Denial of education: An Israeli apartheid tool to annex the Jordan Valley
In many countries around the world, schools have resumed in September. Millions of students have been facing hurdles to access proper education due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In Palestine, particularly in the Jordan Valley, thousands of students face other challenges than the pandemic that hamper their access to proper education: Israeli apartheid regime.
In the Jordan Valley, which is designated as Area ‘C’ under full Israeli control according to the Oslo Accords signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, Palestinian Bedouin communities are denied their right to education. Israeli apartheid and de facto annexation practices and policies prohibit Over 38 communities in the area from construction, including the erection of schools and kindergartens. Any schools and kindergartens in the targeted communities are subject to demolition by the Israeli occupation authorities.
To defy Israeli apartheid practices against Bedouin communities there, Stop the Wall together with civil society organizations and popular groups formed a coalition and launched the Right to Education Campaign. The Palestine New Federation of Trade Unions also endorses the campaign as part of its struggle against Israeli exploitation of Palestinian children who are deprived of access to proper education and end up as cheap wage labor for Israeli corporations.
Through the Campaign:
- We advocate for the right to education of the Palestinians in the Jordan Valley in order to defy Israel’s intensified de facto and planned de jure annexation of the Jordan Valley.
- We believe that the education of the new generation is a crucial effort to bring hope, strengthen determination and develop a vision for the future exactly where Israel plans to vanish us from the land.
- We believe that supporting Palestinian right to education there cannot be fulfilled without dismantling the entire regime of Israeli apartheid that ethnically cleanses Palestinians from their lands.
A profile of threatened schools
Israel weaponizes the denial of education to Bedouin communities in the Jordan Valley as a coercive measure to ethnically cleanse them from their lands.
As of 2019, the Israeli occupation has given over 42 schools in Area ‘C’ orders to be partially or totally demolished. The following schools which particularly serve Bedouin communities in the Jordan Valley are among the threatened schools by demolition.
The School of Ras Al-Auja
Built in September, 2020, the school of Ras Al-Auja, southern Jordan Valley, now serves over 140 children. Before that, children had to walk several kilometers everyday along unsecured roads under dire weather conditions to reach overcrowded schools in neighboring towns.
Ali summarizes the importance of the school for the steadfastness of Ras Al-Auja community stating:
“The school that has been built in our community means a lot to us. My children and many others no longer need to walk to distanced schools every day making their access to education much easier than before. This school also determines our present and future fate on our land as it is a means to stay steadfast against all odds.“
The fact that the school was built under the patronage of EU diplomats has not stopped the Israeli occupation authorities from issuing demolition orders to the school; recently, the school received its second demolition order.
The school of Ras Al-Auja received its first demolition order immediately after it was built last year. The Israeli Civil Administration (ICA) along with Israeli military forces stormed the Ras al Auja school and informed the principal and teachers orally of their intention to later dismantle and confiscate the school.
According to the Israeli Military Order No. 1651, the school of Ras al Auja is a ‘movable structure’ subject to confiscation rather than demolition (read more here).
Immediately upon being informed by the school of the ICA’s/military’s verbal notification of the school’s eminent confiscation on September 20th, Palestinians launched a petition to the Israeli High Court that same day as a preemptive measure. The Court awarded them an injunction temporarily freezing any confiscation until the case is reviewed. Nonetheless, the State Attorney claims that as the school is classified a ‘mobile structure’ the occupation authorities have the right to ‘legally’ confiscate it at any moment.
The school of Khirbet Al-Maleh
Palestinians, as part of the Right to Education Campaign built the school of Khirbet Al-Maleh at the end of 2020. The school, which consists of four classrooms now serves over 40 students from Khirbet Al-Maleh and the surrounding two Bedouin communities of Ein Al-Helweh and Al-Farsiya until grade four.
It has recently received a demolition order under the same pretext that is given to other threatened schools- building without an Israeli permit which is never given to Palestinians.
To meet the needs of the children in the community, Stop the Wall through the support of Middle East Children’s Alliance started the construction of a new classroom and a clinic new classrooms. Yet, the Israeli occupation has ordered a freeze on construction last week.
If the school is bulldozed, this means that the students of the three communities it serves will be forced to go to the school of Ein Al-Baida, which is 25 kilometers away from these communities. This daunting journey used to be part of the daily lives of the students less than a year ago when there was no school in Khirbet Al-Maleh.
The school of Khan Al-Ahmar
The Italian-funded primary school of Khan Al-Ahmar faces the same fate of demolition that the entire Bedouin community of Khan Al-Ahmar encounters. Built from tires and mud in 2009, the school received its first demolition order immediately after it opened its doors to about 170 students.
The school serves students not only from Khan Al-Ahmar but also five other local communities in the area.
The school of Khan Al-Ahmar has been a means through which the residents of Khan Al-Ahamr and other communities strengthen their steadfastness no matter how malicious Israeli imposed coercive measures are.
In 2018, the school along with the entire community of Khan Al-Ahmar survived yet another of Israel’s uncountable demolition attempts. This is thanks to the steadfastness of the residents of Khan Al-Ahmar who used to stand between Israeli bulldozers and the homes these bulldozers were about to raze to the ground. International solidarity has also proven crucial to pressuring the Israeli government to freeze the demolition of Khan Al-Ahmar and its one and only school.
A temporary freeze does not rid the residents of Khan Al-Ahmar and the students who attend the school there of living a daily worry that the next day maybe the last in their community and school.
The latest demolition freeze was issued by Israel’s Supreme Court of [in] Justice on September 29th, 2021. It will be in force for six months. After the end of this period, Israeli soldiers and their bulldozers are likely to be given the green light to raze the school and the whole community to the ground.
