Israel seeks to demolish EU/British-funded school

Teacher gives lesson to young students

A Palestinian teacher giving a lesson in a classroom at the Ras al-Tin school, near the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, on 8 October. 

Prime Minister’s office APA images

Israel is threatening to demolish a Palestinian elementary school funded by the European Union and the United Kingdom.

The school enrolls some 50 Palestinian students in the occupied West Bank town of Ras al-Tin, northeast of Ramallah.

Ras al-Tin is home to 280 Palestinians, half of them children and teens.

They live on private Palestinian land owned by residents of nearby villages Kafr Malik and al-Mughayyir. They came to Ras al-Tin after Israel forcibly relocated them multiple times throughout the occupied West Bank.

Ras al-Tin’s children were forced to walk two hours in both directions every day to get to a school three miles away at the village of al-Mughayyir.

So the village built a school using funds from the European Union, EU countries and the United Kingdom without acquiring an Israeli permit to do so – one they had “no chance of obtaining” in the first place, according to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

Confiscations and harassment

Construction of the school remains incomplete and lacking windows, but classes have started with the beginning of the school year.

Israeli occupation authorities have repeatedly confiscated school equipment and structures.

On 31 August, Israel’s Civil Administration – the bureaucratic arm of Israel’s military occupation – confiscated building materials meant for the building’s construction.

On two other occasions, including while classes were in session, Israeli forces confiscated 60 classroom chairs, 24 desks, panels from the school’s roof and other building materials.

“The students were forced to study under the scorching sun as they sat on the ground,” B’Tselem said.

Israeli settlers often harass students, despite it being an elementary school, the school’s principal Nura al-Azhari told Safa Palestinian Press Agency.

The community’s girls will be affected the most if Israel moves ahead with demolishing the school, as they depend on the school’s proximity to their homes, B’Tselem stated.

No accountability

One story building with no doors or windows

A general view of the Ras al-Tin school, near the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, which is under threat of demolition by the Israeli military, on 8 October. 

Prime Minister’s office APA images

The Norwegian Refugee Council, a humanitarian body, said it was “deeply concerned” over the prospects of an imminent demolition.

“These are some of the most vulnerable children, whose life is already extremely hard,” the Norweigian group’s regional director, Carsten Hansen, said.

Hansen emphasized Israel’s legal obligation as an occupying power to ensure Palestinians can access their right to an education.

“Instead, it uses its power to do the opposite,” he stated. “Denying them their fundamental right to education and paving the way for illegal settlement expansion.”

London-based Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights wrote to the UK Foreign Office demanding “urgent intervention” to stop the imminent demolition.

A delegation from the European Union’s offices in the occupied West Bank and the British consulate in occupied Jerusalem visited Ras al-Tin’s school earlier this month.

In a tweet, the EU called on Israel “to halt all such demolitions” in light of their spike during the pandemic, “including EU-funded structures.”

“In all but exceptional cases, demolitions violate international humanitarian law,” the British consulate stated on Twitter.

“We demand that Israel halt all demolitions immediately.”

Apart from verbal opposition, however, the European Union and the British consulate haven’t spelled out any clear consequences for Israel should it move ahead with demolishing structures they funded.

The European Union has done nothing to hold Israel accountable for destroying tens of millions of dollars of projects for Palestinians paid for by European taxpayers over the years.

Instead, it continues to reward Israel with more partnerships, including with Israel’s cyberwarfare industry.

“Firing zone”

The town of Ras al-Tin lies in a so-called “firing zone” in Area C, the 60 percent of the occupied West Bank that remains under complete Israeli military rule.

Israel designated neighboring areas “closed military zones” as well, “in order to limit the community’s pastureland,” according to B’Tselem.

Israel designates certain West Bank areas as “firing zones” and “military zones” to forcibly displace indigenous Palestinian communities or prevent them from accessing the land.

Area C was supposed to be gradually transferred to the Palestinian Authority’s jurisdiction within one and a half years following the signing of the Oslo accords in the 1990s.

Israel controls all planning and construction in the area under its permit regime, where Palestinians are subjected to a regime of military orders while Israeli settlers living in Jewish-only colonies are subjected to civilian rule.

All Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are illegal under international law and constitute a war crime.

Israel forbids virtually all Palestinian construction in Area C.

This is part of Israel’s relentless efforts to change the demographics in the area to ensure a Jewish majority.

Palestinians are forced to build on their own land without Israeli permits and live in constant fear that Israeli occupation forces would seize or destroy their structures.

Israeli military also prevents Palestinians from connecting their homes to basic infrastructure, like water and electricity.

Residents depend on donor-funded solar panels for electricity and purchase water from nearby villages.

Israeli forces have fully or partially demolished three Palestinian schools since the beginning of the year, and 52 others are under threat of being demolished.

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In such a case of deny of education for children the occupation force has the duty and the responsibility established by international law, my indignation is such that I can not find words describing my nausea over the obscenity and vileness of the state of Israel. When there is a place of deep squalidness in this world than it is Israel.

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Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.