Friday, October 30, 2020

Education under fire: Palestinian pupils go back to school to find it confiscated

By The Palestine Monitor - August 25, 2017
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Education] [Area C] [demolition]

Israeli forces drove into the Palestinian village of Jubbet adh-Dhib last Tuesday and tore down its brand new, EU-funded primary school, just a day before the school year was due to start back. It's the third time in two weeks Palestinian schools are targeted.

On Wednesday morning, a tent was set up and chairs - the only thing left behind after the army drove away with the prefabs used to build the classrooms - were crammed inside in an attempt to offer the school's 60 students a semblance of normality.

“It was heart breaking to see children and their teachers turning up for their first day of school under the blazing sun, with no classrooms or anywhere to seek shelter in, while in the immediate vicinity the work to expand illegal settlements goes on uninterrupted,” said Itay Epshtain, policy manager for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), after visiting Jubbet adh-Dhib, which is located near Bethlehem.

The same village had been left in the dark earlier this summer, when Israeli forces confiscated 96 of its solar panels, which are the only source of electricity for its residents. The village has been waiting for years to be connected to the power grid, but Israel continued to denied permits on grounds the village has no outline plan. When Palestinians submitted an outline plan to the Israeli Civil Administration (the military body in charge of civilian matters in the West Bank), it too was rejected.

“There is no electricity, the water cuts off often. Settlers are also harassing us,” Umm Ibrahim Alwaheesh, a resident of Jubbet adh-Dhib, told Palestine Monitor. “The energy ministry and Comet-ME came and brought us solar panels. After 8 months the soldiers came and they took them. They were the best 8 months in my entire life,” she added.
Pupils in a makeshift tent after the confiscation. Picture from Twitter
Pupils in Jubbet adh-Dhib are not the only children to start the school year with little more than their school books. On August 9, Israel confiscated 10 solar panels and 12 batteries used to provide electricity to the only primary and nursery school in Abu Nuwwar, a Bedouin village that lies between the West Bank's largest settlement, Ma'aleh Addumin, and East Jerusalem. The 650 residents of Abu Nuwwar, like other residents of this area, known as E1, are at particular risk of forcible transfer due to Israeli government's construction plans for the area. Critics say they are aimed at linking the mega-settlement to Jerusalem, effectively cutting off Palestinian neighborhood of East Jerusalem - which Palestinians see as their future capital - from the rest of the West Bank and preventing their development.

Earlier this month, Israeli forces demolished a kindergarden in another Bedouin community located in E1, Jabal al-Baba. Palestinians living in these areas are refugees from villages near Beersheba, in present-day Israel, and have lived here since their displacement in 1948. While every single structure in Abu Nuwwar has a pending demolition order since 2005, Jabal al-Baba residents have seen their homes, usually makeshift wood and corrugated iron structures, demolished a number of times over the years. Many of the demolished structures had been built with EU assistance.

According to the NRC, some 55 schools across the West Bank are currently threatened with demolition and "stop-work" orders. The NGO counted 24 cases of direct attacks against schools in the first three months of this year, including incidents where tear gas canisters and sound bombs were fired at students on their way to or from school. In 2016, four communities’ educational facilities were demolished or confiscated and 256 education-related violations were documented in the West Bank, affecting over 29,000 students.

2016 saw the highest number of demolitions of Palestinian structures since records began. According to UN OCHA records, in 2017 Israel demolished or seized about 300 Palestinian-owned structures throughout the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, displacing 500 Palestinians and affecting the livelihoods of another  5,300.

The EU missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah called on the Israeli government to return the confiscated equipment and structures to all three affected schools.

“In line with its long-standing position on this issue, the EU calls upon the Israeli authorities to halt demolitions and confiscations of Palestinian houses and property in accordance with its obligations as an occupying power under international humanitarian law,” said a statement released on Thursday, “and to cease the policy of settlement construction and expansion, of designating land for exclusive Israeli use and of denying Palestinian development.”



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