Around 150 Palestinian schools throughout East Jerusalem observed a general strike on Monday, protesting Israel’s Jerusalem municipality’s attempts to edit and censor Palestinian textbooks and introduce a pro-Israeli curriculum throughout classrooms.
Palestinian parents and educators fear this would obliterate and distort what their children are taught about society, history, and political narrative. They see this as distorting reality and facts, attempting only to teach the students the side of the story Israelis would have them learn.
Two protests were organized by parents’ committees, one at Beit Hania’s Silwan school and the other at al-Eman school. Parents waved signs at the protest, saying, “We have the right to choose our children’s books.” Others displayed the message, “Yes to the Palestinian curriculum” and “No to the distorted curriculum.”
In an interview with WAFA News Agency, Ziad Shamali, head of the Union of Parents of Jerusalem Schools Students, said that “the official and popular position in Jerusalem is to refuse to teach our students in Jerusalem the Israeli curriculum, or the distorted curriculum. The message of the protests and the strike is clear: insistence on teaching the Palestinian curriculum in Jerusalem. This is a right guaranteed by international laws.”
Ahmad Safadi, speaking on behalf of the Palestinian teachers Union in Jerusalem, told WAFA that “the Jerusalem schools’ strike had a clear message that says no to the continuous assault on Palestinian awareness and identity.”
“The distorted curriculum is dangerous,” he continued. “It deletes all Palestinian symbols, such as the Palestinian flag, and distorts facts, such as using the name the Temple Mount as a substitute for the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the celebration of Israel’s so-called Independence Day as an alternative to activities to commemorate the Palestinian Nakba (1948 catastrophe). This intends to poison the Palestinian’s minds.”
He added, “The occupation authorities are waging a relentless war against the Palestinian education in Jerusalem, a war focused on identity and narrative, not only by imposing the distorted curriculum, but also they used other tools, such as preventing the restoration or Jerusalem schools or opening new Palestinian schools, or even adding classes for existing schools.”
Ahed al-Risheq, a member of the Fatah movement within Jerusalem, told WAFA that Monday’s strike was a “warning step, and if the occupation does not go back on the imposition of the distorted curriculum, there will be several other strikes until there is an open-ended general strike in the schools.”
Several Palestinian schools were warned by the Israeli Ministry of Education that their licenses would be revoked if Palestinian textbooks were found containing what it calls “inciting materials.” Last July, six schools throughout East Jerusalem lost their permanent licenses and were granted temporary ones that are only valid for 12 months. The justification for the license suspension was teaching “incitement in school books.”