Palestinian judiciary and executive clash after arrest in Nablus court

A Palestinian protester carries a burning tire during clashes with Israeli forces following a demonstration on Friday against the expropriation of Palestinian land by Israel in the village of Kfar Qaddum, near Nablus in the occupied West Bank. (AFP)
Updated 10 November 2017
0

Palestinian judiciary and executive clash after arrest in Nablus court

AMMAN: A constitutional crisis between the executive and judicial branches of government is developing in the Palestinian territories after the violent arrest of a lawyer inside a Nablus court this week.
Palestinian intelligence service officers dressed in civilian clothing broke into the Nablus Court of First Instance at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, arrested advocate Mohammed Hussein and beat him in front of lawyers, judges and the court police.
The government claims that the arrest was made outside the court.
Advocate Azzam Hashlamon, legal adviser to the Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, told Arab News that video evidence showed that the arrest was made inside the courthouse. “This is a clear violation of the independence of the judiciary and the principles of the rule of law.”
The arrest followed a protest march last week in the village of Deir Al-Hatab in the Nablus district against plans to build a sewage treatment plant within the village’s boundaries. Protesters are accused of damaging public property.
Advocate Hussein, representing the village council, had submitted a suit against the building of the plant.
The government of Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah accused the lawyer of inciting against the plant.
Hashlamon told Arab News that the plant will be funded with a grant of $40 million from the German government.
Hussein was taken to a prison in Jericho but the Bar Association, along with other civil society organizations, called on fellow lawyers to a protest outside the offices of the prime minister in Ramallah on Thursday. The Judicial Council, the attorney general’s office and the consortium of human rights organizations all issued statements condemning the extra-judicial actions inside the court house.
Izzat Ramini, a judge from Nablus who participated in the protest on Thursday, called on President Mahmoud Abbas to intervene. “The court’s jurisdiction was violated and a lawyer’s rights were trampled on, this is a violation of the basic law,” he said to a crowd of jurists made up of lawyers, judges, staff from the attorney general’s office and human rights activists.
Aziz Abu Hamad, deputy attorney general, said that the attack violated the independence of the judiciary. “We call on President Abbas to set up an investigation committee to hold those responsible to account.”
Bassam Salhi, member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, also stated his support for the judiciary.
Majed Arruri, a legal affairs expert based in Ramallah, told Arab News that what had happened was a clear breach of the rule of law. “It is a retraction of the rule of law and represents the priority of security control in the absence of the law.”
The head of the Palestinian Bar Association, Jawwad Obeidat, who had helped to organize the protest, called for the resignation of the prime minister, saying that he made the order acting as minister of the interior.
Obeidat said that the attorney general had decided at 10:30 on Wednesday morning not to detain the accused lawyer because the charge against him was not serious. The judge let him continue his work at the courthouse in Nablus, Obeidat told the protesters and the attending press.
“One hour later civilian-dressed security barged in to the courthouse and beat and arrested our colleague.”
The Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq issued a statement corroborating what the head of the Bar Association had said — that the arrest and beatings took place inside the courthouse.
Obeidat said that what had happened was a crime against the entire judicial system: Lawyers, judges and the attorney general’s office.
“We call on Maj. Gen. Hazem Atallah, the director general of the Palestinian police, to open an investigation into the failure of the judicial police to protect everyone inside the walls of the courthouse.”
Following the jurist protests, Mohammed Mansour, the director general of the Palestinian Ministry of Interior, issued a statement saying that “the independence of the legal branch is guaranteed” and that the prime minister has ordered an investigation into the accusations.
He said “that the role of the judiciary and the court sanctity must be respected.”


Palestinian schools strive to modernize classrooms

Updated 19 September 2018
0

Palestinian schools strive to modernize classrooms

  • Schools in the Palestinian territories have traditionally emphasized memorization and obedience over critical thinking and creativity
  • Palestinian educators now hope the use of technology and the arts will create new opportunities in a society that has produced large numbers of unemployed college graduates

