independence is talking about. They are trying to spread these ideas among the Palestinian students at school. This is at the expense of the people [who] don’t have the right to express their identity, their culture,” Odeh told The Electronic Intifada.
Lack of resources crippling education
After Israel illegally annexed East Jerusalem in 1967, Palestinians in the city followed the Jordanian educational system. Then, shortly after the signing of the Oslo II agreement, schools in East Jerusalem began using the curriculum of the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Today, four different authorities govern the education system in East Jerusalem: the JEA, the Islamic Waqf, the private sector, and UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees.
According to 2010-2011 statistics provided by the East Jerusalem Education Directorate, the JEA runs 50 schools in East Jerusalem, which are attended by 38,785 students, or 48 percent of the total number of Palestinian students in the city. An additional 22,500 Palestinian students attend 68 different private schools in East Jerusalem.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and Jerusalem-based organization Ir Amim released a report on the education system in East Jerusalem last year (“Failed Grade: Palestinian Education System in East Jerusalem 2010,” August 2010).
The report found that more than 4,000 Palestinian children living in East Jerusalem were not enrolled in school, and that over 1,000 classrooms were missing. Additionally, East Jerusalem schools suffered from a systematic lack of resources and facilities, which negatively influenced the desire and motivation of Palestinian students to complete their studies, the report found.
“Thousands of children do not attend school, and even those who attend school, do so in crowded and substandard classrooms, where the academic level is poor. The school dropout rate is 50 percent and only a few graduates go on to attain higher education. Only a true policy change accompanied by appropriate budgeting can bring about the necessary change and offer the children of Jerusalem a better future,” the report stated.
Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem are entitled to receive access to public education since they live under Israeli control in what is considered under international law to be occupied territory.
“The compulsory education law requires Israel to provide education services to all Palestinian children in East Jerusalem from kindergarten to 12th grade. The ministry of education and the municipality of Jerusalem recognize this duty and have even clearly stated it themselves during various legal proceedings over the past decade,” the “Failed Grade” report found.
“However, an overview of the policy of the ministry of education and the municipality of Jerusalem on this issue shows that their recognition of this commitment is not translated into actual policy.”
Protected under international law
Palestinians in East Jerusalem are protected by the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that, “the Occupying Power shall, with the cooperation of the national and local authorities, facilitate the proper working of all institutions devoted to the care and education of children.”
Article 13 of the International Convention on Economic and Social Rights also specifies that states must “undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents … to choose for their children schools … [and] ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.”
In February of this year, the Israeli high court gave the education ministry and Jerusalem municipality five years to improve the level of state education in East Jerusalem. The court also ordered the Israeli authorities to bear the cost of tuition for students attending “recognized but unofficial” schools due to the shortage of classrooms.
“It appears that the right of many children in East Jerusalem to receive an official education for free is not being fulfilled and at this point the authorities are not fully meeting their legal obligation to give every child in Israel a free official education,” wrote Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch in the ruling, as quoted in a report by Ir Amim and ACRI (“The East Jerusalem School System — Annual Status Report,” September 2011).
“The violation of the right to equality in education in East Jerusalem is not the plight of a few. It is the plight of a significant portion of an entire sector of the population, which is not able to exercise a basic right it is afforded by law and the constitutional values of Israeli law,” Beinisch continued.
According to Zakaria Odeh, the Israeli authorities have done little so far to improve the system, and devastating restrictions remain in place.
“The municipality doesn’t allow Palestinians to build new schools, so there has been no increase in the [number of] Palestinian schools in East Jerusalem. There has been a restriction on building, so the schools are using buildings, which were meant to be for housing, for residential [purposes]. Especially in the Old City, most of these buildings are more than 100, 200 years old. They need renovations. They are not appropriate for education,” Odeh said.
Odeh explained that the Jerusalem municipality and Israeli ministry of education are using the fact that they provide funding to private schools in East Jerusalem to impose the Israeli curriculum on those schools. To prevent this from happening, he said that the PA should step in and support the Palestinian education system in East Jerusalem.
“We talked to the [PA’s] education minister and the PA prime minister’s office in order to try to ask them to provide some support because the Israelis are targeting the private schools because these schools get financial support from the municipality,” he said.
“The PA has a responsibility to provide financial support for the education system, for the schools in East Jerusalem.”
Israeli curriculum threatens Palestinian identity
In June, Ir Amim sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denouncing the government’s plan to force an Israeli curriculum on Palestinian private schools.
