Of the many cruelties that the Israeli occupation has imposed on the people of Palestine, the most severe may be its serious interference in the right of Palestinian children to an education at virtually every level of study. A people without an educated generation cannot take its place among nations and, at best, has a damaged future.
This past week the matter of the Right to Education – a campaign now underway – was addressed by one of its eloquent spokespersons, Randa Siniora. Ms Siniora is the Executive Director of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights. She is also President of the Board of Defence for Children International (DCI) in Palestine and the General Director of Al- Haq. She spoke under the auspices of the UCLA center for Near Eastern Studies, on the UCLA campus in Westwood, Ca.
Ms Siniora spoke of the many problems Palestinians face in obtaining adequate education for their children, an ongoing problem that results from the decades long Israeli occupation. She frequently quoted from United Nations declarations concerning the obligations of an occupying power to those under its purview. Ms Siniora also referenced International Law. Her address was accompanied by a Power Point Presentation.
Usually an occupation is a short term strategy, and it is expected that life will return to normal in some measurable period of time. The Israeli occupation has endured for decades and in doing so has adversely impacted every aspect of Palestinian life
Ms Siniora listed as actions perpetrated by Israel on the Palestinians: the Apartheid Wall; the inability of Palestinians to move about freely within Palestine; mass arrests, and home demolitions. Students at every level of education have been subject tio arrest – some as young as 12. Citing recent statistics – from 2008 – Ms Siniora said that 180 students, 18 teachers, and 60 university students were arrested by the Israelis in that year. At the present time, 300 students are in prison.
Ms Siniora spoke of Operation Cast Lead, the recent assault on Gaza. During this military action schools were not spared. Most were destroyed or damaged to an extent that made them unusable. They cannot be rebuilt as the Israelis will not permit into Gaza the necessary rebuilding materials, claiming that such materials are dual use.
Nor will Israel permit the importing of auxiliary school supplies such as books, paper and pencils. Schools must operate on a part time basis giving students only three hours a day of class. The school drop out rate for Palestinian children is high. More importantly, children are psychologically damaged by the violence that has been visited on them, making concentration on studies difficult if not impossible.
Students who live in Gaza and attend universities in the West Bank are considered by the Israelis to be infiltrators.
Ms Siniora asked her audience to support the BDS (boycott, divest, sanctions) campaign and to support PACBI (Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel).
A lively and informative question and answer session followed.