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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 10/28/18

"A Cruel Choice": Why Israel Targets Palestinian Schools (VIDEO)

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Several Palestinian students, along with teachers and officials, were wounded in the Israeli army attack on a school south of Nablus in the West Bank on 15 October. The students of Al- Sawiya Al-Lebban Mixed School were challenging an Israeli military order to shut down their school based on the ever-versatile accusation of the school being a "site of popular terror and rioting".

"Popular terror" is an Israeli army code for protests. The students, of course, have every right to protest, not just the Israeli military occupation but also the encroaching colonization of the settlements of Alie and Ma'ale Levona. These two illegal Jewish settlements have unlawfully confiscated thousands of dunams of land belonging to the villages of As-Sawiya and Al-Lebban.

"The Israeli citizens" that the occupation army is set to protect by shutting down the school, are, in fact, the very armed Jewish settlers who have been terrorizing this West Bank region for years.

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According to a 2016 study commissioned by the United Nations, at least 2,500 Palestinian students from 35 West Bank communities must cross through Israeli military checkpoints to reach their schools every day. About half of these students have reported army harassment and violence for merely attempting to get to their classes or back home.

However, this is only half of the story, as violent Jewish settlers are always on the lookout for Palestinian kids. These settlers, who "also set up their own checkpoints," engage in regular violence as well, by "throwing stones" at children, or "physically pushing (Palestinian children) around."

"UNICEF's protective presence teams have reported that their volunteers have been subjected to physical attacks, harassment, arrest and detention, and death threats," according to the same UN report.

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In other words, even the "protectors" themselves often fall victim to the army and Jewish settler terror tactics.

Add to this that Area C -- a major part of the West Bank that is under full Israeli military control -- represents the pinnacle of Palestinian suffering. An estimated 50,000 children face numerous hurdles, including the lack of facilities, access, violence, closure and unjustified demolition orders.

The school of Al-Sawiya Al-Lebban located in Area C is, therefore, under the total mercy of the Israeli military, which has no tolerance for any form of resistance, including non-violent popular protests by school children.

What is truly uplifting, however, is that, despite the Israeli military occupation and ongoing restrictions on Palestinian freedom, the Palestinian population remains one of the most educated in the Middle East.

According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the literacy rate in Palestine (estimated at 96.3 percent) is one of the highest in the Middle East and the illiteracy rate (3.7 percent among individuals over the age of 15) is one of the lowest in the world.

If these statistics are not heartening enough, bearing in mind the ongoing Israeli war on Palestinian school and curricula, consider this: the besieged and war-stricken Gaza Strip has an even higher literacy rate than the West Bank, as they both stand at 96.6 percent and 96 percent respectively.

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In truth, this should not come as a total surprise. The first wave of Palestinian refugees that were ethnically-cleansed from historic Palestine was so keen on ensuring their children strive to continue their education, they established school tents, operated by volunteer teachers as early as 1948.

Palestinians understand well that education is their greatest weapon to obtain their long-denied freedom. Israel, too, is aware of this dichotomy, knowing that an empowered Palestinian population is far more capable of challenging Israeli dominance than a subdued one, thus the relentless and systematic targeting of the Palestinian educational system.

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Ramzy Baroud is the Managing Editor of Middle East Eye. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold (more...)
 

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