“The right of the children of East Jerusalem to an education by their culture and national identity is also consistent with the basic right to education recognized in Israeli law and their right to equality in education, freedom and defense of their identity. Israel is obligated not only to avoid violating those rights but also has the positive obligation to support their realization,” the letter stated.
According to Abdel Karim Lafi, Israel’s attempt to introduce its own curriculum against the will of Palestinian residents in East Jerusalem reflects the larger goal of using education to harm Palestinian culture and identity.
“We call upon all the student frameworks and parents’ committees in all neighborhoods to unite, organize and take a fast action to stop this threatening plan, which forms the most dangerous battle against our Jerusalemite culture,” Lafi said.
He urged the Palestinian Authority to fulfill its obligations of providing education and resources to Palestinian Jerusalemites. He also called on Arab states, the US and Europe to protect Palestinians from attempts to alter the curriculum in East Jerusalem.
“This protection must include preserving Palestinians’ rights, culture, and civilization, consequently their right to confront the attempts to ‘Israelize’ the Palestinian curriculum in the schools of the city, as these attempts violate the most basic human rights of this nation, particularly their right in education which comes along with their needs and aspirations,” he said.
“This is [also] a message to the Israeli society and the Israeli leaders that we the people know how to maintain our curriculum and save the Palestinian face of Jerusalem.”
Jillian Kestler-D’Amours is a reporter and documentary filmmaker based in Jerusalem. More of her work can be found at http://jkdamours.com
The Israeli military conducted arrests, mistreated detainees and continued to prevent villagers from picking olives in certain areas of Burin, near Nablus, yesterday on October 16 2011. International activists have been prevented by the military from attending olive harvests during the past two days in some areas and settlers harassed and threw stones at villagers picking olives in Burin today.
Two villagers from Burin were detained yesterday whilst picking olives. Hussain Hamed Najjar, 21, was arrested yesterday morning by the Israeli military and is currently being held in Ariel, an Israeli settlement. His family claim that he has been accused of throwing a stone at an Israeli settler around three years ago – a charge that Najjar strongly denies.
A group of around 10 settlers from the nearby settlement of Bracha entered the Palestinian land yesterday morning and attempted to harass olive harvesters, under the watch of the Israeli military, by taking photographs of them. Najjar was reportedly arrested for pushing a settler’s camera away, causing it to fall on the ground.
Najjar’s uncle, Akram Ibrahim Ali Imran, expressed concern for his nephew and insisted that he was innocent of any wrongdoing; “I can’t describe how worried I am, particularly about his family.” Najjar dropped out of university in order to earn money to support his family after his father was imprisoned by the Palestinian Authority and is financially responsible for 9 people.
Bashir Imran, also 21, was detained by the Israeli military in the same area at the same time for unknown reasons. He was handcuffed, hooded and left in the sun for at least six hours before being released. He was only allowed water during this time and was intermittently kicked, punched and slapped by Israeli soldiers.
The arrests occurred after the Israeli military had ordered international activists to leave the area yesterday. ‘Maggie,’ a volunteer with the Friends of Madama and Burin group, said that the Israeli military had threatened to prevent villagers from harvesting olives in that area unless the international volunteers left. She also reported that the military allowed around 10 Israeli settlers to remain in the area. The international group was prevented from being present in the same area again today.
According to Mahmoud, a farmer from Burin, around 20 settlers arrived in the area again today and took pictures of olive farmers, although the Israeli military did instruct them to return to their settlement.
However, a group of around seven settlers from Bracha settlement hid amongst the trees and threw stones at villagers picking olives in an area further down the mountain at around 10am this morning. No one was injured and no further attacks were reported today.
RAMALLAH — Israel’s exile of prisoners to the Gaza Strip and abroad is a serious war crime, rights groups said Monday.
Israel and Hamas agreed to deport over 200 prisoners as part of a deal to release 1,027 detainees from Israeli jails in exchange for a soldier held in Gaza.
Some 166 prisoners will be deported to Gaza and 40 to third countries in the first phase of the swap, expected to take place Tuesday.
In a joint statement Monday, prisoner rights group Addameer and legal rights organization Al-Haq highlighted that while the deal was cause for celebration for 1,028 families, aspects of the exchange were “fundamentally at odds with international law.”
Unlawful deportation or transfer breaches the Fourth Geneva Convention and “qualifies as one of the most serious war crimes,” the groups said.
