Occupied East Jerusalem – Teachers and parents have decried a raid on a school by Israeli forces that resulted in the arrests of the school’s deputy principal and three teachers.
Israeli police entered the Zahwa al-Quds kindergarten and primary school in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Beit Hanina on Monday and made the arrests because staff refused to follow Israel’s education standard, according to school staff.
“Israel is attempting to force our school to adopt the Israeli education curriculum,” Ziad al-Shamali, head of the school’s parent committee, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday. “We are refusing this. So they decided to raid our school and scare our children.”
Local teacher Ola Nini told Al Jazeera several unarmed and plain-clothed Israeli police officers and officials from Israel’s Jerusalem municipality entered the school during the first class of the morning. Zahwa al-Quds is a private school with about 90 students between the ages of three and nine.
Officers searched all the classrooms and demanded the identity cards of each teacher, Nini said, adding they then wrote down their names and made photocopies of their IDs.
Shamali said the officers also confiscated phones and deleted footage of the incident on the school’s surveillance cameras. The students were so frightened that at least one child urinated on herself, Nini added.
“The officers began to question the students about the books they were reading and took pictures of the books,” Nini explained. The officers then made their way to the principal’s office, broke in, and confiscated teacher salaries and school papers in the drawers of the principal’s desk, she said.
During the raid, the school’s deputy principal and three teachers were taken into Israeli custody. They were released later on Monday.
Rachel Greenspan, spokeswoman for the local government, said the Jerusalem municipality was not involved in the incident and denied there was a raid on the school. “There was a dispute between the teachers and the principal regarding salaries,” she told Al Jazeera.
An Israeli police spokesperson did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment.
|Israeli authorities have revoked the Zahwa al-Quds school’s permit [Courtesy: Zahwa al-Quds]|
‘Scared to go to school’
Monday was not the first time Zahwa al-Quds school was targeted by Israeli security forces. According to Nini, two armed Israeli police officers also stormed and searched the school in September.
The school received an Israeli permit when it was established about a year ago, according to Shamali. However in July, Israel allegedly revoked the license after staff refused to start teaching the Israeli curriculum, forcing the school to obtain a Palestinian permit from the al-Waqf Islamic Trust.
Shamali said Israel’s targeting of Zahwa al-Quds was part of its plan to coerce Palestinian schools in East Jerusalem into teaching the Israeli curriculum.
“They don’t want anything Palestinian left. They want all of our schools to be for Israelis,” he said. “So they will keep making it difficult for our children to learn.”
Tahseen Elayyan, head of the monitoring and documentation department at the Palestinian human rights NGO al-Haq, agreed saying there have been “constant attempts” by Israel to impose its education system on Palestinian schools.
Israel’s goal is “to suppress the Palestinian narrative, especially since the curriculum does not mention the atrocities committed against Palestinians in 1948 and other historical facts that are linked to Palestinian history on this land”, Elayyan said.
Shamali said Palestinian students have unwittingly become victims of Israel’s “violent policies” towards Palestinian schools in East Jerusalem.
“These raids make the children scared to go to school,” he said, noting families are becoming afraid to send their children to schools that teach the Palestinian curriculum.
“If children are seeing police raid their schools and arrest their teachers, they will think that school is a bad and unsafe place,” said Shamali.
“They would never behave like this in front of Israeli children.”