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Oct 1, 2018

The Long Road to School

School bus stuck in mud on the Al-Fur'a road
School bus stuck in mud on the Al-Fur'a road

Dear Friends, 

Greetings to you from Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. 

The new school year has just begun in Israel, and one of the main issues that Adalah will continue to work on during the 2018-2019 school year is access to school, particularly for Arab Bedouin kids in the Naqab (Negev) desert. 

As we have reported previously, Adalah has worked extensively on ensuring transport to school for pre-school aged Arab Bedouin children, and we will continue in the coming months to confront the Education Ministry to abide by its promises to allocate the funds necessary for access to early childhood education, as required by Israeli law. We will also monitor the Ministry’s obligations, pursuant to court orders, to build safe bus stops for the thousands of Bedouin kids who need a secure place to wait for their buses to school, out of harms way. 

In addition to these obstacles to access schools, Adalah is also working on cases to compel various Israeli ministries and local authorities to repair often-impassable school access roads in Bedouin villages. These roads become dangerous, particularly in the winter due to heavy rains, and block students’ and teachers’ ability – unnecessarily - to even get to school. 

One case on which we are working is that the road to school in Al-Fur’a village. At the beginning of 2018, Adalah sent a letter to the Education Ministry, the Al Qasoum Regional Council, the national transport infrastructure company Netivei Israel, and the Bedouin Negev Development and Settlement Authority, demanding that they repair a narrow, pothole-riddled school access road that is often submerged in water during heavy winter rains and connect it to Highway 31.

Al-Fur’a – recognized by the state in 2006 – is home to some 6,000 residents. Around 3,000 children from Al-Fur’a and neighboring Bedouin communities attend kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, and high school in the village.

In response to a petition filed to the Israeli Supreme Court by Adalah and Al-Fur’a residents many years ago, the state committed to repairing the access road and made a subsequent such commitment when faced with a contempt of court motion filed by residents before the court.

Nevertheless, the schools today remain connected to Highway 31 only via a cracked and often impassable 600-meter long “agricultural track” that is riddled with potholes. 

Adalah Attorney Myssana Morany wrote in her letter that the state has been violating its commitments to the court for years:

“Connecting [the schools] to the highway interchange via an agricultural track does not satisfy the state’s commitments made before the Supreme Court, which has already ruled that ‘agricultural tracks are not to be considered ‘statutory roads’, and are therefore not considered roads at all… Village residents are reporting difficulties for vehicles – particularly school buses – when winter conditions create potholes in the track making it inaccessible. The track is also too narrow for two vehicles traveling in opposite directions to drive down at the same time. Further, during days of heavy rain, the track becomes entirely submerged and completely impassable.” 

Adalah also stressed that the agricultural track presents a danger to local schoolchildren:

“The current situation threatens students’ lives and violates their constitutional rights to dignity and equality, as well as their right to education, as enshrined in the Compulsory Education Law. It is clear to all that an agricultural track is not a safe way to get students to school and that an asphalt access road must be paved in accordance with the relevant standards.”

Adalah will take legal measures in the coming period to follow-up on the Al-Fur’a road to school case, as well as other infrastructure/road problems in the Bedouin villages in order to ensure access to schools for children. If Bedouin kids cannot even get to school, they are being deprived totally of their right to an education.  

We thank you in advance for your continued support of Adalah’s work to uphold the right to education for Palestinian children, citizens of Israel, throughout the country.  We appreciate you generosity.  

In solidarity,

Rina Rosenberg (Jabareen)

International Advocacy Director, Adalah

Bedouin girls on their way to school (Naqab)
Bedouin girls on their way to school (Naqab)
Sep 17, 2018

Protest rights on campus

Adalah Attorney Soheir Asaad with the TAU students
Adalah Attorney Soheir Asaad with the TAU students

Dear Friends,

Greetings to you from Adalah!

The new academic year is starting next month, October, in Israel, and in anticipation of the fall semester, Adalah is thinking about Palestinian students’ rights to protest on campus.

Oftentimes, Israeli universities prohibit or greatly restrict protest by Arab students and student associations, alleging for example, that events to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day (15 April) or Nakba Day (15 May), a national day of mourning for Palestinians, or demonstrations against the killings of Palestinians in Gaza by Israeli military forces would “pose a threat to public safety.” Sometimes the universities try to pass the costs of security for the protests onto the students seeking to impose, what Adalah sees, as an illegal tax and burden on freedom of expression. Adalah represents numerous students and student organizations before the university disciplinary committees to cancel charges, uphold fair hearing/due process rules, and promote freedom of expression/opinion/assembly on campus.

Adalah recently successfully represented two students, Mr. Tariq Taha and Mr. Yousef Taha from the Jafra Student Assembly Movement, after Tel Aviv University (TAU) decided to refer them to the disciplinary committee for protesting, together with other students, against the participation of an Egyptian lecturer in a conference held on campus. The student protestors considered this lecture to be an act of normalization with Israel.

In her arguments before the disciplinary committee, Adalah Attorney Soheir Asaad contended that, “The allegations made against the students do not constitute an offense, but rather political activity undertaken by the students during a public conference, and falls within their freedoms to political expression and protest.”

