The Peace in the Conflict

The latest news articles of Palestine seem to only focus on the Palestine/Israel peace talks. Indeed the two words almost seem synonymous. Yet what is rarely seem in the media is the ‘good’ aspects of the Palestine/Israel relationship.

When researching for last week’s blog post I came across an interesting website – Oasis of Peace. In 1972 this organisation created a community where Arabs and Jews were offered the opportunity to come together and share their living and life experiences in a hope that the dominant stereotypes would be reduced and that a peace between the two could be possible.

While some may be sceptical of this idea, and even the organisers admitted that they were naïve to an extent, the idea had some merit. The thesis of the organisation was that it was a conflict between two peoples rather than individuals and so with a few trial and errors the organisation came to offer an opportunity for two national identities to meet and identify with their group.

The organisation and community are such a success that the School of Peace is internationally recognised and has hosted 45,000 students and adults and the community has grown to 55 families. The school itself has 500 students and educates them in a bilingual bicultural environment.

This goes to show that not all citizens of Israel and Palestine are in conflict with each other and that there is hope that the two peoples are able to live together…eventually.

Oasis of Peace – Neve Shalom-Wahat al-Salam

ABC easy as 123?

One of the more complex issues of the middle-east is the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. While the conflict is usually portrayed as a physical one through various media outlets, it is also evident on an educational level. A report by the Human Rights Watch (2001) on the school systems of Israel deduced that the education system discriminates against Palestinian citizens.

The Israeli government implements two different school systems, one for Jewish citizens and another for Palestinian citizens. Under international law the Israeli government may offer separate education and curricula systems for linguistic and/or religious purposes while still ensuring that they do not discriminate in the process, yet this does not seem to be the case in Israel.

According to the HRW report, Palestinian schools lack funding and equal curricula in comparison with the Israeli Jewish schools. Yet this inequality does not stop at just lower schools but also reaches into the university domain. All Palestinian students from the beginning to the end of their school lives are subjected to a lower level of:

  • Budgets
  • Curricula
  • Hiring practices
  • Teacher training
  • Physical conditions
  • Education psychologists
  • Counsellors, and
  • Special education

Palestinian Arab curricula has been structured so as to limit individual motivation and to ensure that the Palestinian minority is ‘submissive’ to the Jewish majority. Despite a ‘promise’ from the Director General of Israel’s Minister of Education to remove the larger gaps between the school systems in a year, the Israeli government was still allocating less money per Palestinian than Jewish school children in 2004.

While Palestinian teachers are having to make do with larger class sizes, a lack of resources and text books their Jewish counterparts enjoy smaller class size, better basic facilities such as, libraries, laboratories and recreational spaces. For Palestinian children the drop-out rate is three times more than that of Jewish children, with Palestinian children being less likely to pass the national matriculation exam to achieve their high school certificates. These discrepancies are also seen in university entry numbers, with only a small number of university students being of Palestinian decent.

One major difference of the school systems in terms of subjects, was that Palestinian children are taught in Arabic while Jewish children are taught in Hebrew. For the Palestinian children Hebrew is taught as a second language yet Jewish schools do not require their students to learn Arabic at an educational level.

Yet this discrimination does not stop at the school children but also extends to the teachers, as Palestinian teachers are required to undergo a security test – without their knowledge- and a Shin Bet stamp (General Security Service) before they are able to be hired.

These discrepancies are evident, yet the Supreme Court of Israel has never found the educational system, in cases of discrimination against a Palestinian student, to be guilty of a violation of the international law.

Palestinian school children