Bedouin school under imminent threat of demolition

Yesterday, 25 April, Israel's High Court postponed by a week a decision on whether the primary school in the Bedouin community of Khan al Ahmar will be demolished. The school serves 178 students from the area and was built from rubber tyres and recycled materials through the cooperation of local and international volunteers and donors. 

 

The community is one of 27 Bedouin communities in Area C – the 60 percent of the West Bank where Israel maintains full civil and military control – which is visited regularly by the MAP-supported mobile clinic.

Delegations of British parliamentarians coordinated by Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) and Caabu often go to the village’s primary school and have witnessed the harm caused to Bedouin communities living in Area C.

Khan al Ahmar is located between two illegal Israeli settlements in the periphery of Jerusalem. In February 2017 Israeli authorities issued demolition orders to 40 homes and the primary school in the village. 

These demolitions constitute a threat to the residents’ rights to housing, education and health which Israel is obliged to respect as the occupying power. As well as the physical health challenges Bedouin communities face, fear of imminent demolitions impacts the psychological wellbeing of the community, especially its youngest members.

At the 9th annual Lancet Palestinian Health Alliance conference in Beirut, MAP heard how fear of imminent demolitions impacts children’s mental health. Research presented by Umaiyeh Khammash, Salwa G Massad and Rosalyn Shute stated: “All school children expressed fear of losing their school due to the demolition order”.

The school is one of 44 Palestinian schools at risk of full or partial demolition because Israeli authorities say they were built illegally. However, Palestinians are routinely prevented from building permanent infrastructure due to a restrictive and discriminatory planning regime which makes it virtually impossible for Palestinians to obtain Israeli building permits.

In February, two donor-funded classrooms (3rd and 4th grade), serving 26 Palestinian school children in the Bedouin and refugee community of Abu Nuwar in Area C, were demolished due to the lack of Israeli-issued permits.

Bill Van Esveld, Senior Children’s Rights Researcher at Human Rights Watch said:

Israeli authorities have been getting away for years with demolishing primary schools and preschools in Palestinian communities. The Israeli military’s refusal to issue building permits and then knocking down schools without permits is discriminatory and violates children’s right to education.”

Robert Piper, the UN’s Aid and Development Co-Ordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, said: 

“When schools are demolished, the right to education of Palestinian children is also threatened. The international community must work together to provide assistance and protection to vulnerable communities and insist that international law is respected.”

MAP supports international calls for the protection of the community and school of Khan Al Ahmar, and welcomes the UK Government’s opposition to the demolition. Last Wednesday, 18 April, the Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt said: “The UK has made repeated representations on this particular possibility of demolition… we will continue to do so as a matter of urgency.”

You can read more about demolitions in Area C in Chapter Four of our Health Under Occupation series, ‘Development’.

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