EE stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people and against apartheid in Israel, colonialism in the West Bank and state-sponsored terrorism in Gaza.
Apartheid Education in Israel
On 9 March 2014/during IAW 2014, Equal Education released a press statement detailing the educational discrimination suffered by Palestinian learners inside Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). The statement emphasised deep, racially-mediated inequalities in Israel’s education system:
– Jewish schools receive over three times more state funding than Palestinian Arab schools in Israel.
– Only four teacher training institutes operate in the Arab education system, compared to 55 in the Hebrew education system.
– Arab students are dramatically underrepresented in Israel’s universities and other institutes of higher education. Arab academics constitute only about 1.2% of all tenured and tenure-track positions in Israeli universities, leaving Arab citizens marginalized in the production of knowledge in society.
– Educational disadvantage for Arab Israelis begins from the first stages of the formal education; in 2007/8 around 67.4% of Arab two- to five-year-olds were enrolled in kindergartens, compared to 84,9% of Jewish children in the same age group, a gap that is larger in the youngest age groups.
We call on the Israeli government once more to equalise and fully integrate education within its borders.
Education in the OPT and the war on Gaza
Our 2014 statement noted that conditions for learners in the West Bank and Gaza are even worse than inside “Israel proper”:
“In the occupied territories Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs live under separate legal systems, and almost all aspects of life, including schooling, are separate and unequal, to a far greater extent than within Israel itself.”
Israel’s war on Gaza in July/August of last year has undoubtedly worsened already dire conditions for learners, parents and teachers there. It is reported that at least 26 schools were completely destroyed in the assault. The Palestinian Authority estimated in September 2014 that the rebuilding of Gazan homes, schools and other vital infrastructure will cost around $7.8 billion; this rebuilding remains reliant on foreign aid and is obstructed by Israel’s unwillingness to allow building materials to enter Gaza. In the meanwhile, Palestinian children die from exposure to harsh weather in bombed-out houses and learners in 228 schools are educated in damaged facilities.
We regard the war on Gaza as an example of horrific collective punishment that must be condemned in the strongest terms. Between 2 140 and 2 310 Gazans were killed during the assault; 70% of those killed were civilians, including 513 children and 12-15 journalists.Former UN special rapporteur Richard Falk has described Operation Protective Edge as “a form of massive state terror directed at the entire population of Gaza”; the killing of children and bombing of schools unrelated to any military operations supports this assessment.
The Zionist educational philosophy dehumanises Palestinians
Our 2014 statement also noted that the Israeli government, following the example of racist colonial regimes throughout history, has sought to justify and whitewash its colonial history through the intellectual dispossession of the people it is oppressing.
The word “Nakba”, used to describe the events that led to the expulsion of around 700 000 Palestinians from their homeland in 1948, is banned from textbooks, and schools that commemorate the Nakba are punished through withdrawal of state funding.Suppression of Palestinian cultural expression and political protest on university campuses is also well documented, which undermines the purported image of Israeli universities as progressive spaces characterised by tolerance of political dissent.
Israeli academic Nurit Peled-Elhanan’s study of the representation of Palestinians in hundreds of Israeli school textbooks reflects the entrenchment in Israeli society of a deeply racist colonial ideology:
“They describe [Palestinians] as vile and deviant and criminal, people who don't pay taxes, people who live off the state, people who don't want to develop. The only representation is as refugees, primitive farmers and terrorists. You never see a Palestinian child or doctor or teacher or engineer or modern farmer.
… Children grow up to serve in the army and internalise the message that Palestinians are people whose life is dispensable with impunity. And not only that, but people whose number has to be diminished.”
We recognise that young Israelis are taught to relate to the Palestinian people in the same way as apartheid taught young white South Africans to relate to black people. Palestinians are constructed as dangerous sub-humans who cannot be allowed to self-determine, just as black South Africans were during apartheid. The political and economic interests of apartheid South Africa required that black people remained disenfranchised and poor. The Zionist movement requires the same, if not worse, for the Palestinians. This means that we must oppose it in all its forms, in Israel and in South Africa.We know from our own history that good intentions do not count for much; racist ideologies clothed in liberal rhetoric remain racist, and must be opposed.
The Palestine solidarity movement in South Africa
Equal Education considers itself part of a growing movement in this country for solidarity with the Palestinian people. We have released statements, held seminars and screenings, spoken at rallies, joined marches and have committed to supporting the Palestinian people until their rights are fully realised. Palestinians must be allowed to determine their collective future for themselves. There can be no lasting and just peace in that part of the world until this happens.