The protections of the Fourth Geneva Convention are inviolable, even if prisoners consent to exile and even though Hamas negotiated the deal, the statement said, pointing to the “stark asymmetry in power” between the Palestinian and Israeli parties.
Addameer director Sahar Francis noted that Israel has hermetically sealed off Gaza from the West Bank, and that exile to the blockaded coastal enclave “in many cases can be seen as a second prison sentence.”
At least eight women prisoners were left out of the deal, the groups added, despite Israel’s agreement that all female detainees would be released.
Al-Haq director Shawan Jabarin said “prospects for (the prisoners’) release continue to be dictated by Israeli political interests, just as the fate of 1,027 prisoners was staked on the release of a single Israeli soldier, whose capture has further adversely affected the rights of countless more Palestinians living under Israeli blockade in the Gaza Strip.”
The groups demanded “a fair and permanent resolution” to the plight of political prisoners, “arrested on the basis of Israeli military orders that criminalize any form of opposition to the occupation; tried by Israeli military tribunals that do not conform to international due process standards or held in administrative detention without charge or trial; and imprisoned in harsh and illegal detention conditions.”
Conduit for Saddam’s 45-min WMD threat and 9/11-Iraqi links calls ‘diabolical Iranian plot’ a ‘wake-up call’ for Obama
Sounding like he’s transcribing an Israeli Foreign Ministry press release, the Telegraph’s executive foreign editor Con Coughlin writes:
Such drastic action is unlikely now that the plot, which was ordered by terrorists working for the Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force, has been uncovered, but it should serve as a wake-up call to President Obama as to where the real threat to American interests in the Middle East lies.
For much of his presidency Mr Obama has sought to pursue a policy of reconciliation with Iran, in the hope that the regime can be persuaded to renounce its illegal nuclear programme. And this is the thanks he gets – a plot to carry out terrorist attacks on the American mainland. The president should accept that Iran is a sworn enemy of the US – and act accordingly.
Readers of the British daily won’t be surprised that Coughlin is taking the supposedly “diabolical Iranian plot” seriously. He has quite a record. In a 2007 analysis of 44 articles written by Coughlin on Iran, the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII) found that his “sources were unnamed or untraceable, often senior Western intelligence officials or senior Foreign Office officials” and that his “articles were published at sensitive and delicate times where there had been relatively positive diplomatic moves towards Iran.” Moreover, they discovered that
Coughlin was none other than the journalist who, with the help of unnamed intelligence sources discovered the fact that Saddam Hussein could launch weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes and unearthed the link between the 9/11 hijacker, Mohammed Ata, and the Iraqi intelligence.
Could Coughlin’s penchant for spinning pro-Israel yarns have its origins in his college days? At 18 he won a scholarship to Brasenose College, Oxford where he read Modern History under the tutelage of the historian Simon Schama, the author of Two Rothschilds and the Land of Israel, a study of the Zionist aims of Edmond James de Rothschild and James Armand de Rothschild.
Sharp disagreements have intensified among leading US pro-Israel groups on the best methods to suppress criticism and discussion of Israel’s apartheid, occupation, colonization and human rights abuses, or support for Palestinian rights, on US college campuses.
The dispute centers on the use of US civil rights statutes to lodge complaints against universities, alleging that discussion of Israel amounts to an infringement of the civil rights of Jewish students who might be made “uncomfortable” by hearing such discussions.
The Forward reports:
Simmering divisions within the Jewish community are expected to come to a head this month over efforts to use federal civil rights laws to sanction some forms of alleged anti-Israel activity on campus.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, American Jewry’s primary umbrella group for addressing domestic issues, will vote at its upcoming board meeting on a resolution that, in its current draft, cautions Jewish groups to guard against suppressing free speech and to invoke civil rights laws only after exhausting other measures.
“Lawsuits and threats of legal action should not be used to censor anti-Israel events, statements, and speakers in order to ‘protect’ Jewish students,” the draft resolution warns, “but rather for cases which evidence a systematic climate of fear and intimidation coupled with a failure of the university administration to respond with reasonable corrective measures.”
In September, The Electronic Intifada revealed that a leading pro-Israel group, StandWithUS, has been colluding with Israeli government officials to bring just such a civil rights complaint against Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, the university once attended by Rachel Corrie.
Earlier this month, the US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) launched an investigation into Columbia University over a claim that a Jewish student had been “steered” away by an adviser from a class taught by Professor Joseph Massad. Massad has been the target of persistent defamation campaigns by pro-Israel groups.
