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Arab schools protest Israeli curriculum changes

Sept. 18, 2011 7:15 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 19, 2011 9:44 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Reuters) -- A recent decision by Israeli authorities to implement an Israeli-approved curriculum in private Arab schools in East Jerusalem and remove Palestinian textbooks has incited fury among parents and community members.

The response has culminated in strikes and campaigns fighting the decision and many private schools have threatened to close amid refusal to adopt the new measures.

Earlier this year, the Jerusalem municipality sent a letter to the heads of private schools -- schools that are allocated funds from Israeli authorities -- in which they instructed the schools to only use textbooks prepared by the Jerusalem Educational Administration, a joint body of the municipality and the Israeli Ministry of Education.

Despite opposition to the plan by the Palestinian Authority, Waqf and private schools' opposition to the plan, many of the books have already been used in the municipality's schools.

The logo of the Palestinian Education Ministry has been removed from all new textbooks and parents complained the content of some books has been distorted.

"We received today a book that was assigned to private schools -- a book for the fourth grade titled: "We Think, We Express". All the writers featured in this book are Israeli. This shows private schools are now receiving Israeli curriculum, not just distorted versions of the Palestinian curriculum," Abdel Karim Lafi, Head of the Parents' Committee Union told reporters in a news conference in Jerusalem last week.

"This is the first step towards erasing everything that is Palestinian in this city," Lafi added.

Palestinian students and members of the school system in Jerusalem held three days of protests between Tuesday [September 13] and Thursday [September 15] and have threatened to extend their strike until the new measures are reversed.

"They want to show us that we are the ones occupying them, not them occupying us. They want to show they are the ones worth our pity, not us -- like we are not the ones being occupied. This is where they want to take us, but we refuse this," Palestinian student Ahmed Adawia said.

The move to change the East Jerusalem curriculum came after Israeli parliament member Alex Miller from Yisrael Beiteinu party said in a meeting 'unauthorized' curricula was being studied in Palestinian East Jerusalem schools. He said "the whole curriculum should and must be Israeli."

Miller heads the Knesset's committee on education.

After Israel annexed East Jerusalem following the 1967 conflict -- a move that was not recognized internationally -- Palestinians in the city followed the Jordanian educational system.

When Palestinians and Israelis signed the Oslo agreement schools in East Jerusalem began using a curriculum set by the Palestinian Authority.

Based on 2010-2011 statistics by the East Jerusalem Education Directorate, the Israeli Jerusalem municipality runs 50 schools in East Jerusalem, which are attended by 48 percent of Palestinian students in the city.

Additionally, 52 percent of students attended 68 private, Waqf and Palestinian Authority schools in the holy city.
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