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Israeli forces target Palestinian schools, teachers in East Jerusalem and Hebron

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Israeli police forces entered Zahwat al-Quds school in occupied East Jerusalem on Monday, arresting the principal of the school as well as three teachers in front of students, before closing down the school and instructing parents to find alternative facilities for their children, according to Palestinian official media, Wafa.

The events in East Jerusalem came one day after Israeli forces detained several teachers in the southern Hebron Hills on their walk to school, again in the presence of their students.

Mondoweiss reached out to both the Israeli army about the Hebron incident and Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld about the East Jerusalem incident, but neither immediately responded for comment.

It is unclear under what grounds Israeli forces decided to close the East Jerusalem school, but on Tuesday, parents, teachers and student staged a protest in front of the school grounds demanding the facilities be reopened.

While the East Jerusalem school was initially registered and permitted under Israeli authorities, the permit was revoked last year, since the school administration refused to enforce Israeli curriculum, which for example, forbids teaching students about the 1948 Nakba. The Wafa statement said the Israeli municipality of West Jerusalem, had long been “using financial enticement and coercion” in order to “enforce Israeli curriculum on Palestinian schools in East Jerusalem,” which was rejected by the administrations, leading Israel to refuse to officially recognize the school.

The school has instead been administered with a permit to operate under the Islamic Waqf department, a Jordanian authority that mostly overseas Muslim religious sites in East Jerusalem, but also administers schools for about a quarter of East Jerusalem’s students.

The school is one of many Palestinian educational institutions in the same situation; why Zahwat al-Quds school was specifically targeted is still unknown.

Physiological effects of violence

A local social worker from the occupied West Bank who works with children traumatized by Israeli forces spoke to Mondoweiss about the recent targeting of teachers, but asked to remain anonymous for his and his pupil’s safety.

The social workers said he was concerned by the news of schools being closed, but was specifically worried about how the events would affect the students and their psychological health.

He explained that Palestinian children in particular are in dire need of “safe spaces.” Since Palestinian homes and neighborhoods are subjected to frequent night raids, schools are usually one of the sole places where children are confident in their safety, he said.

Arresting teachers in front of their pupil’s is also worrying, he explained, as teachers are seen as “good models.” Taking into account that 40 percent of the male population in the occupied West Bank has spent some time in Israeli prisons, Palestinian children are well aware that parents, siblings and other family members, particularly males, are at easy risk for arrest, but teachers are often seen by children as a source of stability in their lives.

“When we talk to children about safe spaces, kids always mention that school and the classroom is a safe place for them, so now imagine that these kids are so worried in their daily lives, and dealing with these big fears, and the one place they thought was safe comes under attack,” he said. “Now you end up in a situation where they are fearful all the time, they have no feeling of safety, instead they feel they are always at risk.”

Because of the taboo on mental health care throughout the Middle East, and the normalization of violence after decades of occupation, Palestinian children may not have a healthy outlet for expressing those fear at home. Usually schools keep an eye out for larger symptoms of trauma, but without the feeling of safety surrounding them at school, they are less likely to open up, he explained.

“Children should be able to feel that their families can protect them — parents especially should be a source of power and safety, but it is not the case because children see and hear and understand that their parents have no power against being arrested for no reason, and now the teachers and the school can’t save them either — that’s how they will feel,” he said. “I think it’s safe to say that the children who experienced soldiers and police taking away their teachers, on top of everything else, could definitely start to show symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.”

“Children have wonderful imaginations, and these images of violence don’t just go away, they come out in nightmares, in extreme reactions to minor things, general acting out and behavior problems, being aggressive, being afraid all the time, things like that” he said.

Even if, under the unlikely circumstances that one of the students had not been subjected to witnessing violence through the occupation before, they are still vulnerable, the social worker explained.

“Let us say these incidents at the school were the first, lets say, psychological pressure that they’ve dealt with, that doesn’t mean that they can handle it. It can still affect their balance, but to be honest most likely it is not the first instance of violence they have experienced, Palestinian children see this kind of stuff in their society constantly, through invasions, through night raids, et cetra, but really not in school. Just that one instance of seeing their teacher arrested and seeing police close down their school can be a great shock that has long lasting effects.”