The campaign to abuse US civil rights law to censor unfavorable speech and scholarship about Israel is the brainchild of Kenneth Marcus of the Institute for Jewish Community Research, who is also a member of the pro-Israel group Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. Marcus was previously head of the OCR.
Blogger Richard Silverstein has done much to shed light on what he calls Marcus’ “campus Jihad against anti-Israelism.”
Marcus, Silverstein observes,
is one of the key intellectual authors of a new campaign to exploit newly written federal civil rights statutes (Title VI) which forbid campuses from creating a hostile environment for various ethnic and religious groups, including Jews. Marcus and his friends at Stand With Us are uniting to explore campuses where they can apply their new theory. To do so, they must find campuses where they can recruit sufficient Jewish students to complain that they are afraid to be Jews on campus because of the environment of fear and intimidation created by pro-Palestinian groups.
It might be added that Marcus’ strategy can be seen as inherently anti-Semitic because it assumes incorrectly and historically that all criticism of Israel equals criticism of Jews. It also infringes on the rights of all students, including the many Jewish students and faculty, who want to talk, study and act for justice and equality in Palestine. In other words, it falsely stereotypes all Jews as mindless supporters of Israel’s atrocious policies and associates them with those policies.
It seems that at least some in the pro-Israel community fear that this aggressive campaign of censorship and intimidation may do more to cast Israel’s defenders as thugs, than to improve Israel’s image on campuses.
Soon after President Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, breathless articles about Libyan “hit [assassination] squads” began to occupy the front page of The Washington Post . For three weeks, Post readers—and the U.S. government—were obsessed with these squads, which reportedly originated in the Middle East, had reached Europe, and were currently in Canada, where they were poised to cross into the United States like a swarm of northern killer bees.
Just how a group of supposed assassins could be so easily tracked made the hit squad story ridiculous on its face. Suddenly, however, heavy concrete barriers surrounded the White House, Capitol Hill and the Department of State—where they remain today.
The hoax began to collapse when The Post assigned names to police-style composite drawings of the “assassins.” Arabic-language specialists recognized the names as those generally used by Shi’i Muslims. As this religious group had reason to dislike Qaddafi at the time, a chorus of doubts arose that the Libyan leader could ever have induced them to work for him.
Suddenly the hit squads disappeared from The Post, never to return. Five years later, a two-line item in The Post told the truth. The item appeared in a story, not about the hit squads, but about the Iran-Contra scandal, the worst foreign policy scandal in U.S. history.
Manucher Ghorbanifar, a small-time Iranian exile working in Washington for Mossad, Israel’s secret intelligence service, confessed in 1986 that he had dreamed up the hit squads. Why? “To hurt Libya, an enemy of Israel.”
Officials of the Barack Obama administration have aggressively leaked information supposedly based on classified intelligence in recent days to bolster its allegation that two higher- ranking officials from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were involved in a plot to assassinate Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir in Washington, D.C.
The media stories generated by the leaks helped divert press attention from the fact that there is no verifiable evidence of any official Iranian involvement in the alleged assassination plan, contrary to the broad claim being made by the administration.
But the information about the two Iranian officials leaked to NBC News, the Washington Post and Reuters was unambiguously false and misleading, as confirmed by official documents in one case and a former senior intelligence and counterterrorism official in the other.
The main target of the official leaks was Abdul Reza Shahlai, who was identified publicly by the Obama administration as a “deputy commander in the Quds Force” of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Shahlai had long been regarded by U.S. officials as a key figure in the Quds Force’s relationship to Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army in Iraq.
The primary objective of the FBI sting operation involving Iranian- American Manssor Arbabsiar and a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) informant that was started last June now appears to have been to use Arbabsiar to implicate Shahlai in a terror plot.
U.S. officials had learned from the DEA informant that Arbabsiar claimed that Shahlai was his cousin.
In September 2008, the Treasury Department designated Shahlai as an individual “providing financial, material and technical support for acts of violence that threaten the peace and stability of Iraq” and thus subject to specific financial sanctions. The announcement said Shahlai had provided “material support” to the Mahdi Army in 2006 and that he had “planned the Jan. 20, 2007 attack” by Mahdi Army “Special Groups” on U.S. troops at the Provincial Coordination Center in Karbala, Iraq.
Arbabsiar’s confession claims that Shahlai approached him in early spring 2011 and asked him to find “someone in the narcotics business” to kidnap the Saudi ambassador to the United States, according to the FBI account. Arbabsiar implicates Shahlai in providing him with thousands of dollars for his expenses.
