Israel Begins Witch Hunt against Palestinian Educators, Pupils who Honoured Land Day

Israel launched a witch hunt against Palestinian educators and pupils who commemorated Land Day by participating in the community’s declared strike. Education Ministry supervisors visited Palestinian schools on Land Day and schools were ordered to send lists of teachers absent that day.

On 30 March 2011, the 35th commemoration of Palestinian Land Day, the Israeli Ministry of Education launched a campaign of intimidation against Palestinian schools and educators in northern Israel.

Dr. Orna Simchon, director of the Education Ministry’s northern district, sent a letter to Palestinian schools in the region on Land Day, demanding to know whether classes were held that day and if not, why. They were also asked to immediately report the attendance records for the day, including lists of teachers who had and had not come to school.

Land Day commemorates the 1976 Palestinian strikes and demonstrations, against Israeli land confiscation policy, during which six Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed, hundreds arrested and hundreds injured.

This year as in previous years, a general strike took place on Land Day in Palestinian towns and villages in Israel. This strike included the education system and was fully supported by the High Arab Monitoring Committee- National Committee’s local council heads, together with most student- parent committees and councils, elected in Palestinian schools.

In response to this attack, the Follow-Up Committee on Arab Education-Israel sent a letter to Knesset Member and Minister of Education Gideon Saar, together with Dr. Shimshon Shoshani, Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Education.

"We wish to emphasise that this is the full right of the Arab population, as a national minority and as citizens with equal rights, to conduct a strike in order to protest policies of discrimination and home demolitions, together with the worrying racist tendencies that have picked up speed in the state, in addition to the raging racism that is expressed by, amongst other ways, racist legislation that pushes Israel to become an apartheid state…A collective strike of national minority citizens has a crucial educational message, from which the majority group can also learn."

The letter concludes by demanding that "all districts and Education Ministry officials immediately halt persecution of the Arab teachers on this backdrop. Such inexplicable steps serve solely to increase the feeling of distrust of the Arab public in the system and the alienation amongst Arab pupils, teachers and parents."

This is but the most recent attempt by Israel to prevent Palestinian citizens from celebrating and commemorating their history.

On 22 March, the Israeli Knesset approved the controversial "Nakba Law", which mandates fines for state funded bodies that commemorate the Nakba, the 1948 Palestinian catastrophe of death, displacement and dispossession. 

The Palestinian public in Israel has stated it will continue to commemorate its national days and history, despite this legal threat.

A statement released by the Follow-Up Committee on Arab Education- Israel, following the vote, says, "The Palestinian Arab public in Israel has every right to observe national days and preserve the national collective memory, including content in school curriculum."

"The Follow-up Committee on Arab Education will continue to target Arab schools, specifically on Nakba Day, Land Day, the massacre in Kafr Qasem and other important historical events, to enhance the national and cultural affiliation of Arab students and present the denied Palestinian narrative, and will continue to fight for inclusion in the curriculum."

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