[In response to the “serious concern” expressed below by Pierre Poupard, UNICEF Special Representative to the Palestinian Authority, over the number of Palestinian children being prevented from attending school by Israel-imposed restrictions, the following points might be relevant:
- The restrictions imposed by the IDF in the territories are the direct result of continued Palestinian Authority sponsored terrorism. If the Palestinian Authority (PA) were to rein in terrorists and to ensure civil order, there would be no need for the restrictions.
- In the areas where relative calm has been restored, IDF restrictions have been totally or partially lifted, thereby permitting Palestinian students to attend school. As the UNICEF official himself acknowledges, while some 226,000 Palestinian children and their teachers are presently affected by IDF closures, primarily in the flash points of Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarem and Hebron, the vast majority of the close to 1 million Palestinian children of school age are not affected by the closures.
- Under the PA, Palestinian schools throughout the territories have been transformed into terrorist laboratories. As the policy analyst Justus Weiner notes in the Jerusalem Post (“Child abuse in the Palestinian Authority,² October 2, 2002), “Even in the PA¹s public schools, incitement to violence plays a major role while interest in reconciliation with Israel is notably absent. The PA¹s deputy minister of education, Naim Abu Humus, called on school administrators to dedicate the first class to praying for the souls of those killed during the intifada, saying, “Today we glorify Al-Aksa and Palestine, and remember the Palestinian martyrs”
- “Signs on the walls of kindergartens”, Weiner continues, “proclaim their students as the ‘shaheeds’ [martyrs] of tomorrow”, and elementary school teachers and principals commend their young students for wanting to ‘tear their Zionist bodies into little pieces and cause them more pain than they will ever know’¹… “. Sheikh Hassan Yosef, a leading Hamas member, summarized this process of incitement by saying, “we like to grow them from kindergarten through college”, Weiner adds.
- UNICEF’s Pierre Poupard cites Israel¹s obligation, according to the 4th Geneva Convention and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to ensure education is accessible to every Palestinian child. What Mr. Poupard fails to note, however, is the extent to which the Rights of the Child are routinely and systematically violated by Yasser Arafat¹s Palestinian Authority. These violations include encouraging children to become suicide bombers, placing children in the front-lines of armed demonstrations against Israeli soldiers, and delivering busloads of Palestinian school children to demonstrations throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Through its hate-filled school curriculum, the PA denies Palestinian children the fundamental right to peaceful, modern education.
- The UNICEF statement ignores the significant steps taken by Israel since June 1967 to establish a modern educational system for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, even in the absence of peace.]
[Reached at the UNICEF office in Jerusalem, Mr. Poupard denied any knowledge of the PA schools being used as a place of terror training or incitement of youth to war against Israel. Mr. Poupard also said that he has not seen the evaluation of the Palestinian Authority school system that was provided by the CMIP at www.edume.org ]
JERUSALEM, 2 October 2002 – A month into the Palestinian school year, the UNICEF Special Representative in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Pierre Poupard, today expressed serious concern over the number of Palestinian children being prevented from attending school by Israel-imposed restrictions. “Right now the Israeli military is preventing thousands of Palestinian children and teachers from attending school,” Mr Poupard said. “A generation of Palestinian children is being denied their right to an education.”
While UNICEF noted that most Palestinian children have either returned to school or are receiving alternative schooling, it said that more than 226,000 children and over 9,300 teachers are unable to reach their regular classrooms and at least 580 schools have been closed due to Israeli military curfews, closures and home confinement.
UNICEF said Israel has an obligation to ensure education is accessible to every Palestinian child, in accordance with the 4th Geneva Convention and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. As an absolute minimum, mobility restrictions on Palestinian civilians must be lifted throughout the OPT during school hours.
There are almost 1 million Palestinian children of school age. Children living in the districts of Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarem and Hebron are most affected. The mobility restrictions in these areas have necessitated the creation of a substitute schooling system. Many Palestinian school children are now being home-schooled by their parents, or gathering in makeshift classrooms such as mosques, basements, and alleyways.
“Alternative schooling initiatives are an indication of the extent to which the regular lives of Palestinian children are being devastated by this conflict,” said Mr Poupard.
UNICEF cautioned that the quality of home education can not be assessed or assured. UNICEF emphasized that the organizers and teachers of alternative schooling have a responsibility to ensure their actions are in the best interests of children at all times.
UNICEF is currently implementing a ‘back to school’ campaign to help ensure that the poorest Palestinian children can afford to stay in school.
The campaign includes the provision of school uniforms and school bags – expenses that often keep poor children out of the classroom. The campaign is supporting over 14,000 children. “This year, with the economy on the verge of collapse, many Palestinian parents are unable to afford to send their children to school.
UNICEF appeals to the donor community for further support,” Mr Poupard said. Some 317,000 Palestinian school children are now in desperate need of assistance due to financial hardship.
Last school year, UNICEF supported a community-based education program in Hebron and Khan Younis assisting over 12,250 Palestinian children whose education was disrupted as a result of the crisis. This year, UNICEF is expanding the program by supporting officially-endorsed home schooling initiatives.