But Arbabsiar’s charge against Shahlai was self-interested. Arbabsiar had become the cornerstone of the administration’s case against Shahlai in order to obtain leniency on charges against him.
There is no indication in the FBI account of the investigation that there is any independent evidence to support Arbabsiar’s claim of Shahlai’s involvement in a plan to kill the ambassador.
The Obama administration planted stories suggesting that Shahlai had a terrorist past, and that it was therefore credible that he could be part of an assassination plot.
Laying the foundation for press stories on the theme, the Treasury Department announced Tuesday that it was sanctioning Shahlai, along with Arbabsiar and three other Quds Force officials, including the head of the organisation, Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, for being “connected to” the assassination plot.
But Michael Issikof of NBC News reported the same day that Shahlai “had previously been accused of plotting a highly sophisticated attack that killed five U.S. soldiers in Iraq, according to U.S. government officials and documents made public Tuesday afternoon”.
Isikoff, who is called “National Investigative Correspondent” at NBC News, reported that the Treasury Department had designated Shahlai as a “terrorist” in 2008, despite the fact that the Treasury announcement of the designation had not used the term “terrorist”.
On Saturday, the Washington Post published a report closely paralleling the Issikof story but going even further in claiming documentary proof of Shahlai’s responsibility for the January 2007 attack in Karbala. Post reporter Peter Finn wrote that Shahlai “was known as the guiding hand behind an elite militia of the cleric Moqtada al Sadr”, which had carried out an attack on U.S. troops in Karbala in January 2007.
Finn cited the fact that the Treasury Department named Shahlai as the “final approving and coordinating authority” for training Sadr’s militiamen in Iran. That fact would not in itself be evidence of involvement in a specific attack on U.S. forces. On the contrary, it would suggest that he was not involved in operational aspects of the Mahdi Army in Iraq.
Finn then referred to a “22-page memo that detailed preparations for the operation and tied it to the Quds Force….” But he didn’t refer to any evidence that Shahlai personally had anything to do with the operation.
In fact, U.S. officials acknowledged in the months after the Karbala attack that they had found no evidence of any Iranian involvement in the operation.
Talking with reporters about the memo on Apr. 26, 2007, several weeks after it had been captured, Gen. David Petraeus conceded that it did not show that any Iranian official was linked to the planning of the Karbala operation. When a journalist asked him whether there was evidence of Iranian involvement in the Karbala operation, Petraeus responded, “No. No. No… [W]e do not have a direct link to Iran involvement in that particular case.”
In a news briefing in Baghdad Jul. 2, 2007, Gen. Kevin Bergner confirmed that the attack in Karbala had been authorised by the Iraqi chief of the militia in question, Kais Khazali, not by any Iranian official.
Col. Michael X. Garrett, who had been commander of the U.S. Fourth Brigade combat team in Karbala, confirmed to this writer in December 2008 that the Karbala attack “was definitely an inside job”.
Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force, is on the list of those Iranian officials “linked” to the alleged terror plot, because he “oversees the IRGC-QF officers who were involved in this plot” , as the Treasury Department announcement explained. But a Reuters story on Friday reported a claim of U.S. intelligence that two wire transfers totaling 100,000 dollars at the behest of Arbabsiar to a bank account controlled by the FBI implicates Soleimani in the assassination plot.
“While details are still classified,” wrote Mark Hosenball and Caren Bohan, “one official said the wire transfers apparently had some kind of hallmark indicating they were personally approved” by Soleimani.
But the suggestion that forensic examination of the wire transfers could somehow show who had approved them is misleading. The wire transfers were from two separate non-Iranian banks in a foreign country, according to the FBI’s account. It would be impossible to deduce who approved the transfer by looking at the documents.
“I have no idea what such a ‘hallmark’ could be,” said Paul Pillar, a former head of the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center who was also National Intelligence Officer for the Middle East until his retirement in 2005.
Pillar told IPS that the “hallmark” notion “pops up frequently in commentary after actual terrorist attacks,”, but the concept is usually invoked “along the lines of ‘the method used in this attack had the hallmark of group such and such’.”
That “hallmark” idea “assumes exclusive ownership of a method of attack which does not really exist,” said Pillar. “I expect the same could be said of methods of transferring money.”
GARETH PORTER is an investigative historian and journalist with Inter-Press Service specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam“, was published in 2006.