The Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Minister is set to offer more than 20m shekels ($5.3m) to schools in East Jerusalem on the condition that they teach the Israeli curriculum.
The vast majority of schools in Occupied East Jerusalem, where almost all the city’s Palestinian residents live, follow the Palestinian curriculum which was adopted since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 1994.
Israel has made several attempts over the years to impose the Israeli curriculum on schools in East Jerusalem. The last proposal was made in January 2016, when the Education Ministry prepared a plan to offer extra resources for teaching and other services such as counselling and recreation to schools that offer the Israeli curriculum in full or in part.
The plan was criticised by civil rights who questioned the legality of the plan under Israeli and international law.
Sawsan Zaher, an attorney with Adalah, the legal centre for Arab minority rights in Israel said, “You cannot condition the allocation of budget by imposing the Israeli curriculum on Palestinian schools in East Jerusalem, specifically in this area because it is an occupied area, and since 1967 it has maintained a political status quo in schools.”
She added, “Based on international law, the local population has the right to maintain its regular way of life and the occupying power is not allowed to interfere in it unless there is a military necessity.”
“Based on Israeli law and case law, conditioning the allocation of budget will lead to discrimination based on nationality because only the schools in East Jerusalem will be the schools that will not get the funding because of the political status quo,” Zaher said.
The new school year has been dubbed ‘united Jerusalem’ year by Israel’s right-wing education minister Naftali Bennett, to mark the 50 years since the Israeli military captured – and occupied – East Jerusalem.
There is a serious shortage of classrooms in East Jerusalem schools, while some of the buildings rented by the municipality – to be used as schools – are unfit for purpose, according to Ziad Shamali, head of the East Jerusalem Parents Committee.
Shamali also noted that crowded conditions make it harder for teachers and students to perform effectively adding that he resented the prospect of renovation funding being conditional on schools changing curriculums.
Betty Herschman, director of communications and advocacy at Ir Amim said: “The shortage of classrooms in the official system in East Jerusalem is dire enough that the Supreme Court has ruled it constitutes a violation of the constitutional right to education for the children of East Jerusalem.”
For 2016, Arab schools received eight million shekels [$2.1m] for renovations compared to 42m shekels [$11.1m] allocated for secular and national religious schools