By Liyan Eid
JERUSALEM, Monday, September 19, 2022 (WAFA) - Some 150 Palestinian schools in occupied East Jerusalem have today closed their doors to protest attempts by the Israeli occupation government to impose the Israeli curriculum or parts of it as an alternative to the Palestinian curriculum in what educators and parents fear is an attempt to distort and obliterate what their children learn about their history, society and political narrative.
About 100,000 students refrained from going to their schools today in compliance with the strike, a warning step after the Israeli government began taking punitive measures against schools in order to force them to drop the Palestinian narrative from the curricula they teach and to include the Israeli narrative only, which many see as a distortion of facts and realities, or an attempt to brainwash the young students in favor of the Israeli occupier's story.
Parents’ committees organized two protests at Beit Hanina’s al-Eman school and in Silwan school in rejection of the Israeli attempt to distort the Palestinian curriculum and introduce the Israeli curriculum in Jerusalem schools.
“No to Israelization of education,” said one of the signs held by the protestors. “We will not accept the Israeli curriculum;” “We have the right to choose our children’s books;” “Yes to the Palestinian curriculum;” and, “No to the distorted curriculum” were some of the signs raised in the protests.
The head of the Union of Parents of Jerusalem Schools Students, Ziad Shamali, told WAFA that “the official and popular position in Jerusalem is to refuse to teach our students in Jerusalem the Israeli curriculum, or the distorted curriculum,” adding, "The message of the protests and the strike is clear: insistence on teaching the Palestinian curriculum in Jerusalem. This is a right guaranteed by international laws."
Speaking on behalf of the Palestinian Teachers Union in Jerusalem, Ahmad Safadi told WAFA that “the Jerusalem schools' strike had a clear message that says: no to the continuous assault on Palestinian awareness and identity.”
He said that the general national position is not to teach the students in Jerusalem the distorted and deformed curriculum that the occupation authorities are trying to impose on Jerusalem schools.
“The distorted curriculum is dangerous. It deletes all Palestinian symbols, such as the Palestinian flag, and distorts facts, such as using the name of the Temple Mount as a substitute for the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the celebration of Israel’s so-called Independence Day as an alternative to activities to commemorate the Palestinian Nakba (1948 catastrophe). This intends to poison the Palestinians' minds,” said Safadi.
"The occupation authorities are waging a relentless war against the Palestinian education in Jerusalem, a war focused on identity and narrative, not only by imposing the distorted curriculum, but also they used other tools, such as preventing the restoration of Jerusalem schools or opening new Palestinian schools, or even adding classes for existing schools,” he added.
Israel has not stopped its attempts to Israelize education in East Jerusalem, as part of its narrative war.
Ahed al-Risheq, a member of Fatah movement in Jerusalem, told WAFA that for years, the West Jerusalem Israeli municipality has been fighting education in the occupied part of the city with various tools in an effort to impose the Israeli curriculum.
"Today's strike is a warning step, and if the occupation does not go back on the imposition of the distorted curriculum, there will be several other strikes until there is an open-ended general strike in the schools,” he said.
Member of the Student Parents Committee in Isawiyya neighborhood, Mohammad Abu al-Hummus, told WAFA: "This strike is a step in the right direction in order to protect our students in a battle targeting their awareness."
Iyad Bashir, member of the Parents Committee of Jabal al-Mukabber schools, stressed to WAFA his rejection of the Israeli curriculum. “We will not accept a curriculum that distorts the Palestinian narrative and history,” he said. “It is a poison that the occupation wants to introduce into the minds of our children.”
Among the latest decisions targeting the Palestinian curriculum in Jerusalem was the decision of the so-called Israeli Ministry of Education, last July, to revoke the license of six schools in the occupied city and to grant them a temporary license for one year under the pretext of teaching “incitement in school books."
Other schools were warned of revoking their licenses in the event that specific Palestinian textbooks containing what it called inciting materials are found.
The attempt to Israelize the educational curriculum in the schools of occupied Jerusalem is not new. It started with the occupation of the rest of the city in 1967, which was then met with a Palestinian rejection and resistance that lasted for years, eventually forcing the occupation authorities to reverse this step in the 1974-1975 school year and allow the Jordanian curriculum to continue to be taught in Jerusalem schools since Jordan was ruling the West Bank before its occupation in 1967.
However, the occupation authorities did not close this file, and over the following years kept their eyes on the textbooks introduced by the Palestinian Authority, which assumed rule in parts of the West Bank and Gaza in 1994 following the signing of the Oslo Accords, and used as well in the Palestinian schools and by the students in Jerusalem and began a new round in this battle at the beginning of the millennium under the title "censorship of the Palestinian curriculum."