27 September 2015

Victory as Israeli State backs down over effort to destroy independent Palestinian schools

Israeli policies violate Palestinians’ most basic right to education.
Mahfouz Abu Turk APA images
If you were to believe Naftali Bennett, Israel's Education Minister and member of the religious settler Jewish Home party, the reason that funding to the independent Christian school network was being cut was because the State doesn’t like religious schools!  There must be a uniform syllabus, Zionist naturally.

This from a Ministry that funds 100% an Orthodox religious sector, which considers mathematics and astronomy the subjects of the devil, without making any demands on its curriculum. It was proposed to cut the funding of the Christian schools network, which admits Arabs of all and no religion, to 29% at the same time refusing to allow them to increase school fees.

The real reason is that Israel’s Education Ministry has been unable to impose its will on one of the remaining independent Palestinian sectors in Israel.  It sought to dictate their syllabus, erasing any mention of the Nakba - the expulsion of the Palestinian refugees.  Schools were to become merely a conduit for Zionism's false history.

Below are two articles from Electronic Intifada and a report from the Times of Israel on the defeat that the Zionists have suffered as the Pope came out clearly in opposition to Zionism’s racist agenda.

Tony Greenstein

Israel starves Christian schools of funds

 11 September 2015

Palestinian Christians protest discriminatory school funding outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s offices in Jerusalem on 6 September. Abir Sultan EPA
Staff in 47 Christian schools serving Palestinians within present-day Israel have gone on strike to protest against funding cuts imposed on them by the government.

They say they may escalate their protest by seeking the closure of Christian holy sites that attract thousands of tourists each year.

While the State of Israel previously funded up to 70 percent of the budget for these schools, it has sharply reduced its contribution during the past few years. Today, the state pays only 29 percent of their operating costs.

Palestinian citizens of Israel perceive the cuts as an attack on their culture and identity.

The Christian schools — which teach 30,000 children — are among the few Palestinian institutions in present-day Israel that survived the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing conducted by Zionist forces during and after Israel’s establishment in 1948. Run on a semi-public basis, they follow the core Israeli curriculum but also give lessons on religion and Palestinian history.

The funding cuts appear discriminatory. Schools for ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel have similarly been run on a semi-public basis, even though they focus on religious instruction, rather than the Israeli curriculum.

Yet the Israeli government has steadily increased its funding for such schools in recent years to the extent that they are almost totally financed by the state’s budget.

Palestinian Christians comprise less than 2 percent of Israel’s population. Their schools — which accept Muslims and Druze students, too — are high-performing, with a large number of their pupils later attending university.

Rani Khoury, a Palestinian from Nazareth, went to a Christian school. He said that the Christian schools have “allowed Palestinians to retain their education and they created a lot of leaders in Palestinian society.”

Khoury described his school as “very political.
“I learned about the Nakba at school, as well as Israeli history, but from a Palestinian perspective,” he said.

Protests against the funding cuts have taken place in various towns and cities in present-day Israel such as Haifa, Nazareth, Ramleh and Shefa Amr.

In June, hundreds of Palestinian high school students protested at the Israeli education ministry, accusing the government of trying to force Christian semi-public schools into the state system.

“If the schools continue like this, they will go bankrupt,” Khoury said. “We should do more than just the strike. The government doesn’t care. You don’t see this on Israeli news channels; only Arabs know about it.”

In total, one-fifth of Israel’s inhabitants are Palestinians. Yet the state spends an average of 24 percent less on each high school pupil who is a Palestinian citizen of Israel than on his or her Jewish counterparts.

“Divide and conquer”

Rabea Fahoum, who attended a Christian school, said that such schools have struck a balance between meeting the needs of Palestinian students and the requirements of the Israeli state.

“In our school, we had many projects that were designed by the students and we could decide. We closed the school once. We also had a radio, which played political songs. When the state inspector came to the school, the principal would come to us and say ‘Don’t put any political songs on today, okay?’ And we would say, ‘okay.’”

“The students were from middle class families, all very educated and with a high level of political consciousness,” Fahoum said.

“This funding cut is not about the money,” Fahoum added. “There aren’t that many Christian schools, and most of them are in Nazareth. It’s a tactic to divide and conquer. The most important institutions that don’t allow Palestinian identity to be eroded are these schools. Today, you have a specific curriculum for Druze [in Israel] but you don’t have one for only Christians or only Muslims. They want to continue dividing us. ”

By accepting Muslim and Druze students, the Christian schools forged a sense of unity among Palestinians in Israel, according to Fahoum.