Sheren Khalel

Sheren Khalel is a freelance multimedia journalist who works out of Israel, Palestine and Jordan. She focuses on human rights, women's issues and the Palestine/Israel conflict. Khalel formerly worked for Ma'an News Agency in Bethlehem, and is currently based in Ramallah and Jerusalem. You can follow her on Twitter at @Sherenk.

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17 Responses

  1. amigo on November 8, 2017, 1:40 pm

    Where are you jacko.We need you to clarify this for us, as in ,put your zionist spin on it and claim it was because a few Palestinians “allegedly ” attacked some israeli soldiers some 65 years ago.

    Maybe you can explain to us , why the Naqba should not be taught to Palestinian children .It is their history.Do you agree with the GOI on this.

    • Nathan on November 9, 2017, 7:44 am

      amigo – You don’t have to assume that everything written in the newspapers is true. The Mondoweiss website is surely a very interesting newspaper, but it does have an obvious anti-Israel bias (as you might have noticed). Anyway, the Palestinian children go to schools in their own language, and their teachers are Palestinians as well. So, you can relax and take for granted that they learn about their own history (including the nakba). They also learn about the Jews (ancient and modern) from the Palestinian point of view.

      • Marnie on November 9, 2017, 8:26 am

        Where’s your proof and reportage? Why should anyone believe anything you post? You almost had it perfect though, maybe you should have ended your post with ‘believe me’.

      • amigo on November 9, 2017, 9:26 am

        “Anyway, the Palestinian children go to schools in their own language, and their teachers are Palestinians as well. So, you can relax and take for granted that they learn about their own history (including the nakba). “Nathan.

        Really ??.

        1948 no catastrophe says Israel, as term nakba banned from Arab children’s textbooks

        Ian Black, Middle East editor
        Wednesday 22 July 2009 19.48 BST First published on Wednesday 22 July 2009 19.48 BST

        “Israel’s education ministry has ordered the removal of the word nakba – Arabic for the “catastrophe” of the 1948 war – from a school textbook for young Arab children, it has been announced.

        The decision – which will alter books aimed at eight- and nine-year-old Arab pupils – will be seen as a blunt assertion by Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud-led government of Israel’s historical narrative over the Palestinian one.

        The term nakba has a similar resonance for Palestinians as the Hebrew word shoah – normally used to describe the Nazi Holocaust – does for Israelis and Jews. Its inclusion in a book for the children of Arabs, who make up about a fifth of the Israeli population, drives at the heart of a polarised debate over what Israelis call their “war of independence”: the 1948 conflict which secured the Jewish state after the British left Palestine, and led to the flight of 700,000 Palestinians, most of whom became refugees.

        Netanyahu spoke for many Jewish Israelis two years ago when he argued that using the word nakba in Arab schools was tantamount to spreading propaganda against Israel.”

        Sure this site has an anti Israel bias .Israel has worked hard to earn that bias in it,s 70 years plus breaking international law and land theft not to mention the slaughter of thousands of Palestinian , Men Women and Children .

        You think we should give Israel a pass because it is the so called Jewish State. Wouldn,t that be antisemitic.

        Your problem is you don,t believe what you read unless it supports the rogue entities narrative.

      • Misterioso on November 9, 2017, 10:27 am

        Keep it up Nathan. With supporters like you, Israel needs no critics.

      • Nathan on November 9, 2017, 11:21 am

        amigo – It really isn’t very complicated. Try to find a Palestinian, and then sit down and have a little conversation with him. You can ask him straight to the point: “When you went to school, did you learn about the nakba?” It’s a good habit to read the newspapers, but one has to be just a bit skeptical by nature. You can try just a little journalistic investigation of your own. Anyway, you’ll notice when speaking with Palestinians that they generally agree about their national narrative in all its details and terminology. Of course they discuss it in school.

      • amigo on November 9, 2017, 1:21 pm

        “It’s a good habit to read the newspapers, but one has to be just a bit skeptical by nature. “Nathan

        Indeed , but one should not be selectively skeptical.You have already rung that bell.

