Israeli forces seize Palestinian textbooks from students outside Al-Aqsa

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  September 5, 2023

Books reportedly confiscated in occupied East Jerusalem due to having Palestinian flag on cover, as Israel continues efforts to replace curriculum.

Israeli forces seized Palestinian textbooks from students at the gates of Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem on Monday, according to local media reports. 

Books published by the Palestinian education ministry were confiscated due to having Palestinian flags printed on them, local sources told WAFA news agency.

Eyewitnesses told Anadolu Agency that students from two schools located inside the courtyards of Al-Aqsa were stopped by Israeli forces. 

The Jerusalem Islamic Waqf – or endowment department – said in a brief statement: “Some textbooks were confiscated and the students were subsequently admitted.” 

Palestinian educators have previously told Middle East Eye that Israeli authorities were aiming to eliminate its curriculum in favour of the Israeli version, in an attempt to erode Palestinian identity and “distort” history. 

Academic content Israel has sought to censor, they said, includes the logo of the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian flag, lessons that discuss the Palestinian struggle against occupation, the right of return and prisoners, settlements, the immigration of settlers to Palestine, military checkpoints, the intifada, displaced villages, and considering Zionism a racist political movement.

Curriculum push

Last week, police seized textbooks that were being delivered to a private school in occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City, and arrested the Palestinian school employee driving the delivery vehicle. 

Israel announced last month that it had earmarked $843m of investment in occupied East Jerusalem – including on education – between 2024 and 2028. It has been seen by some as further attempts to expand control over the city. 

The investment will include increasing the number of students receiving high school diplomas under the Israeli curriculum. 

Eighteen percent of schools in East Jerusalem have chosen to teach the Israeli curriculum, according to recent figures cited by Haaretz, which improves their chances of studying at Israeli universities. 

However the vast majority of Palestinian students in Jerusalem continue to learn the Palestinian curriculum, and go on to study at higher education institutions in the occupied West Bank, elsewhere in the Arab world and beyond. 

Rights groups have long pointed out that Palestinians have the right to choose their own curricula under international conventions. 

Article 50 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantee the right of peoples under occupation to obtain education in line with their beliefs and to protect their culture and heritage from change or distortion.