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Help Palestinian Students in Israel #MakeTheGrade

by Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
Help Palestinian Students in Israel #MakeTheGrade
Help Palestinian Students in Israel #MakeTheGrade
Help Palestinian Students in Israel #MakeTheGrade
Help Palestinian Students in Israel #MakeTheGrade
Help Palestinian Students in Israel #MakeTheGrade
Help Palestinian Students in Israel #MakeTheGrade
Help Palestinian Students in Israel #MakeTheGrade
Screenshot of video in the online hasbara course
Screenshot of video in the online hasbara course

Dear friends,

This year, 25 bright Palestinian students at a high school in Nazareth were supposed to travel to Sweden for an exciting exchange program.

But the students, all citizens of Israel, discovered that a new rule had been put in place by Israel's Education Ministry: all high schoolers in the country – Arab and Jewish – had to pass an online government propaganda course in order to participate in overseas class trips.

The mandatory course requires students to watch a series of videos and then take a multiple choice exam – the correct answers of which are shockingly racist and promote the Israeli government's "hasbara" (propaganda) messages against Palestinians.

For example, one question asks: "How do Palestinian organizations use digital social networks?" The correct answer of four possible choices: "Encouraging violence".

Another question asks students to identify the origins of modern anti-Semitism. The exam's correct answer: "Muslim organizations" and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

"The Israeli Education Ministry is trying to turn high school students into agents of propaganda charged with spreading extreme racist ideology," said Adalah Attorney Nareman Shehadeh-Zoabi, who wrote a letter to the Education Ministry last month on behalf of the school, the Masar Association.

Adalah argued in its letter that, in addition to violating Israeli laws, the propaganda course is an affront to the values of educational pluralism and constitute blatant humiliation of Palestinian high school students, who are essentially being told to internalize racist ideologies and beliefs about their own community.

"This is outrageous and illegal", said Attorney Shehadeh-Zoabi. "Political and ideological coercion of citizens radically contradicts the goals of education. Adalah will take all necessary steps to abolish this course, which is repugnantly offensive to Arab citizens and students".

Adalah is preparing to take further legal actions to cancel the propaganda course by the start of the 2019-2020 academic year, so that all high schoolers in Israel can participate in foreign exchange programs without the racist indoctrination of the government.

Will you donate today to help us in this effort?

Dear Friends,

Warm greetings from Adalah.

Just last week, Adalah achieved a success from our work before the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), a major UN human rights body. The Committee released a List of Issues relating to Bedouin citizens of Israel living in the Naqab, relying in large part on information submitted to the Committee by Adalah and our partner, the Negev Co-Existence Forum (NCF).

Israel ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) – a main human rights treaty – in 1991 and is therefore obligated to abide by it.

In January 2019, Adalah and NCF submitted a joint report to the Committee on Israel's lack of compliance with the ICESCR. The report included information on: (1) Israel's failure to systematically collect specific data on the Bedouin; (2) the staggering high incidence of poverty, three times more than Jewish Israelis; (3) forced evictions, home demolitions and planning mechanisms to dispossess the Bedouin from their land; (4) the denial of access to safe drinking water and the lack of adequate sanitation; (5) the inadequate investment in education; and (6) the severe obstacles to employment for Arab Bedouin women.

In early March, Adalah Attorney Mysanna Morany together with an NCF representative, gave presentations to the pre-sessional Working Group of the Committee in Geneva on the issues raised in the joint report. The Committee is comprised of about 20 human rights experts from different countries around the world.

This past Thursday, 28 March 2019, the CESCR released its detailed List of Issues, obliging Israel to address critical questions based on several subjects highlighted in our joint report. For example, the Committee asked Israel to provide information on: “Steps taken to improve data collection relating to the Bedouin population and provide statistical data relating to their enjoyment of the Covenant rights, disaggregated by sex, disability and locality. This includes their numbers …  and access to education … and other public services.”

Further questions regarding the right to education included requests to Israel to provide information on: (1) the impact of measures taken to address the high incidence of school dropout and low level of academic achievement among Arab and Bedouin students; and (2) measures taken, and their impact, to ensure that all children, including Arab and Bedouin children, benefit from free early childhood education, and the enrollment rates of these groups of children.

Adalah and NCF welcomes the Committee’s List of Issues, and we look forward to participating in the Committee’s full review of Israel’s compliance with the ICESCR, scheduled for October 2019.  

Adalah engages with UN human rights bodies in parallel to our legal work before Israeli courts. The purpose of this international advocacy work is to make international human rights law, which is viewed by Israeli courts, as persuasive legal authority. Favorable concluding observations from these UN bodies also empower Adalah’s lawyers in their argumentation: they show that international human rights bodies agree with our claims of rights violations, and that the courts should also uphold the highest standards of human rights.

In solidarity,

Rina Rosenberg

International Advocacy Director, Adalah


Al Zarnouq pupils: "High school = 0 dropout rate"
Al Zarnouq pupils: "High school = 0 dropout rate"

Dear friends,

This past quarter, Adalah has been fighting on behalf of the community of Al Zarnouq, an unrecognized village in the Naqab (Negev) home to around 5,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel, to help hundreds of its kids #MakeTheGrade.

There are currently about 450 high school-aged pupils in the village, many of whom have achieved excellent academic standards through grades 1 to 8 – and many more kids are growing up to follow in their footsteps.

But there is a major problem: Al Zarnouq has no high school of its own.

Because Israel refuses to recognize the village, the state has long denied basic rights and services to the Bedouin residents unless compelled to by legal actions from groups like Adalah. These denied services include electricity, water, sewers, safe roads – and schools.

Thanks to Adalah's interventions nearly two decades ago, an elementary school with all basic amenities was opened in Al Zarnouq in 2000, which today serves some 1,000 students from grades 1 through 8, and another 470 kindergarten students aged three to five.

However, once the students graduate from 8th grade, they are forced to leave Al Zarnouq every day – often from early morning until late at night – in order to study at high schools in other distant villages dozens of kilometers away. This long trek is compounded by the problem of overcrowded classrooms and sub-standard conditions in those schools.

These factors have led to a sharp decline in academic success and to a worrying dropout rate once the students enter high school. This, in turn, severely damages these youths' ability to pursue university studies and to find work in the future.

As such, in November 2018, Adalah sent a letter to Israeli authorities demanding that they open a high school in Al Zarnouq, reminding them that the state has an obligation under the Compulsory Education Act (1949) to help all its citizens fulfil their right to accessible and quality education.

Adalah even specified an exact location in Al Zarnouq that would be suitable for the construction of the high school, noting that there are no zoning or planning obstacles to prevent it from being built.

We are prepared to launch further legal interventions in court if the Israeli authorities refuse to comply. And for that to succeed, we need your support.

Will you increase your donation today to help Al Zarnouq's kids #MakeTheGrade, and to bring their high school closer to home?

School bus stuck in mud on the Al-Fur
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)
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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Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel

Location: Haifa - Israel
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @adalahcenter
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