AMMAN: Palestinian parents and students succeeded in closing most schools in East Jerusalem on Monday in protest at attempts by the Israeli Ministry of Education to force them to accept a censored version of the Palestinian curriculum.
Some 152 schools did not open because students failed to turn up.
The decision to launch the city-wide stayaway was taken by parent-led committees. This was meant to prevent school administrations from having to choose to do so and potentially suffer a major loss of funding.
The call to action was taken at a meeting of parents on Aug. 23 at the largest of six schools targeted by Israel that had rejected the curriculum changes.
Ironically, the strike included schools run by the Israel municipality and those that teach the Israeli “bagrut” or matriculation curriculum.
The “sanitized” curriculum that Israel is imposing on East Jerusalem’s schools includes the deletion of all photos of Al-Aqsa Mosque, the word Palestine and the Palestinian flag.
Holy Qur’anic verses are also deleted on claims that they help strengthen Palestinian, Arab and Islamic identities.
Israel had initially warned six schools to accept the sanitized version of the Palestinian curriculum or face closure.
Concern spread to all schools including private, Islamic Waqf, UNRWA, and Christian church schools.
Israeli Minister of Education Yifat Shasha-Biton had sent warning letters on July 28 threatening to rescind the permanent operating licenses of the six Palestinian schools in East Jerusalem.
The minister had argued that the Palestinian government curriculum contains “dangerous incitement” against the Israeli government and army.
The schools were given one year to change the curriculum or face permanent closure.
The schools teaching the Palestinian curriculum and targeted by the decision are Ibrahimieh College and five schools run by the Al-Eman Schools organization.
Together, the schools have around 2,000 male and female pupils.
Parents at the six schools, and others, began distributing the original Palestinian books that were not changed by Israeli censors.
The stayaway brings back memories of September 1967 when Israel tried unsuccessfully to impose the Israeli curriculum on East Jerusalem schools. In the face of protests, Israel backed down and allowed the use of the Jordanian curriculum, which has since the Oslo Accords been replaced by the Palestinian curriculum.
The curriculum targets the high school tawjihi national examination in Jerusalem and the occupied territories, which is critical for acceptance to Palestinian and Arab universities.
Overall, the education system in Jerusalem continues to reflect the dichotomy faced by all Palestinians living in Jerusalem.
After the Oslo Accords, the 330,000 Arab Palestinians in Jerusalem were not allowed to hold Palestinian passports or have contact with the Ramallah government while being considered permanent residents in Israel. This came as a result of Israel’s unilateral annexation of Jerusalem.
Palestinian Jerusalemites insist that without an elected leadership they will continue to face this dichotomy, which will ultimately damage the education and job prospects of students.