Debate Continues as West Bank School Faces Demolition

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(Photo: GlobalCitizen.org)

Students continue to be caught up in the ongoing political clash between Palestine and Israel. Debate on whether a school on the outskirts of Jerusalem should be demolished has continued for 7 years, leaving 170 Palestinian students questioning the future of their education, although remaining hopeful.

The co-educational Khan al-Ahmar school was served an order for demolition by the Israeli government shortly after it was built from funds provided by the Italian government in 2009. Questions remain over the reasons for the demolition order, with a spokesman for the Bedouin communities in Jerusalem, an area where the children enrolled in the school reside, declaring that the order was issued as a result of an unhealthy and hazardous environment, reports Albawaba News.

According to the Israeli Civil Administration, the school was built too close to an area approved for development of a main road, writes Aljazeera.

However, Albawaba News reports that there’s more to the story:

“[The] closure and demolition of the school were part of a larger Israeli plan to forcibly transfer at least 2,800 Bedouins living in the Jerusalem area in order to expand surrounding Israeli settlements, adding that the transfers would contravene international law according to Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits forcible transfers of populations.”

Students attending school within the Arab village of Sussiya also face uncertainties on the future of their education, with 107 Palestinian structures already demolished by Israel, displacing 136 people of whom 60 are children, reports Allen Cone of UPI.

The Khan al-Ahmar school is located in Area C. This area makes up 60% of the West Bank, adding another layer of complexity to the issue. For more than 20 years Area C, a geographical division of West Bank delineated by the 1995 Oslo Accord, has been controlled by Israeli military and the Israeli Civil Administration controls Palestinian construction within the area, reports RT.

The European Union has released a statement, declaring that:

“[T]he Israeli authorities must halt demolitions of Palestinian houses and property, in accordance with its obligations as an occupying power under international humanitarian law, and to cease the policy of settlement construction and expansion, of designating land for exclusive Israeli use and of denying Palestinian development.”

The Palestinian Department of Education has organized protests against the order and a hearing of petitions stands in the High Court of Justice, reports UPI.

The Court is also investigating whether permanent housing is an option for agricultural villages located in the South Hebron Hills region.

In a strategic move, the Palestinian Department of Education has brought the school term forward by a week in an effort to delay the closure of the school, reports Jinan Aldameary of Aljazeera.

The general director of the advocacy group Defense for the Children International, an organization advocating for Palestinian children in occupied territories, told Aldameary of Aljazeera that the order for demolition of the Khan al-Ahmar school by the Israeli Civil Administration was part of a plan to further displace the Bedouin community.

The Bedouin make up the largest refugee population in the West Bank and education is a large and important part of the community, reports RT.