Colonizing the Mind: Israel’s Assault on Palestinian Education

Yesterday, I stumbled across a title in Ma’an that shook me to the core:

Palestinian schools switch to Israeli curriculum in Jerusalem

To anyone who knows the Israeli curriculum, this is one of the most chilling statements anti-colonialists can imagine. The Israeli school curriculum is what allows millions of Israelis to enlist to the army, to cheer on as it slaughters Palestinians en-masse, and to be OK with being “a little bit fascist” .

I want to make a very important stop here, before we continue examining the article and the questions which it raised in my mind, so my readers, who didn’t grow up through Israel’s public school indoctrination, can get a basic idea of how it works. So sit back for 28 minutes and get to know the incredibly important research of Nurit Peled-Elhanan about the colonialist racist discourse in Israeli textbooks:

  Continue reading “Colonizing the Mind: Israel’s Assault on Palestinian Education”

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Boycotting the White City: Good for Tel Avivians

rev·o·lu·tion noun \ˌre-və-ˈlü-shən\

2
a : a sudden, radical, or complete change
b : a fundamental change in political organization; especially : the overthrow or renunciation of one government or ruler and the substitution of another by the governed
c : activity or movement designed to effect fundamental changes in the socioeconomic situation
d : a fundamental change in the way of thinking about or visualizing something : a change of paradigm <the Copernican revolution>
e : a changeover in use or preference especially in technology <the computer revolution> <the foreign car revolution>

~ Merriam Webster Dictionary

Almost a year ago a wave of massive popular protests began within the state of Israel. Though my initial criticisms still stands, I’d like to add that over the past year, at least in the south of Tel Aviv, there’s a constant learning about egalitarian politics, co-ops and community projects. People are changing and that can’t be a bad thing. Still, on the Palestinian liberation front there’s little change. The protests have remained Jewish-centered and protesters are still hostile to the mere mention of Arabs (Palestinians are people from another country, of course).

Dr. White City and Mr. Tel Aviv

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Jerusalem is NOT ‘disputed’ territory

by Jeremy Hammond


Here’s the Washington Post on the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem, emphasis added:

Ever since the administration was blindsided by Israel’s March 9 announcement that it intends to build 1,600 housing units in a disputed area of Jerusalem, U.S. officials have pressed Israel to take actions to encourage Palestinians to attend indirect talks, including canceling the project, making concrete gestures such as a prisoner release and adding substantive rather than procedural issues to the agenda for talks. Some U.S. requests have not been made public.

“Disputed”? This description implies that Israel and the Arabs both have some kind of legal claim over Jerusalem. But the fact of the matter is that Jerusalem is not by any means “disputed”. This is simply false. It is a simple and uncontroversial point of fact under international law that Israel has no legal claim to Jerusalem, that Jerusalem is rather undisputed Palestinian territory, and that Israel’s occupation of the city is illegal, in violation of both the Fourth Geneva Convention and numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Israel today controls Jerusalem because it invaded and occupied the West Bank in 1967. Subsequently, the United Nations Security Council passed resolution 242, which emphasized “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war”, emphasized that member states have a commitment to abide by the U.N. Charter, and called for the “Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied” during the June 1967 war.

In May 1968, the Security Council passed resolution 252, which declared Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem “invalid” and called upon Israel “to rescind all such measures already taken and to desist forthwith from taking any further action which tends to change the status of Jerusalem”.

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The New York Times gets lost in a minefield

On Friday 14 May, The New York Times‘ Public Editor Clark Hoyt published a piece called ‘Semantic Minefields’. The focus of Hoyt’s article was, in his own words, the questions Times‘ journalists “juggle” on a daily basis, “as they try to present the news in clear and evenhanded language”.

The last example given by Hoyt related to “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”. Here’s the background:

When Cooper wrote this month about a lunch that Obama had with Elie Wiesel, the Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor, she said the president was trying to mend fences with American Jews upset at the administration’s stance against construction of “Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem.”

Nathan Dodell of Rockville, Md., said it was “tendentious and arrogant” to use the word “settlements” four times in the article when the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has explicitly rejected it in relation to East Jerusalem. Obama has used the term himself to refer to construction in East Jerusalem, and Cooper told me, “I called them settlements because that’s the heart of the dispute between the Israelis and the United States: settlement construction in Arab East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want for an eventual Palestinian state.”

But to Dodell, she was taking sides. He asked why she didn’t use a neutral term like “housing construction.”

Incredibly, there is not one mention of international law, where the illegitimacy of settlements in the Occupied West Bank – including East Jerusalem – has been repeatedly affirmed by the UN Security Council, the General Assembly, the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, the European Union, and the International Court of Justice judges in their 2004 advisory opinion.

