Denying Palestinian Children Education – by Stephen Lendman
In July 2011, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) issued a new report titled, “Education Denied: Israel’s Systematic Violation of Palestinian Children’s Right to Education,” even though it’s a fundamental human right.
It involves progressively developing children as individuals and responsible citizens. It’s key in helping them “raise their standard of living, and (be able to further their) economic, social and cultural development and growth of society.”
PCHR’s report addresses Israeli policies that affect primary education achievement for all Palestinians by 2015.
International law recognizes the right to education for everyone, including Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) stating:
“The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to education….(It) shall enable all persons to participate effectively in a free society, promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations and all racial, ethnic or religious groups,” as well as advance activities for peace.
Fourth Geneva’s Article 50 states:
“The Occupying Power shall, with the cooperation of the national and local authorities, facilitate the proper working of all institutions devoted to the education of children.”
The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) calls it an indispensable human right, essential to include the following features:
— Availability in proper, well-functioning, educational institutions;
— Accessibility to everyone without discrimination or unaffordability;
— Acceptability in terms of substance and quality; and
— Adaptability to reflect the needs of changing societies.
“The best interests of (students) must always be the primary consideration.”
Various other core international law provisions affirm that “basic learning needs of all children….be satisfied.” Primary responsibility falls on State Parties, obligated to respect, protect, and fulfill “positive measures to enable and assist individuals and communities to enjoy the right to education.”
As an occupying power, Israel is obligated by law to provide and encourage proper education for everyone. Nonetheless, it systematically denies Palestinian children the right to primary (and secondary) education. Its quality and accessibility are hampered by:
— military operations;
— physical safety issues;
— home demolitions and forced displacements;
— school overcrowding;
— too few facilities;
— many in disrepair;
— lack of teaching materials; and
— deteriorating children’s mental health, living in a violent environment.
In addition, basic rights for all besieged Gazans are denied or severely restricted, including for school children to be properly educated. Earlier from 2000 – 2004, Israeli attacks destroyed 73 educational institutions. During Cast Lead, public and private schools were deliberately targeted, damaged or destroyed.
Afterwards, Israel banned construction materials to prevent rebuilding, a policy still largely in force. As a result, “82 per cent of (damaged) Gaza schools (haven’t) been repaired due to the lack of reconstruction materials.” As a result, quality and accessibility of education to all students have been severely compromised.
Frequent Israeli incursions also jeopardize children’s safety. Moreover, they and schools are “consistently targeted by Israeli forces….Instances of killing and wounding of children at school have been recorded,” as well as educational facilities closed following military attacks.
In fact, schools in Gaza’s “buffer zone” near Israel face frequent sniper and other attacks, targeting Palestinians (including children) in so-called restricted areas. In 2010, five children were killed, another 44 wounded. As of April 2011, three children were killed, another 10 injured.
As a result, trauma, anxiety, and lack of concentration affect student performance, worried more about safety than learning. Isolation, an electricity crisis, unsafe water, and lack of basic necessities exacerbate conditions further.
East Jerusalem also faces a chronic classroom shortage at all levels. As a result, a February 8, 2010 memo from Deputy Attorney General Yehudit Karp to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said Israel’s failure to fulfill its legal obligations causes “disastrous consequences for the education system in East Jerusalem.”
Overall, around 5,300 students aren’t enrolled in any educational institution. Israel has done nothing to alleviate the problem or reduce the high dropout rate, “notably in the post-elementary educational cycle.”
West Bank performance also is unsatisfactory. In 2009, PA Ministry of Education and Higher Education standardized tests showed:
— only 43% of fourth-graders passed math;
— 66.7% passed Arabic; and
— 45.8% passed science.
PCHR noted that today’s tragic situation is easily reversed and preventable. Only the international community’s failure to hold Israel accountable prevents it. “This is not acceptable….Palestinian children’s fundamental right to education (must be) ensured, and their future(s) protected.”
A Final Comment
A new B’Tselem report titled, “No Minor Matter: Violation of the Rights of Palestinian Minors by Israel on Suspicion of Stone-Throwing” discusses another issue affecting hundreds of persecuted children.
From 2005 through 2010, “at least 835 Palestinian minors were arrested and tried in military courts – not for vandalism, arson, robbery, rape or murder, for alleged stone-throwing. Thirty-four were aged 12 – 13, 255 aged 14 – 15, and 546 aged 16 -17.
All except one were convicted. Due process and judicial fairness are nonstarters. Children are illegally treated like adults in violation of international law, including:
Article 37(b) of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) stating:
“The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child…shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.”
However, Israeli military orders systematically violate international law provisions, norms and standards, operating extrajudicially with regard to arrests, interrogations, detentions, treatment, family member visitation rights, and legal representation, even for minors aged 10 or younger.
Even though Israel established a West Bank Military Youth Court in November 2009, serious violations of children’s rights continue.
B’Tselem interviewed 50 minors for its report, obtaining information from their arrest to release. Numerous rights violations were revealed, including:
— soldiers arrested 30 minors at home in the middle of the night;
— parents weren’t allowed to accompany them or know details of their detention;
— three were interrogated the same night; 19 the next morning; three that afternoon; and two five days later;
— only three got enough sleep prior to questioning; five said soldiers woke them if they dozed off;
— 19 said they were threatened and treated violently;
— 23 were denied basic functions, including going to the bathroom, eating and drinking;
— most children arrested were detained without bail until proceedings against them concluded; as a result, most (like adults) accept a plea bargain, pleading guilty to lesser charges (whether or not culpable for any) for shorter sentences; otherwise, they could be kept in jails or prison for long periods pre-trial, exacting a terrible toll;
— military courts impose incarceration in lieu of alternative punishments, in violation of international law.
In fact, 93% of minors convicted of stone-throwing were imprisoned for a few days to 20 months. Nineteen were 13 or younger even though Israeli law prohibits incarceration of children under age 14. Their only relief was shorter sentences when, in fact, stone-throwing, at most, is a misdemeanor, warranting nothing more than a reprimand, regardless of age.
Israel, however, convicted them lawlessly for being Muslims in a Jewish state. Most were denied family visitations, telephone privileges, and availability of educational services other than a few subjects inadequately, denying their ability to learn and be promoted.
Few Israeli officials involved in security and judicial procedures called for reforming brazen practices, infringing the rights of minors, even though Israel is obligated under international law to do so.
In fact, Principle 1 of the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child states:
“Every child, without exception whatsoever, shall be entitled to (fundamental human and civil) rights, without distinction or discrimination on account of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, whether of himself or of his (or her) family.”
Israel, however, spurns all international laws, norms and standards, doing what it damn pleases extrajudicially because world leaders don’t hold it accountable. As a result, Palestinians chafe grievously under the yoke of its repression.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.