RAMALLAH: As the teacher pointed to the large touch screen, her first-grade classroom came alive. With the click of a link, an animated character popped up on the screen, singing and dancing as it taught the children how to read.
The day’s lesson was the Arabic letter “Raa,” and the screen displayed cartoon pictures of objects that contain the letter — desert, chair and pomegranate — as the teacher asked the children to come up with other words. The students smiled and sang along.
Just a few years ago, such scenes were unthinkable in most Palestinian classrooms. Like elsewhere in the Arab world, schools in the Palestinian territories have traditionally emphasized memorization and obedience over critical thinking and creativity.
With an eye to the future, some Palestinian educators now hope the use of technology and the arts will create new opportunities in a society that has produced large numbers of unemployed college graduates.
“The students don’t need to memorize things. They need to understand first,” said Ruba Dibas, the principal of the Ziad Abu Ein School in the West Bank city of Ramallah. “Then they need to express their understanding through writing, speaking, drawing, acting.”
Ziad Abu Ein is one of 54 “smart teaching schools” introduced last year. This year, the number tripled. By 2020, all 1,800 public schools in the West Bank are to be part of the program.
Dibas said the goal is to eliminate testing from the classroom. Instead, she said students need to enjoy the learning process to absorb information.
On a recent day, her school was buzzing with activity.
In a fifth-grade classroom, each child had a tablet and the teacher guided them through an Arabic lesson, using her own tablet to give assignments. Third-grade students went to the smart board, playing a game to learn the multiplication table.
In other classes, students drew cartoons to learn the physics of how airplanes fly. An English class did a project about evaporation.
Four third-graders recently learned about self-esteem in a lesson called “learning by drama.” They performed a short skit about a shy girl who discovers a passion for journalism and grows up to become a successful reporter.
Their teacher, Sawsan Abdat, said the children learned an important lesson that day — that they need to find what they are good at.
After initial skepticism from parents last year, enrollment at the school has nearly doubled. This year’s first grade has nearly tripled to 43 students.
“I love the school,” said Malak Samara, a 9-year-old fourth grader. “We learn and enjoy. We learn and play.”
These techniques are a radical departure from a system in which generations of students were forced to memorize information and cram for exams under the stern watch of an authoritarian teacher who in some cases would beat them with a stick if they could not complete their work.
But with the unemployment rate for new college graduates hitting 56 percent, according to the Palestinian Statistics Bureau, officials realized that something had to change.
Education Minister Sabri Seidam also introduced vocational training in grades seven, eight and nine last year to meet the needs of the market.
“Society needs singers, carpenters, cleaners, athletes, sergeants,” he said. “We can’t just produce engineers and doctors.”
Youth unemployment, particularly among university graduates, is a major problem across the Arab world. It was considered a driving force behind the Arab Spring revolutions that rocked the region in 2011.
Arab governments used to absorb new graduates, often in civil service jobs, but they can no longer afford to do that, in part because of the region’s “youth bulge.”
The private sector offers limited opportunities, leaving large numbers of young graduates unemployed throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
“There is no greater challenge facing the MENA region in its efforts to build a future based on inclusive growth than job creation,” the International Monetary Fund said in a report early this year. It noted that 60 percent of the region’s population is under 30, the world’s second-youngest after sub-Saharan Africa.
“Pressures on the region’s labor markets are rising. In the past five years, the region’s working-age population increased by 50.2 million, and 27.6 million people joined the labor force. Yet employment increased by only 25.4 million,” it said.
Others in the Mideast have tried to make similar changes. In Egypt, the largest Arab country, the Education Ministry this year is providing students with tablets, along with a new curriculum that enhances critical thinking.
The ministry said it is also trying to improve the level of instruction by increasing training and wages for teachers, building more classrooms and creating a more modern classroom through digital learning facilities. The government this year secured a $500 million loan from the World Bank to help fund the reforms.
For now, it appears too soon to say whether the reforms can make a difference.
The region’s authoritarian governments might encourage education reforms as an economic necessity but could balk in the future at efforts to nurture a new generation versed in critical thinking. In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, governments in the region have increasingly stifled expression.
Schools across the Arab world face other obstacles as well. A 2015 study by the UN culture and education agency UNESCO talked about chronic underfunding, a lack of qualified teachers and increased class sizes throughout the region.
Syrian schools have been devastated by a seven-year civil war, while many schools in neighboring Lebanon have been overwhelmed by Syrian refugees. US cuts in funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees have jeopardized the school year for some 500,000 students, most of them in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. And Israel’s half-century occupation of the West Bank, along with a decade-long blockade over Gaza, continues to stifle the Palestinian economy.
“Education in the Arab world is in a very bad condition. The salaries of teachers are very poor, the classes are overcrowded, and schools lack the essential infrastructure,” said Saeda Affouneh, director of the E-Learning Center at Al-Najah University in the West Bank.
She praised the changes taking place in Palestinian schools.
“But this new system faces real challenges in the Palestinian schools,” she warned. “They need to train the teachers and to provide the proper resources.”