Should Arab schools in Jerusalem use Israel’s syllabus or that of the Palestinian Authority? At present, only a small minority of schools in eastern Jerusalem are under the auspices of Israel’s Education Ministry – to the detriment of all peace efforts.
This issue comes to the fore in light of U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman’s visit last week to an Arab school in eastern Jerusalem. Why did this school merit an ambassadorial visit? Because it belongs to the small, but growing, number of Arab schools that operates under Israel’s educational system. It is located in the Wadi Joz neighborhood just north of the Old City and opened this year.
The principal said “some people in the neighborhood” were not happy with the planned visit, intimating that Ambassador Friedman did not visit classes in progress or meet with pupils for that reason. He did meet, however, with a sizeable group of teachers together with Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lyon. “It is these types of efforts that give us optimism,” Friedman told them, “because this is where peace is made.”
Six years ago, 1,400 Arab students studied under the Israeli-Arab system; today, that number is up to about 8,000. But that still leaves, as Mayor Lyon said, more than 90 percent of Jerusalem Arab pupils in what he called the “other” system – one that often leads to incitement, hatred, and violence against Jews.
Before we cite examples, it is enlightening to quote an organization whose goals are essentially the opposite of those of KeepJerusalem. Its name is Ir Amim, or “City of Nations,” and it aims to blur the intrinsically Jewish character of Yerushalayim.
In a short 2017 treatise on Arab education in Jerusalem, Ir Amim writes that “in accordance with the Oslo II Accords, the PA educational system replaced the Jordanian system” in the city. That agreement actually says nothing about education in Jerusalem, but Article XXII of the agreement does state this: “Israel and the [PA] Council will ensure that their respective educational systems contribute to the peace … and will refrain from the introduction of any motifs that could adversely affect the process of reconciliation.” In other words, no incitement to violence or hatred.
Clearly, the PA side has not lived up to its commitments. In July 2015, Palestinian Media Watch prepared a comprehensive report noting that:
* dozens of PA schools that have been named after terrorists
* school routinely visit the homes of terrorists
* educators present murderers as role models and promise a world without Israel
* children’s TV programs feature anti-Israel and anti-Semitic poems and the like
A textbook entitled Islamic Education for Grade 12 actually teaches students that the war over “Palestine” will not end with a secular peace treaty. It will last forever – an eternal war for Islam “until Resurrection Day.” How well does that bode for this-worldly peace efforts?
Another 12th grade textbook discusses the events of 1948 “when the Jews banished the Palestinian nation into exile…after they tortured it, massacred, and stole its land, its homes and its holy sites.” According to the book, the 1948 war ended “when the Zionist gangs stole Palestine and expelled its people from their cities, their villages, destroyed more than 500 villages and cities, and established the so-called State of Israel.”
Speaking on official PA television earlier this year, the PA education minister said his schools have a right to teach children “the established ideology about the resistance and war against this occupation.”
Back in October 2015, then-Education Minister Naftali Bennett had to fire a school principal and a teacher in an eastern Jerusalem Arab school for putting on a play depicting IDF soldiers as murderous and bloodthirsty.
It is thus understandable that Israel seeks to replace the PA educational system with its own. Teaching historical facts, as well as the benefits of peace, democracy, and humanity towards all – even Jews! – would certainly be the best education Arab children could receive.
The truth is that Israel is not forcing Arab students to adopt its curriculum. It is responding, as Ir Amim has written, “to increasing demands by the students’ families themselves.” It notes that the “PA high school matriculation degree is not accepted in Israeli universities, and so if the students receive Israeli matriculation, this will increase their employment opportunities and economic status.”
Ir Amim also correctly notes that Israel wishes Arab schools to use its curriculum as a way of extending its sovereignty over the city. Israel has no need to apologize for doing this. The Jewish state, along with most Jews around the world, most definitely wishes to see full Israeli sovereignty applied to the entire city of Yerushalayim. The city is historically, religiously, and culturally Jewish, period.
Yes, individual non-Jews call Jerusalem their home, and Israel relates to them as per the San Remo Conference resolution of 1920, which essentially later became international law. It states: “The Mandatory [i.e., Great Britain] will be responsible for putting into effect the [Balfour] declaration … in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”
That is, the Jews are to receive national rights in the land, while non-Jews, such as the Arab residents, must be guaranteed only individual “civil and religious rights.” As such, Ambassador Friedman’s visit to an Israeli-Arab school in eastern Jerusalem is a show of support for Israel’s efforts both to benefit Arab residents and to extend its sovereignty over its historic, holy capital.