(Note: The Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) refers to the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem which have been under Israeli occupation since 1967 )
Restrictions on education
Israel has denied full enjoyment of the rights of education to the Palestinian students. Education in the OPT is segregated as part of the larger policy of racially fragmenting the territory as discussed earlier. Access to education is restricted using numerous means; attacks on students and destruction of schools are one of the main ways. Some of these incidents include: 300 schools and 22 universities have been shelled, shot or raided by Israeli forces between 2000 and 2005; in 2006 F-16s bombed the Islamic University of Gaza; in September 2004 a ten-year old girl was shot in the head at her desk; in January 2005 the Israeli army opened fire on an elementary school and killed an 11-year old; two universities were closed by military orders for 6 months in 2003 -- suspending education of 6000 student; 25 schools were demolished in 2009 alone; 6000 children have been arrested and detained since September 2000i ii
Checkpoints and restrictions on movement greatly hinder education as well: Berzeit University showed that 91 per cent of students missed classes due to delay at checkpoints; since 2004 students from Gaza have been banned from studying in the West Bank; in 2007 3700 Gazan students were prevented from continuing their studies abroad; in 2008 visas of 7 winners of US Fullbright Scholarships were revoked and they were not allowed to leave Gaza. In East Jerusalem, where Israel provides funding for education, Palestinian schools are severely underfunded; face lack of classrooms and other essentials. As a result, only 39,400 Palestinians attend school out of the 79,000 that are eligible. High school dropout rates are 50 per cent of Palestinians compared to 7.4 per cent for Jewish students in the city of Jerusalem.iii
All the obstacles to education described above are only applicable the Palestinians in the OPT while Jewish students face no such restrictions from the Israeli army. The systematic attack on education is a strategy to stifle intellectual growth of the Palestinian people. Despite all these unimaginable restrictions, students are determined to pursue their studies. Enrollment is comparable to middle-income countries and in 2005 it was 88 per cent for secondary education in Gaza and the West Bank; 40 per cent for post-secondary education. When schools and universities are raided, Palestinians continue holding classes in homes, churches, mosques and community centers -- they often get arrested for doing so. iv
Demographic engineering and ethnic control
One of the most alarming aspects of this conflict is the extent to which Israel has planned the systematic removal of Palestinian presence from this historic and hallowed land. Legislation that explicitly calls for stifling Arab life and administering ethnic control has been adopted by the Israeli government. The Drobles Plan, adopted by the Israeli cabinet in 1981, is one such piece of legislationv. It states quite explicitly:
The civilian presence of Jewish communities is vital for the security of the state…There must not be the slightest doubt regarding our intention to hold the areas of Judea and Samaria (West Bank) forever…State and uncultivated land should be seized immediately for the purpose of settlement in the areas located among and around the population centres with the aim of preventing as much as possible the establishment of another Arab state in these territories. It will be difficult for the [Arab] minority to form a regional connection and political unity when split by Jewish colonies …vi vii
Another such piece of legislation is the Jerusalem municipal plan. The most recent plan, Jerusalem 2000, stated that "according to state decisions," municipal planning should attempt to maintain a demographic balance of 70 percent Jews to 30 percent Arabs in the city. To ensure this, the plan proposed a number of means to "maintain a Jewish majority in the city while attending to the needs of the Arab minority," The plan recognizes the "acute housing shortage" affecting "the Arab population," but proposes "thickening and densification" of existing Palestinian neighborhoods as a response, and building new residential areas only for "wealthy Arab households." viii
Israel's legal racism and obsession with maintaining demographic control is sickening and alarming. Three decades after the adoption of the Drobles Plan, it is quite clear that it has implemented the plan to a tee. The epitome of Israel's hypocrisy lies in signing the Oslo Accords and committing to a two-state solution; while at the same time expanding the colonist enterprise and eating up the very land it will supposedly grant as a state to the Palestinians one day.
This series has barely scratched the surface of the human right abuses Palestinians suffer on a regular basis. These articles have focused mainly on the discriminatory practices in the OPT in order to highlight the apartheid nature of the 45-year-old occupation. It is common practice to dismiss the charge of apartheid against Israel as ‘sloganeering' or ‘anti-Semitism.' With the lack of information available on this subject, an exposition on this subject was thus necessary. It is hoped that this series will garner public recognition of the brutality of the apartheid experienced by the Palestinian people.
It is important to recognize that apartheid is not a mere analogy. It is defined specifically as a crime against humanity under international law. Some of dismiss the charge of Israeli apartheid simply because of the differences with South African apartheid. It is important to recognize that both regimes had their unique features and both constitute apartheid independent of each other.
It is hard for us to fathom living under occupation where every single aspect of life subject to draconian laws. Everyday tasks such driving to work, going to school, picking up the groceries or visiting the doctor -- all become a nightmare. The brutality of this reality is multiplied with the knowledge that this oppression exists to privilege one race over the other; to give superior treatment to one group of people who live in the same vicinity and yet face none of these restrictions.
As the occupation enters is 47th year and Palestinian land continues to be usurped, the need to highlight the brutality of Israeli apartheid is now more than ever. While pretending to be the bastion of democracy in the Middle-East, it is clear that Israel has implemented one of the most racist, brutally oppressive and inhumane occupations known in history -- all with the backing of our Western governments.
Waleed Ahmed is a freelance writer based out of Toronto. He enjoys writing about current affairs, human rights and religion.
Check out the entire Talking About Israeli Apartheid Series.