Organizations in the Faith Forum on Middle East Policy send out action alerts monthly, focusing on different issues so that members of Congress hear consistently that their constituents support a just and lasting resolution to the Palestinian and Israeli conflict.
Freshly sharpened pencils, colorful paper cutouts decorating fall bulletin boards, neat rows of desks and chairs—these things come to mind when thinking of children eagerly anticipating the start of a new school year.
Many Palestinian children, however, faced a very different scene as they returned to school. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) reported that three schools in the West Bank, “have been demolished or damaged by Israeli authorities in less than two weeks, just when children were meant to return to school from summer holidays.”
Children in the Bedouin community of Jabal Al Baba lost their only kindergarten; a primary school was demolished in Jubbet Al Dhib; and solar panels that powered a primary school in Abu Nuwar were confiscated.
TAKE ACTION: Click here to ask your Members of Congress to urge the State Department to firmly appeal to the Israeli government to stop demolishing Palestinian property. Ask them to insist that U.S. military aid be conditioned on Israel’s compliance with U.S. law and policy, including respect for human rights.
“It was heart breaking to see children and their teachers turning up for their first day of school under the blazing sun, with no classrooms or anywhere to seek shelter in, while in the immediate vicinity the work to expand illegal settlements goes on uninterrupted,” said Itay Epshtain of NRC, after visiting Jubbet Al Dhib.
The NRC also reports that “some 55 schools in the West Bank are threatened with demolition and ‘stop-work’ orders by Israeli authorities,” and explains, “Israel denies the majority of Palestinian planning permit requests in Area C, thereby leaving Palestinians with no option but to reconstruct and develop without permits.”
Palestinians face similar threats of demolition to their homes and property. In a recent two-week period, demolitions resulted in the displacement of four people, including three children, according to a UN report. And more recently, Israeli authorities demolished a home in Silwan, in East Jerusalem, and homes and other structures near Jericho.
As demolitions continue unchecked, the threats become even more extreme. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman reportedly said that the defense ministry was “preparing for the evacuation of Palestinian communities built without authorization,” and that “work was being done to implement plans to evacuate the Palestinian villages of Sussia in the South Hebron Hills and Khan al-Ahmar near Ma’aleh Adumim within a few months.”
In response, the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem sent a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu and other Israeli officials calling on them to “refrain from the human rights violations that will result from demolishing these communities,” and warning that “these actions would constitute a war crime committed at your instruction and under your responsibility, and for which you would bear personal liability.”
Demolitions, and the threat of demolition, cause untold suffering for Palestinians and undermine the prospects of a just and lasting peace for all.
For more information:
“Destruction of Property,” UN OCHA oPt.
“Israel demolishes schools for Palestinians, citing lack of permits,” CNN, Aug. 29, 2017
“When the walls of your home come crumbling down,” +972 Blog, Sept. 13, 2017
September 17-24, 2017 is the World Week of Peace in Palestine and Israel, sponsored by the World Council of Churches. For information and resources, click here.