We believe that it is crucial for the effectiveness of this movement that it remains principled, disciplined and firmly united against all forms of racism. This last point must apply most strongly when anti-Semitism is perpetrated in the name of the movement. In such moments, it is crucial that all pro-Palestinian groups committed to effective solidarity are united in making clear that anti-Semitism is always unacceptable.
Prejudice against Jewish people led to the Nazi Holocaust, one of the worst crimes against humanity and a reminder of the evil of all forms of discrimination and oppression. Anti-Semitism will always be incompatible with the commitment to equality and justice that underpins the solidarity movement. Further, it has the effect of undermining the Palestinian struggle for self-determination as it is invoked by Zionists to justify the ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people.
We want to be clear that Zionism is not the same as Judaism, as the broader movement for solidarity with the Palestinian people has continually asserted. The former is a racist political movement, and the latter is an identity and religious tradition that must be respected.
We support boycotts, divestment and sanctions
Equal Education has always sought to support and show solidarity with the struggles of oppressed people around the world. We have hosted activists from Zimbabwe, Chile and West Papua, and have expressed solidarity with organisations in a number of other countries. Those fighting against oppression and injustice will always have the support of our movement of learners, parents, teachers and community members.
It is in this spirit that we support the international campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel. These aremethods with a long and important history, from ending slavery to isolating apartheid South Africa, that use moral persuasion and the collective economic voice of ordinary people to stand up to the injustices of states and corporations.Companies and individuals that profit from military occupation and the illegal extraction of resources from Palestinian land must be isolated and driven from our campuses and shopping malls.
The first step to justice in Israel and Palestine must be the dismantling of the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. We call on the Israeli government to withdraw its military from the OPT, to dismantle its settlements and to end all external control of these areas immediately. Once this is done it must engage with Palestinian leadership from within Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and the diaspora to negotiate a just peace.
The Central Bureau of Statistics (Israel), New Survey—Investment in Education 2000/1, 3 August 2004 (Hebrew).
Adalah, “The Inequality Report: The Palestinian Arab Minority in Israel”(2011), p40. [Online] Available at:http://adalah.org/upfiles/2011/Adalah_The_Inequality_Report_March_2011.pdf.
The Central Bureau of Statistics (Israel), Statistical Abstract of Israel 2009, No. 60, Table 8.4.
Bede Sheppard, “Gaza’s education in rubble” (2014). [Online] Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bede-sheppard/gazas-education-in-rubble_b_5810462.html
Reuters, “Gaza rebuilding will cost $7.8 billion” (2014). [Online] Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/gaza/11075376/Gaza-rebuilding-will-cost-7.8-billion.html
Al Jazeera, “Palestine copes with deep freeze” (2015). [Online] Available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/2015/01/palestine-copes-with-deep-free-2015111121442509370.html;
Ma’an News Agency, “Ministry: Death toll from Gaza offensive topped 2,310” (2014). [Online] Available at:http://www.maannews.com/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?id=751290; Ali Abunimah, “Israel world’s second most lethal country for journalists in 2014, watchdog says“ (2014). [Online] Available at: http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/israel-worlds-second-most-lethal-country-journalists-2014-watchdog-says
Nora Barrows-Friedman, “Israeli attach on Gaza was “massive state terror”: former UN official” (2015). [Online] Available at:http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/nora-barrows-friedman/israeli-attack-gaza-was-massive-state-terror-former-un-official; Human Rights Watch, “Israel: in-depth look at Gaza school attacks” (2014). [Online] Available at:http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/09/11/israel-depth-look-gaza-school-attacks
Ha’aretz, “Knesset passes two bills slammed as discriminatory by rights groups”, 24 March 2011.[Online] Available at:http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/knesset-passes-two-bills-slammed-as-discriminatory-by-rights-groups-1.351462
The Academic Watch, “Annual Summary Report 2011/2012: Monitoring discrimination, racism and political oppression exercised against Palestinian Arab university students in Israeli universities and colleges during the2011/2012 academic year” (2012) and“Oppression in the shadow of war” (2013).
 The Guardian, “Academic claims Israeli school textbooks contain bias” (2011) [Online] Available at:http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/aug/07/israeli-school-racism-claim
GroundUp, “Apartheid: South Africa’s history, Palestine’s reality?” (2013). [Online] Available at: http://groundup.org.za/content/apartheid-south-africas-history-palestines-reality
For more information contact:
Nishal Robb (Head of Western Cape Office)
079 511 6790
Nombulelo Nyathela (Spokesperson)
060 503 4933