As a non-governmental organisation committed to the promotion and protection of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), Al-Haq would like to bring to your attention the current situation of the Arab Orphan School, a privately run charitable school in East Jerusalem with a long history of providing free vocational education for Palestinian children. As detailed in the attached study, the Arab Orphan School is now facing acute threats to its continuing existence.
Located in ‘Atarot, which Israel illegally incorporated within its municipal boundary of Jerusalem, the school has been isolated from its students and staff, the majority of whom live in surrounding villages, by the completion of the Annexation Wall in the area and the establishment of Qalandiya checkpoint as the only channel of access to the school. As holders of West Bank IDs, students and staff members need special permits to cross the checkpoint, which only a relatively small number of them have obtained, and currently only on a temporary three-month basis. Similar temporary permits issued for the first three months of the 2005/06 academic year were not renewed by the Israeli civil administration, compelling the students to sneak into illegally annexed East Jerusalem in order to exercise their fundamental right to education.
The Arab Orphan School is a significant example of Israel’s systematic breach of its obligations regarding education under international humanitarian and human rights law. The violation of the right to education of Palestinians was emphasised by the International Court of Justice in its 2004 Advisory Opinion on the Wall in the OPT. The urgency of the situation of the Arab Orphan School must be noted. Teachers who have been refused permits have regularly been unable to reach the school since the beginning of this academic year and fear that they will lose their jobs. Students who have not been issued permits are forced to put their safety at risk by seeking alternative routes to school. The minority of students and staff who have been successful in obtaining temporary permits fear that these permits will not be renewed after they expire tomorrow, 15 December 2006. The number of students at the school has been diminishing, and if the current illegal Israeli measures persist, Al-Haq fears that the school will be forced to close.
We urge you, therefore, to intervene with the Israeli civil administration in order to ensure that the students and staff holding temporary permits, as well as those currently without permits, receive permanent permits to enable them to reach their school. We further urge you to continue to oppose Israel’s illegal measures, including construction of the Wall inside the OPT and progressive annexation of areas between the Green Line and the Wall. When Israel denies the fundamental protection of international law to Palestinian civilians, such as the staff and students of the Arab Orphan School in ‘Atarot, the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention must take up their duty under Article 1 thereof to actively ensure respect for basic norms of international humanitarian law in the OPT.