Palestinians protest over East Jerusalem school merger

Palestinians protest over East Jerusalem school merger
Palestinians shout slogans during a demonstration against Israel at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem. (AFP/File)
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Updated 25 February 2023

Palestinians protest over East Jerusalem school merger

Palestinians protest over East Jerusalem school merger
  • Israeli authorities seeking absolute control of education in Old City, key activist tells Arab News

RAMALLAH: Dozens of Palestinian parents staged protests in East Jerusalem on Saturday over plans by Israeli authorities to merge two schools in the Old City.

Parents joined protests at the Omariya and Mawlawi schools to speak out against what they said was an unjust and dangerous decision that might lead to an emptying of schools in the Old City.

Jerusalemite activist Ahmed Al-Safadi said the Israeli move is designed to turn the Al-Qadisiyah school building near Bab Al-Sahira into a school for settlers.

Al-Safadi, a member of the National Action Committee in Jerusalem, said that Israeli authorities’ fierce attack on schools in Jerusalem must be stopped.

Jerusalemites have condemned Israeli education proposals as “racist.”

Israeli authorities have threatened to withdraw the licenses of some schools and forced principals to sign a petition obliging them not to teach the Palestinian curriculum.

Abu Ziyad, a lawyer, writer and former minister of Jerusalem affairs in the Palestinian government, told Arab News: “If the goal of the Israelis is to control the Omariya school, then it is an ancient building and an Islamic Awaqaf, and it forms one of the borders of Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

It is possible to control the northern squares of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock through this step, he said.

“But if their goal is to control the Mawlawi school in the heart of the Al-Saadya neighborhood to build a settlement outpost inside the Old City, then it will be a terrible matter,” he said.

“What is happening against these two schools is not only targeting education in East Jerusalem but behind it lies a much larger settlement agenda than that.”

Imad Muna, a prominent Jerusalemite activist, told Arab News that Israeli authorities want to have absolute control of education in East Jerusalem.

Muna said that targeting the quality of education in the east of the city had led to large numbers of students dropping out of school and joining the Israeli labor market.

Jerusalemites claim that the Israeli authorities are seeking to “erase Palestinian memory and history” by distorting the Palestinian curriculum and replacing it with an Israeli version.

Almost 350,000 Palestinian citizens living in East Jerusalem hold Israeli identity, but Israel considers them residents and not citizens.

Last July, Israeli authorities revoked the licenses of six schools in East Jerusalem which teach more than 2,000 students. 

Authorities claimed the schools were “teaching content that incites against the state of Israel in textbooks.” 

In the 2019-2020 academic year, the number of schools teaching the Israeli curriculum in whole or in part in Jerusalem rose to 50, with 8,300 students.

Parents of students reject any Israeli interference in education in Jerusalem.

“Education is of great interest to Jerusalemites, and they consider it an essential and important issue because part of our conflict with the Israeli occupation is a civilizational conflict based on science,” Muna told Arab News.