“Fragmenting our identity”

“For the Muslims who went to these schools, it’s personal,” Fahoum said. “The Christians gave us services. It [the Christian school system] prevents them from fragmenting our identity, and I believe that is why they are attacking these schools.”

As well as reducing funding for Christian schools, the Israeli government has placed a strict limit on the amount that parents may contribute towards their children’s education.

That cap has been set at 2,500 shekels ($645) per year, according to one school administrator. The Christian schools estimate that they would need to charge twice that amount to compensate for the cuts in state funding.

After the strike began in early September — the start of the school year — the Israeli government responded by offering a 5 percent increase in spending and by allowing the Christian schools to raise their fees.

Representatives of the Christian schools rejected the offer. The schools are recognized by Israel but are not fully registered in its education system. Schools with that status are entitled to 75 percent state funding, the representatives have pointed out.

Burhan Kanj, a past-pupil of a Christian school in Nazareth, argued that Israel is striving to “make it impossible” for these schools to function.

“You can see they’re not doing this for private schools in general,” Kanj said. “They are only attacking the Arab Christian schools.”

Alia Al Ghussain is a British-Palestinian born and raised in Dubai. She holds an MA in human rights from the University of Sussex and is currently based in Haifa.

With deal said reached, Christian schools expected to halt strike

System to receive NIS 50 million from EducationMinistry, letting 33,000 students go back to class; official announcement planned for later Sunday

 September 27, 2015

Arab Israeli Christian students hold placards during a protest to demand more funds for Christian schools, on September 6, 2015 in Jerusalem. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
After four weeks at home, pupils in Christian schools in Israel will resume studies on Monday, after a dispute between the council representing schools and the Education Ministry was resolved, sources said Sunday.

The sides held discussions on Saturday evening that extended late into the night and finally reached a breakthrough on Sunday morning, the Hebrew-language Haaretz daily reported.

According to the agreement, the system of 47 schools, in which some 33,000 mostly Muslim children study, will receive NIS 50 million ($12 million) from the state and an additional NIS 7.5 million ($2.7 million) as a bonus.

The schools had been on strike since the start of the month over budget cuts officials said amounted to hundreds of millions of shekels.

The sides had been stuck over a demand from the Education Ministry that the schools keep from calling any more strikes until the end of the 2017 school year, while the school system would only agree to not strike until July 2016.

A compromise agreement will keep junior high and high schools from striking until July 2017, while elementary schools won’t strike until July 2016.

A new joint committee will be established and regulate relations between the church schools and the Education Ministry, Haaretz reported.

The details of the full agreement between the schools and the ministry will be presented on Sunday afternoon at a press conference in Nazareth.

Israel’s assaults on Palestinian education amount to genocide

 25 September 2015

Israeli policies violate Palestinians’ most basic right to education.   Mahfouz Abu Turk APA images
A strike by staff and students at 47 Palestinian Christian schools in Israel had been taking place for a few weeks before the American broadcaster NBC took notice.

According to NBC’s headline, the protest was about “discrimination.” That it felt the need to put quotation marks around “discrimination” was indicative of how the mainstream media in the United States continuously fail to acknowledge that Israel is, fundamentally, a racist state.

The Christian schools represent some of the few independent spaces for Palestinian political, cultural and economic life within Israel. So the cuts in government funding that triggered the strike must be understood as the latest move in the Israeli assault on Palestinians’ right to education.

That assault began at the time of the Nakba, the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

Its effects can be seen in the recent cuts (the schools have seen the proportion of their operating costs covered by the state fall from 70 percent to 29 percent), the violation of the freedom of movement of schoolchildren and teachers in the occupied West Bank and harassment by Israeli settlers and soldiers, the targeting and arrest of politically active students, the raiding of Palestinian universities at will and the firing of tear gas into campuses, the bombing of schools in Gaza, the denial of exit visas and travel permits to Palestinians wishing to study abroad or even elsewhere in Palestine and of entry visas to Palestinians with American and other citizenship who wish to teach in their homeland.
These assaults on education are part and parcel of a larger structural assault on the very heart of Palestinian social life. Meanwhile, semi-private Jewish religious schools, which fall in the same category as the Christian Palestinian schools, have seen their government funding increase to 100 percent of their operating costs.

The historical context of today’s crisis in Palestinian education is critically important for a full understanding of why the recent cuts are viewed as the latest attack in the ongoing assault on Palestinian culture, identity and leadership. It also helps explain the Palestinian call for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel, until educational apartheid is ended, as well as the broader demand that the Palestinians’ right to education be guaranteed.

