A Photoblog by EA Philippa
Three times a week, our team of EAs does the ‘school run’. For us, this involves walking along the main road for about 1km with the girls and boys from a nearby village until they reach their respective secondary schools. The road is fringed with Israeli settlements; settlers drive past the schools each morning and often the boys are accused of throwing stones at the cars. Then the military get involved and station themselves along the pavement, making it hard for the kids to get to school. So we walk behind the boys to provide a protective presence and observe the situation.
On Sunday (the first day of the Palestinian week), soldiers accuse the boys of throwing stones and threaten to close the school, which serves 450 boys from 2 villages. We know no stones have been thrown, since the team was there at the time.
On Monday, our school run has quite a different feel. First we run into a small group of soldiers preventing cars from getting near the school. We get out and walk closer.
Education is highly valued in Palestine. Parents and their sons are determined that the school should not be closed. Parents form a preventive ‘human shield’ at the school gate to allow their boys past the soldiers.
After a lot of discussion with the soldiers at the gate, things go quiet. We all know what will happen next. The Red Crescent ambulance moves closer. Then the Border Police come down the hill behind the school, heavily armed.
Having thrown a teargas grenade inside the school where about 50 boys are sheltering, a regular soldier turns to me and grins. ‘How do you like Israel?’
We are teargassed two or three times and everyone moves back from the gate. After about half an hour, the teachers evacuate the school and lead the boys past the soldiers back to their parents.
Not one stone or punch has been thrown – it’s a peaceful act of resistance, a few boys squeezing through a school gate. Quickly the Border Police wrap things up, with a volley of teargas and rubber bullets. The mayor is wounded as he tries to make his case. A press photographer collapses and those who come to rescue him are targeted with more teargas. Passing the nearby girls’ school, where classes run as usual, the Border Police fire three teargas grenades into their compound. As our team gets into our car to leave, we receive a direct hit – a teargas grenade bounces hard off the roof, leaving an unmistakable dent.
We go to check on the silent, evacuated school. As teargas wafts in the wind, a Palestinian villager pulls up in his car. ‘Have a banana’, he says. And drives off into the village.
The UN has since reported that almost 80 injuries, the vast majority by tear gas inhalation, were sustained in clashes following the Israeli military’s closure of the secondary school, reportedly in response to repeated stone-throwing by students at Israeli vehicles; the school was reopened the following day. https://www.ochaopt.org/content/protection-civilians-report-9-22-october-2018
School closures like this one clearly infringe children’s rights. Article 3 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child requires authorities to have the best interests of the child as their primary consideration. Article 28 of that Convention protects children’s right to a quality education.These rights are also protected under international humanitarian law in occupied territories. Article 50 of the Fourth Geneva Convention makes this clear: “The Occupying Power shall, with the cooperation of the national and local authorities, facilitate the proper working of all institutions devoted to the care and education of children”.
Read more about how the occupation affects children’s right to education, with this report on EAPPI’s work monitoring access to education in Palestine.
Join the campaign to encourage churches to publicly commit to divesting from any company that profits from the occupation. A guide has been developed to help people urge their denominations to make this commitment. It’s called Investing For Peace: Morally Responsible Investment.