Middle East Monitor / August 22, 2023
In May this year, the Norwegian Refugee Council warned that over 6,550 students risked the loss of their education if Israel went ahead and destroyed 57 schools in the occupied West Bank. Last week, Israel demolished an elementary school for Palestinian children living in Ain Samiyah. The school was built in 2022 with funds from the EU, providing Palestinian children in the community with access to education closer to their homes.
Following the demolition, the EU called upon Israel to respect the Palestinian children’s right to education and to compensate the bloc for the school’s destruction. That reaction to such recurring human rights violations would be laughable if it wasn’t so ludicrous. Israel has not committed a one-off violation; it is systematically targeting Palestinian education to inflict an ongoing oppressive cycle upon the younger generations of Palestinians. As for the financial compensation, the EU knows full well that it benefits more from its trade deals with Israel, and that the funds for building schools for Palestinian children are negligible when compared with profiting from complicity in the settler-colonial entity.
EU diplomats had already warned against the demolition of schools and noted that, since 2015, Israel had destroyed EU donor-funded items valued at an estimated €1.3 million. In 2022 alone, trade between the EU and Israel amounted to €46.8 billion. The imbalance cannot be ignored. Palestinian children’s education is low on the list of priorities for the EU; just an ambiguous human right to be referred to when the need arises.
While Israel routinely disrupts the start of the Palestinian school year, the destruction of schools is part of the bigger colonial scenario. Yet all the UN offered to counter the systematic violations by Israel was a brief statement acknowledging the demolition. In response to a question asked during a press conference on the Ain Samiyah school demolition, Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres stated that, “The issue of protection is one that is raised with the Israeli authorities on a regular basis.”
The UN, it seems, still hasn’t understood that it is futile to ask a destructive colonial entity such as Israel to protect Palestinians. Has it not made the link between Israel and the violence that sustains it ? Or does the UN not link the demolitions of schools to colonial violence? Has the international organization not noticed that Israel’s refusal to issue building permits for Palestinians is also part of its forced displacement measures? Or that demolishing a school might force Palestinians into relocating for better access to education, thus leaving their land vulnerable to colonial expansion, and is thus also forced displacement ?
Israel cannot be trusted to protect Palestinians or their education; there is ample proof to the contrary. Yet for each violation Israel commits, the international community simply calls upon the colonial enterprise to end its transgressions; no action is ever taken, not even sanctions. The bigger picture is never looked at, and it is clear that the UN has barely linked the destruction of schools in terms of the harm this does to Palestinian education, let alone such violence and its impact in terms of colonial expansion. The destruction of the Ein Samiyah school sends a message for the umpteenth time that the international community prefers to ignore: the Palestinians are facing repeated cycles of forced displacement. How much longer will the world feign ignorance of Israel’s colonial violence ?
Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger; her writing covers a range of themes in relation to Palestine, Chile and Latin America