Devastating impact

The Nakba had a devastating impact on Palestinians and their education, and as with all examples of Palestinian dispossession, the harm is ongoing.

In the mid-1940s, there were 478 schools governed by the British Mandate authorities in Palestine. There were also 317 private schools, of which 135 were Islamic religious schools and 182 were Christian religious schools.

In 1948, after the establishment of Israel, only 45 Arab elementary schools and one high school survived. Islamic private schools were eliminated, because Islamic Waqf endowments — religious endowments by a Muslim council established in 1921 — were terminated. Waqf property was considered “absentee property” according to Israel’s law and these schools came under the jurisdiction of the state.

Israel allowed some of the Christian schools to reopen on condition that they operated under the auspices of the state’s education ministry. Until 1957, Israel did not recognize any of the Christian schools or their certificates.

Today, Palestinian schools in racially segregated towns and villages inside Israel are severely underfunded. Some Palestinians don’t get any education services at all.

More than 90,000 Palestinian Bedouins who live in villages “unrecognized” by Israel in the Naqab (Negev) and Galilee regions do not receive the full services normally provided by the state, including education. Even when such villages are granted “recognized” status by the Israeli government, as happened in 2003 to Abu Tulul and seven other villages, the authorities have dragged their feet, delaying the lengthy process to build a school.

Educational apartheid in Israel must be understood for what it is: an attempt at cultural genocide. Under the United Nations’ 1948 definition of genocide, this crime may include imposing conditions of life on a racial or ethnic group with the intent of wholly or partly destroying that group.

Denying essential services to Palestinians, or forcing them to accept a lower quality of education than provided for Israeli Jews, fits that description.

With the exception of a handful of mixed schools, schools in Israel serve Jewish Israelis and Palestinians separately. This separation is within secular government-funded schools, not just the religious schools.

Discrimination in East Jerusalem

Because East Jerusalem has been illegally annexed by Israel since 1967, the educational situation for Palestinians there is in a bizarre category of its own.

Separation and unequal funding policies governing the education sector in East Jerusalem are designed to maintain the economic gap between the Jewish (largely settler) population and Palestinians there. The infrastructure is pitiful, creating unsuitable conditions for learning, which must sometimes be conducted in rented houses or apartments, and frequently lacking in equipment and specialized rooms such as science labs.

The al-Tur neighborhood is an especially disturbing example.

The neighborhood is densely populated and the land reserve on its western edge, which had been zoned for a Palestinian girls’ school, was bought in the early 1990s by Irving Moskowitz, a wealthy American businessman whose “philanthropy” seeks to create a Jewish majority in East Jerusalem. Today, a yeshiva (Jewish religious school) stands there, as well as Beit Orot, the first Israeli settlement to be built in the heart of a Palestinian neighborhood of East Jerusalem.

The neighborhood’s remaining land reserve has been zoned by the Israeli-controlled Jerusalem municipality for a nature reserve and national park.

Only half of Palestinian children in Jerusalem were enrolled in the public school system, a study conducted in 2010-2011 found. Meanwhile, costly private schools are largely unsupervised and often fail to provide basic learning conditions. Palestinian children have limited opportunities of going on to study in Israeli universities or to obtain jobs with decent pay.

The Israeli government recognizes only one politicized curriculum — its own Zionist one.
This curriculum uses Zionist terminology to describe geographic areas in Palestine, like Judea and Samaria for the West Bank and Temple Mount for Haram al-Sharif, the compound that houses al-Aqsa mosque.

The Jerusalem municipality has offered a financial incentive of $550 per student to Palestinian schools in East Jerusalem not under its control — including Christian schools — to follow the Israeli curriculum, The New York Times reported last year.

The paper added that Israel revised the Palestinian Authority textbooks used by more than 32,000 Palestinian children who study under Israeli control, taking out, in a third-grade history textbook, for example, large sections of text and several images, including the Palestinian flag, text from the Quran, and information about the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Education must be empowering, enriching, liberating. Yet the Israeli government is using discriminatory funding and red tape to deny Palestinians this basic right.

Parents, teachers and human rights activists must stand up to this latest attempt at cultural genocide, and hold Israel accountable for its violation of the right of Palestinian children to learn their own history.

One strategy to hold Israel accountable is heeding the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions until Israel respects the right of Palestinians to equality, dignity and sovereignty. Otherwise, Israel’s education system will remain one in which the indigenous people of Palestine are required to learn the Zionist rationales for the racism inflicted on them.

Nada Elia and Rima Najjar are members of the steering collective of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI).

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