Perhaps Cooper cited international law to Hoyt – but he doesn’t say so. The closest the Public Editor gets himself is when he writes that Israel’s claim to a ‘united’ Jerusalem is “not recognized by the United States and most of the world”.

But apparently, settlement is “a charged word” and so “articles by Times reporters in Jerusalem do generally use words like ‘housing’ instead of ‘settlement’.”

We also learn about the Times’ Ethan Bronner’s opinion: basic principles of international law are discarded in favour of Bronner’s personal impressions of some of Occupied East Jerusalem having “the feeling” of settlements that other areas do not.

The Public Editor’s conclusion? The journalist in question “should have found a more neutral term”.

No wonder that Hoyt feels the need to finish with the reassurance that newspapers are about “nuance and real understanding”. Because one would be forgiven for thinking that the Times‘ approach to Palestine/Israel is about confusion and misinformation.

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Jerusalem Day

by Ruth Tenne

Jerusalem Day was declared a national  holiday by the State of Israel on the 12th May 1968 in celebration of  the “liberation” of East Jerusalem and the  unification of the city in the aftermath of the 1967  Six-Day War. The medieval Maghrabi Quarter near the Jewish Wailing  Wall was demolished soon after, and its Palestinian  inhabitants were evicted in order to make way for an open space  for Jewish worshipers  [1]. To celebrate this occasion the victorious hymn  “Jerusalem of Gold” was written in glorification of the annexation of East Jerusalem and the reclaiming of the Western Wailing Wall .

In 1980 the Israeli Knesset passed the Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel, confirming Jerusalem’s status as the nation’s “eternal and indivisible capital”.  UN Security Council Resolution 478 stated thereafter that the Jerusalem Law was “null and void and must be rescinded forthwith”. [2].   The Resolution instructed UN member-states to withdraw their diplomatic representation from the city – refusing to confer official status on Israel’s illegal act of annexation.

The UN position, however, did not deter Israel from its continued attempts to cleanse East Jerusalem of its Palestinian inhabitants by the use of force and military orders.  The so-called “City of Gold”  turned into a ghettoised place with  rubble from demolished Palestinian houses, razed Palestinian neighbourhoods , desecrated Muslim graveyards, and  dispossessed homeless  families serving as testimony to Israel’s  underlying  aim of  “purifying”  the city of  its indigenous Palestinian population. According to the Head  of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions – Jeff Halper –  only 11 percent of East Jerusalem land is available for Palestinian housing as result of Israel’s discriminatory policies which means  that  Jerusalemite Palestinians are virtually barred from 93 percent of the  municipality of  Jerusalem. The overall goal is to confine Palestinians to small enclaves in East Jerusalem, or to remove them from the city altogether – an action referred to by Israel as the “quiet transfer”.

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Boycott Israel? Amitav Ghosh & the Dan David Prize

The call for academic and cultural boycott is clearly a way to encourage civil society to play a broader political role—that is why it has the support of wide sections of Palestinian civil society. One of the most significant questions that call poses to us is simply this: How could those of us who oppose apartheid, occupation, and colonialism not support such a call?

Dear Amitav Ghosh,

We wish to express our deep disappointment in your decision to accept the Dan David prize, administered by Tel Aviv University and to be awarded by the President of Israel. As a writer whose work has dwelled consistently on histories of colonialism and displacement, your refusal to take stance on the colonial question in the case of Israel and the occupation of Palestine has provoked deep dismay, frustration, and puzzlement among readers and fans of your work around the world. Many admired your principled stand, and respected your decision not to accept the Commonwealth Writers Prize in rejection of the colonialist framework it represented.

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Israel’s colonization of East Jerusalem – some context

The first political planning decision in the ‘reunified’ city concerned plans not for construction but for the geopolitical determination of borders…the determining consideration, ‘a maximum of vacant space with a minimum of Arabs,’ laid down as the basic tenet in the delineation of the borders, made possible the planning and implementation of the prinicipal political objective: the creation of physical and demographic faits accomplis.

[It became] clear that the planners must set their sights on the vacant areas on the outskirts of the city and surrounding it. These areas would have to be expropriated from their Arab owners. The legal instrument at the disposal of the Israelis for this purpose was the Land Ordinance (Expropriation for Public Purposes) of 1943, which grants the treasury minister the authority to expropriate private land when there is a ‘public need’ for such action – with the definition of ‘public need’ left to the minister himself…

But no one was deceived by the designation of these ‘ethnically colorblind’ needs; the expropriated areas were being taken from Arabs and handed over to Jews. This was an extraordinary interpretation of the word public: The only legitimate public was Jewish, and therefore only jews were entitled to benefit from the expropriation.

From Meron Benvenisti, City of Stone: The Hidden History of Jerusalem, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1996, pp.154-55.

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