Ramallah Friends School, where Nour Joudah taught until the Israeli version of BDS sanctioned her, used to be an international school until 1967, when Israel took control of the West Bank and made it difficult for international students to attend. Even so, it has preserved its international outlook. The students complete a rigorous International Baccalaureate (IB) degree in English in their last two years.
The United World Colleges is an umbrella organization encompassing 12 schools around the world, including Waterford Kamhlaba in Swaziland, where my son attended for two years, and where many children of African National Congress leaders went to escape apartheid. All UWC schools also offer the International Baccalaureate curriculum.
So when I first learned about the Joudah affair, I immediately thought how perfect a match Ramallah Friends School would be for the UWC program. A few weeks later, I was shocked to learn from some UWC alumni that an Israeli school, the Eastern Mediterranean United World College (EMUWC), has applied for membership in UWC.
The alums have circulated a petition urging UWC’s International Board to reject the EMUWC application. From that petition:
As the citizens of the world that UWC has taught us to be, we are distressed that the UWC movement should choose to accredit a school which will serve to perturb, rather than promote, a just peace settlement in the region; to conceal the Israeli policies of aggression and violent dispossession, rather than work for their immediate cessation. The EMUWC project, funded partially by the Israeli government and partially by political foundations, is intended to divert attention from Israeli violations of international law which take place daily only twenty kilometers from the planned site of the school. The initiative aims to improve Israel’s image in the world through its association with the UWC movement as part of a larger effort to re-brand Israel, and shields Israel’s continued negligence of its obligations under international law.
Many of us have been at college when our Palestinian colleagues’ families and friends came under attack; when their relatives were killed, maimed, arrested, prevented from accessing their land or reaching educational and health institutions, and discriminated in their own country as citizens of Israel. We are deeply disturbed that our UWC values will be used as a means to continue these atrocities, as an excuse to ignore the pleas from the international community to solve what our President, Mr. Nelson Mandela, has called “the greatest moral issue of our times.”
I’ve pasted the picture from EMUWC’s brochure at the top, but I haven’t been able to learn much substantial about the school. Maybe its leaders are people of good will. But it says it’s getting support from the Israeli Ministry of Education, and in any case international recognition of a school in Israel would play into Israel’s campaign to legitimize itself, regardless of how many keffiyehs they include in their promotional literature.