The school of Fasayel Al-Fawqa
As a result of popular efforts to counter Israeli ethnic cleansing, the school of Fasayel Al-Fawqa came into being in 2008. The school consists of fourteen classrooms that serve between 160-180 male and female students. The school of Fasayel Al-Fawqa is able to meet the needs of its students until grade 11.
So far, the school has received four demolition orders making its students and their parents live in a state of fear and worry while bitterly awaiting the day when they wake up and find the school razed to the ground.
The school of Arab Al- Ka’abnah
Built in 1968, the school of Arab Al-Ka’abnah currently serves the education needs of hundreds of students from the Bedouin community of Arab Al-Ka’abnah. Since Israel intensified its apartheid and ethnic cleansing practices of Palestinians in the Jordan Valley in the 1990s, the school has received 20 demolition orders from the Israeli occupation authorities.
Israeli violence against Palestinian students
Last October, the Israeli occupation demolished a school in the Bedouin community of Ras al Tin, east of Ramallah district. The school, built last September through the support of the European Union and the efforts of the Right to Education Campaign could only serve its 52 students for less than two months.
The students of Ras al Tin, like many others living in Bedouin communities in the Jordan Valley are now forced to walk for 5 kilometers to reach the school of al-Mughayir village every day. Commuting to distanced schools is a perilous journey due to the violence of the Israeli army and settlers.
Due to the lack of schools for the Bedouin communities in the Jordan Valley, families there are forced to send their children to the overcrowded and distanced schools of neighboring villages; a daily journey that risks children losing their lives.
Mahmoud Bsharat, a father of two children from the Bedouin community of Khirbet Humsa al-Tahta, asserts that the lack of buses to transport the children from his community to the school of Froush Beit Dajan forces some students into walking four kilometers a day. He adds,
“In addition to Israeli military jeeps and tanks that are constantly in the area, the violence of fanatic settlers is another real threat that puts the lives of students at risk. More than two years ago, settlers attempted to kidnap a student on his way back from school.
There are always attempts by the settlers to kidnap students. To do so, they usually disguise themselves as Palestinian peddlers in order to deceive the children in the area. Few years ago, a settler murdered a young female student by hitting her with his car.”
The daunting and precarious journey to reach school forces Bedouin communities in the Jordan Valley to send their children to live with their relatives or older sisters and brothers. There, children have to stay in rented accommodations during weekdays, all by themselves to be able to reach school. There, children lack enough supervision and care from their parents to look after them and help them with homework.
Due to the challenges students face to access distanced schools, families worried about the lives of their children pursue disastrous coping mechanisms on the future of children by forcing them to withdraw schools. According to a report published by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, illiteracy rate for the Palestinian population (15 years and over) is 4.7% in the northern Jordan Valley, while it is 5.1% in Jericho and other areas in the Jordan Valley. Those are the highest rates compared to illiteracy rate in the rest of the West Bank.
Girls usually fall victims to early marriage while boys end up as cheap wage labor enduring sexual abuse and exploitation in neighboring Israeli settlements.
Law at the service of a vicious apartheid regime
Israel denies Palestinians their right to education and existence on their land based on a myriad of laws and military orders. These discriminatory laws and orders, which are the scaffold of Israel’s apartheid regime have legitimized, in the eyes of the colonizer, the demolition of Palestinian schools and property at large; as well as the use of violence against them since the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967.
For more about Israeli discriminatory laws and military orders, please click here.
Israeli infringement on International Law
Israel’s discriminatory legal system which facilitates the oppression of Palestinians to ethnically cleanse Palestinians and replace them with Jewish settlers amounts to the crime of apartheid.
According to the Apartheid Convention (1973), Article II, Israel’s denial of Palestinian right to education in the Jordan Valley within the framework of ethnic cleansing practices are described as:
“Inhumane acts… committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”
The Convention highlights in particular the denial of the right to education as one of the forms to impose apartheid citing:
“Any legislative measures and other measures calculated to prevent a racial group or groups from participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country and the deliberate creation of conditions preventing the full development of such a group or groups, in particular by denying to members of a racial group or groups basic human rights and freedoms, including […] the right to education, […]”
- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966
- Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989
- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, 1979
- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 1966
- Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2006
Call to Action
The international community has to meet its obligations in accordance with International Law by taking the following concrete actions to protect Palestinians’ right to education:
- We call on teachers’ unions and education organizations around the world to become patrons patrons of the threatened schools and take the following actions:
- Raise awareness about Israeli abuse of Palestinian right to education in the Jordan Valley by sharing this report and other future updates we release about education in the area.
- Write to your government urging it to pressure the Israeli government to halt the planned demolition of schools in the Jordan Valley.
- Endorse the BDS Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions on Israel to dismantle Israeli apartheid regime.
- We call on Ms. Komumbou Boly Barry, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education and Mr. S. Michael Lynk, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights situation in the OPT and the other experts of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council to follow up on their call of accountability issued on June 16; and ensure that the abuses of Palestinian right to education are addressed within the framework of the human rights violations that constitute the crime of apartheid.
- As the 17 Sustainable Goals at the heart of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda of the UN, assert that education is central to end poverty, reduce inequality and spur economic growth, the UN is obliged to implement this agenda by holding Israel accountable for any violations of Palestinians’ right to education in the Jordan Valley by investigating apartheid Israel and reactivating the UN Convention on Apartheid against Israel.
- As UNICEF asserts that “for every child a fair chance,” including, “an education,” we call on the agency to ensure that Palestinian children obtain a fair chance of education by being in the frontline advocating Palestinian children right to education in the Jordan Valley and providing them with the needed means to develop the educational environment there.
- We call on the INGOs working on Palestine to financially support the construction of new schools and the development of existing ones; as well as support the Right to Education Campaign in its international advocacy efforts to protect the schools and the students from Israeli brutality.