Adalah emphasized at the hearing that, “Public law applies to the university as a public institution, and therefore also the principles of constitutional law, including basic rights and freedom of expression in particular. Hence the university’s disciplinary rules must be interpreted in manner that upholds the students’ rights.”

On this basis, Attorney Asaad demanded that the claims made against the students should be withdrawn.

After the hearing and submission of written arguments in May 2018, the committee gave the university ten days in which to respond. The university did not respond, and on 4 June 2018, the university withdrew its disciplinary claims against the students as a purported goodwill gesture for the holy month of Ramadan. The university, in parallel, also issued an extra-procedural warning to the students outside the framework of the disciplinary committee "for the purpose of deterring potential similar future incidents."

On 1 July 2018, the disciplinary committee issued a decision accepting the university's request to withdraw its claims against the students but nevertheless emphasized that the extra-procedural warning had no legal or disciplinary significance. The committee further noted that the withdrawal of the claims against the students should not be understood as a disciplinary measure – suspended or otherwise – so that it not have a chilling effect on the right to freedom of speech at the university.

Adalah will hold its annual Palestinian Law Students’ conference from 20-22 September 2018, and will seek to raise awareness among the participants about their rights (and duty!) to protest on campus. 

We greatly appreciate your continued support to Protect the Protest, and we would be very grateful if you would share this report with your friends and family to encourage contributions to our work.  

In solidarity and with thanks,

Rina Rosenberg (Jabareen)

Archive photo: Protest at TAU, 2010
Archive photo: Protest at TAU, 2010
Jul 3, 2018

Step-by-step: Ensuring safe access to school

Children going on the bus to preschool
Children going on the bus to preschool

Dear Friends,

Many greetings to you from Adalah. 

This update follows up our past reports concerning the lack of access to preschools, kindergartens, and schools in general for Arab Bedouin children from unrecognized villages in the Naqab (Negev) desert region in southern Israel. Thousands of children in these communities are facing two main challenges preventing them from safely accessing school every day: the lack of school buses for preschool-aged children and the absence of safe and protected school bus stops for Bedouin children of all ages.

We are very proud to report that due to Adalah’s persistence before the Israeli courts, we have succeeded to obtain transport for preschool-aged children from three Bedouin villages to school, and a commitment by the state and the local Regional Council to build proper bus stops near 47 schools in the Naqab.

During the past year, the Israeli Education Ministry and Al-Qasoum Regional Council, the local governing authority, have twice promised the Beer Sheva District Court in legal proceedings that they would act to provide transportation for 3- and 4-year-old preschool children from unrecognized Bedouin villages. The Court approved this commitment, but the Israeli authorities violated the decision, leaving the kids with no way to get to school. The Compulsory Education Law requires free, pre-school education for all children in Israel, and thus the state is in direct violation of the law.

In response to the state's failure to provide the buses, Adalah filed a motion for contempt of court against the Education Ministry and the Regional Council in February 2018 on behalf of parents from three Bedouin villages of Al Sira, Al-Jaraf and Umm Namila.

The authorities’ violation of the court decisions constitutes a serious, ongoing violation of the most basic rights of the children and their parents:

“Due to the conduct of the respondents, the petitioners have been forced time and again to appeal to the legal system in order to obtain basic services – services which no one is disputing their right to receive, and which they have been repeatedly promised would be provided.”

At a hearing in March 2018, the court ordered that buses must be supplied to the three petitioning villages within five days, and that the state had 30 days in which to provide transport to the remaining villages’ preschool children, estimated at around 5000 children.

However, at a further hearing on 29 May 2018, the Court switched positions, refused to continue with a general remedy for all children without transport, and decided to close the case.

Adalah will consider further legal steps and continue to monitor the situation to ensure that all children in all unrecognized villages are provided with transportation to school.

Naqab Bedouin children of all ages face potentially life-threatening challenges just making their way to school every day as hundreds don’t have access to safe, standardized bus stops but are instead forced to gather on the shoulders of local desert roads and busy highways to wait for their school buses.

Following the submission of a petition and a protracted legal battle led by Adalah, Israeli authorities agreed in early May 2018 to fund the construction of school bus stops in the Neve Midbar and Al-Qasoum Regional Councils, adjacent to 47 schools – including 10 high schools, 37 elementary schools, and four planned schools that are not yet operational. This commitment exceeded Adalah’s demand before the Court, as the petition was filed on behalf of parents of children who attend schools in 6 villages, and thus marks a major achievement.

The Be'er Sheva District Court accepted the state's commitment to establish bus stations, but refrained at a hearing in June 2018 from ordering the authorities to establish a timeline for the construction, noting that 12 months from the time in which the regional council received budgets from the Education Ministry was reasonable. Adalah will continue to monitor the implementation of the state’s commitment, as the Court regrettably refused to keep the case pending, as Adalah requested.

In its ruling, Be'er Sheva District Court Judge Yael Raz-Levy noted that Adalah's petition demanding the construction of safe bus stops for Bedouin kids was important:

"The submission of this petition was important and its arguments were significant… [The petition] bore fruit." (Emphasis in original)

Thanks again for your support for Adalah. 

In solidarity,

Children walking to school in the Naqab desert
Children walking to school in the Naqab desert
 
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