Occupied East Jerusalem – Palestinian schools in occupied East Jerusalem are observing a general strike to protest Israeli Jerusalem Municipality’s attempts to censor and edit Palestinian textbooks, as well as introduce an Israeli curriculum into classrooms.
Hundreds of schools closed on Monday morning – the latest in a string of recent moves in recent weeks led by parents, which have included protests and a refusal to teach Israeli-imposed textbooks.
In a joint press release on Sunday, the United Parents Committee and the Palestinian National and Islamic Forces in Jerusalem called for an all-out strike and called on international institutions to intervene to protect Palestinian education.
Journalists and residents shared dozens of images of empty classrooms and closed schools on Monday morning.
Ziad al-Shamali, 56, head of the parents’ committee union, told Al Jazeera that if Israel’s efforts are successful, it “will have control over the education of 90% of our students in Jerusalem”.
There are more than 280 Palestinian schools in Jerusalem, with some 115,000 students from kindergarten to grade 12, according to al-Shamali. He claimed that about 90-95% of schools were observing the strike.
Al-Shamali said Israel had been trying to impose a “distorted version of the Palestinian Authority (PA) curriculum” on private Palestinian schools since the start of the year.
“They do this under the pretext that they license private schools and give them funds,” said al-Shamali, who lives in the al-Tur neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem.
Existing municipal schools for Palestinians in the city have already started teaching the modified version of the PA curriculum, he continued, while new schools built by the municipality were obliged to teach the Israeli curriculum.
“What worries parents is that they are stuck between distorted Palestinian school curricula and Israeli school curricula,” al-Shamali said.
“There is an Israeliization of Palestinian education going on,” he continued, which had existed for 10 to 12 years but had intensified over the past three years.
“Now they are adding their own content like ‘Yossi is Mohammad’s neighbor’, about settlements, about coexistence,” al-Shamali said. “They played with the textbooks of Arabic, religion, history and all the national references”.
On Sunday evening, videos were shared on social media showing residents hanging up posters reading “general strike – yes to the Palestinian agenda, no to the distorted agenda.”
التزام كبير من طلبة المدارس في #القدس_المحتلة بالإضراب الشامل equalization pic.twitter.com/kflZnmosk3
— Ahmad Jaradat (@JaradatAhmad1) September 19, 2022
In July, Israeli authorities revoked the permanent licenses of six Palestinian schools in Jerusalem, saying their textbooks incited against the Israeli state and military. They were allowed to operate for a year if the program was changed.
The eastern half of Jerusalem was militarily occupied by Israel in 1967 and illegally annexed. Some 350,000 Palestinians currently live in occupied East Jerusalem, including 220,000 Israelis living in illegal settlements.
Today, 86 percent of occupied East Jerusalem is under the direct control of the Israeli government and settlers.
The annexation of East Jerusalem is not recognized by any country in the world except the United States because it violates international law which states that an occupying power has no sovereignty in the territory it occupies.
In 2009, the Jerusalem Municipality adopted a master plan intended to “guide and chart the development of the city in the coming decades”. The vision, as laid out in the plan, is to create a Jewish demographic majority, with Israeli Jews making up 70% of the city and Palestinians making up only 30%. This was later changed to a 60:40 ratio.
Al-Shamali said the parents’ committee planned to continue protesting or intensify its actions if its demands were not met or if the Israeli authorities began to forcefully impose the changed textbooks.
“It is likely that we will continue the strike and intensify it,” he said. “We will also continue our demonstrations in front of schools and we will call on international institutions to intervene.”