        You can try just a little journalistic investigation of your own. ”

        I did , in my reply and gave you three links .Open them and read them .

        It,s an ill cook who wont lick his own fingers.

        Shakespeare—Romeo and Juliet.

        “Try to find a Palestinian, and then sit down and have a little conversation with him.” Nathan

        Mind if I ask a Palestinian , “Her”.They go to school also.

        ““When you went to school, did you learn about the nakba?”Nathan.

        Save you patronising zio crap for someone else pal.

      • Mooser on November 9, 2017, 6:59 pm

        “The Mondoweiss website is surely a very interesting newspaper, but it does have an obvious anti-Israel bias (as you might have noticed).”“Nathan”

        “Nathan”, that is not what it says on the “About” page.

        Are you saying Mondoweiss is operating in violation of its “About” page? That is a serious accusation. Can you supply any corroboration for this charge? Do you have so much as a scintilla of evidence?

      • Nathan on November 10, 2017, 2:42 am

        Mooser – Are you actually denying the observation that Mondoweiss has an obvious anti-Israel bias? You are asking for proof, but I couldn’t help but noticing that you didn’t actually say that it’s not true.

      • Mooser on November 10, 2017, 11:34 am

        “Are you actually denying the observation that Mondoweiss has an obvious anti-Israel bias?”

        Yes. Mondo has a great compassion for, and seeks to promote a better understanding of the situation in Palestine. And has no animus towards Israel. Unless you want to say that observation of Israel is “an obvious anti-Israel bias”.

    • Lillian Rosengarten on November 9, 2017, 11:31 am

      Amazing some of the comments harsh and uninformed.

      I want to mention the Gaza Mental Health Center has done amazing work with severely traumatized children who suffer thru endless horrors. Despite the beastly occupation, Palestinians are resourceful and proud people who have endured the most brutal agenda of ethnic cleansing. We don’t need any more Zionist spin nor their psychotic illusions of a Palestinian free Jewish State .

  2. Citizen on November 8, 2017, 2:25 pm

    Imagine uproar in US main media if US government forces closed down education in public schools about history of native Americans…

    • Marnie on November 9, 2017, 12:23 am

      They did that very thing to newly emancipated African Americans, burning schools and churches all the way up to the 1960s.

      There was no uproar in the US when Native American children were sent to ‘American’ schools, forbidden to speak their languages, worship as they were taught by parents, wear their clothing or keep their braids.

      I was thinking that what the US and israel have in common is “the Cause”. The south lost the civil war, but has been fighting it in one fashion or another ever since because of their claim to a specific heritage, one so singularly special that it must be defended constantly from the dangers of miscegination and a polluting of their special blood. It means a constant struggle. It’s the same thing with zionism I think. No wonder the US and Israel have what’s been called an unshakable bond.

      • Marnie on November 9, 2017, 8:27 am

        Wait a sec – does the us/israel have an unshakable bond or unspeakable?

  3. JosephA on November 8, 2017, 6:48 pm

    This is another sad story which essentially highlights the glib arrogance of the Israelis with their intentional, flagrant violations of human rights and international law.

  4. Maghlawatan on November 11, 2017, 4:30 pm

    Louïs CK’s press release yesterday was about power and impunity. It reminded me of Israel. It too will get its comeuppance.

    “”I also took advantage of the fact that I was widely admired in my and their community, which disabled them from sharing their story and brought hardship to them when they tried because people who look up to me didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t think that I was doing any of that because my position allowed me not to think about it.”

    “I wish I had reacted to their admiration of me by being a good example to them as a man”

    Zionism doesn’t just suck because it is so miserable. It also sucks because it is a debasement of a great religion

    • Mooser on November 11, 2017, 6:33 pm

      ” It also sucks because it is a debasement of a great religion”

      Well, you’ve got your “great religions” like Judaism (great because of numbers, universal application, ease of conversion, clarity, unity. And so many things.) and the other well, not-so-great religions. Which ones are they?

      You don’t maybe all religions are just about as “great” as each other?

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