Education in the Jordan Valley – Demolitions

Palestinian children rest in the shade of their recently demolished home

[tweetmeme] For the past few weeks I have been working on a project revealing the horrid conditions of  Palestinian education in the Jordan Valley.  There are myriad reasons why the Palestinians in the Valley receive little to no help in the development of the educational system there; however, the main obstacle is the classification of nearly 95% of the Valley as Area C, meaning education is Israel’s responsibility and the PA is unable to do much for the schools.  For the next few days I will be posting excerpts from my project, including profiles on four schools in the Jordan Valley as well as a look at how the Israeli occupation changes the lives of the Palestinian youth.  See the post on Area C here.  Unless noted, I took all the photos in this series when visiting the Valley.

Education in the Jordan Valley – Demolitions

A demolition order given to the Qabineh school for accepting a single-classroom caravan

Between January 2000 and September 2007 Israel issued almost 5,000 demolition orders were issued against Palestinian structures and 1,663 demolitions were carried out. The official justification for demolition acts is either for “security,” or the lack of the appropriate permit from the Israeli military authority. Israel consistently uses settlement planning tactics, the building permit application process and house demolitions to threaten Palestinians and remove them from their land. Sadly, forced displacement and ethnic cleansing are nothing new in Palestine.  Since the beginning of the occupation, Israel has repeatedly used demolitions of private and communal property as a means to shape Palestinian behavior.  That a structure serves children and does not pose a threat to Israel hardly enters the demolition deliberations.  Schools, therefore, are not spared from the destruction of Israeli bulldozers.

In Khirbet Tana, a village east of Nablus with a population of about 300, thirty structures were destroyed earlier this year, including a school, homes, and shelter for farm animals. Out of the 40 children who used to attend its primary school, only 17 still do so. They study in a small tent, with desks and a blackboard salvaged from the ruins of the old school. Similar cases occur in the different Jordan Valley villages.  Demolishing schools is a means to eliminate the educational opportunities of Palestinian children, thus vastly reducing their future possibilities.  Indeed, keeping Palestinians from reaching their full educational potential is an indirect way to prolong the occupation and to ensure Palestinian compliance.  In this way, demolishing Palestinian schools is more than simply a violation of Article 50 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, requiring an occupying force to “facilitate the proper working” of schools.  It is also a means to ensure the sustainability of the illegal occupation while greatly damaging future generations of Palestinians.

Aluminum classrooms in Qabineh face possible demolition

“We have been refused permits to build new homes or schools, and even to install electricity!”  says Dr Yosef, who runs 2 clinics in the village of Jiftlik (the school in Jiftlik was demolished 7 times from 2003-2008 before receiving a building permit, thanks to heavy international pressure by UNICEF), “the Israeli government offers the settlers every incentive to come here and live on our land.”  It is a bit of a complex issue for the Palestinian Authority. Officially, its duty is to provide educational and health services to Palestinians in Area C, however in practice, the matter is not so simple. “In Area C, it is extremely difficult,” comments Minister of Education Lamis al-Alami. “It’s not easy to get permits for the construction of schools. There are so many excuses for not granting the permits. So either we deprive the children of education, or we construct schools that risk being demolished.” Deputy Minister Basri Saleh adds that “the only way we can challenge their decisions, is by insisting – using all the diplomatic channels available to us.”

Israel makes the construction of schools illegal, leaving all new schools open to demolition

UNICEF estimates that out of a total of 217 schools in East Jerusalem and Area C, 26 currently face difficulties due to refused building permits, stop-work orders, or, at worst, demolition orders. Many of these orders also affect badly-needed sanitation facilities. Over 13,000 students attend these threatened schools, nearly all of whom also live in high risk areas below the poverty line. “Their only announced reason is that it is an illegal construction,” explains a UNICEF coordinator, “but for us what is legal and illegal? This is a right and a humanitarian need for these children. They [Israeli officials] are the ones who approve the master plans, they issue the permits, and they give out the demolition orders. What can we do?”

The first and last photos were taken by Jordan Valley Solidarity

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