Update: The Independent reported that the mobile classrooms were destroyed by Israeli authorities upon seizure.
The structures were donated by the European Union so that children in Jubbet al-Dib could learn closer to home rather than travel an hour to the nearest school. The news site estimates 80 children must now study in tents or under the hot sun until a more sustainable solution is found.
When accessible, inclusive, and diverse, education is society's greatest tool toward progress. However, education can also be manipulated and withheld to further the agenda of oppressive governments.
According to Palestinian network Ma'an News Agency and left-wing Israeli news site Haaretz, Israeli forces seized mobile classrooms in the Palestinian village of Jubbet al-Dib just one day before the school year began, leaving teachers and the Palestinian Ministry of Education scrambling to find new accommodations for some 64 children.
According to Palestinian news agency Wafa, the Israeli Civil Administration confiscated the eight mobile homes that comprised the village school on Tuesday under the premise that they were erected without the proper permits. However, locals insist that they had filed the necessary paperwork with Israeli authorities.
Teachers had been reportedly preparing for the upcoming school year when Israeli authorities raided the facility and loaded the classrooms onto trucks to be taken away. Any resistance from locals was met with tear gas and rubber bullets. There were no injuries reported, but now Palestinian children in the area through the first- to fourth-grade are without a classroom.
The Norwegian Refugee Council said in a statement that this incident was "part of a wider attack on education in Palestine. Right now, some 55 schools in the West Bank are threatened with demolition and "stop-work" orders by Israeli authorities. Many of these schools are donor-funded, including by EU member states."
A spokesperson for the Israeli Civil Administration told Ma'an that the mobile school in Jubbet al-Dib was established without permission and "a blunt violation of stop work orders." Yet, the NRC points out that, if this is truly the case, it is symptomatic of widespread Israeli oppression.
"Israel denies the majority of Palestinian planning permit requests in Area C [the majority portion of the West Bank currently controlled by Israel], thereby leaving Palestinians with no option but to reconstruct and develop without permits, while Israeli settlements - established in violation of international law - continue to expand," the organization explained.
Jubbet al-Dib is not the only Palestinian community that has faced obstacles to educating its youth from Israel. Authorities recently ordered the demolition of a Bedoin school, which subsequently opened a week earlier than scheduled in an act of resistance.
The school year set to begin on Wednesday, and on Tuesday, Israeli police blocked textbooks intended for Palestinian schools inside the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, reportedly because they were stamped with the Palestinian Authority logo.
“Just when they were due to return to the classroom, Palestinian children are discovering that their schools are being destroyed,” said Hanibal Abiy Worku, the County Director for Palestine at NRC. “What threat do these schools pose to the Israeli authorities? What are they planning to achieve by denying thousands of children their fundamental right to education?”
Unfortunately, history has a long series of examples as to what thwarting, or outright denying, education can do to suppress communities and cultures. We've seen it in North America in government education policies targeting indigenous populations and children of color, we've seen it in regimes throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia, and now it look likes we're seeing it take form in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
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