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Help Palestinian Students in Israel #MakeTheGrade

by Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
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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
Still from video on school bus stops in the Naqab
Still from video on school bus stops in the Naqab

Dear friends,

Thanks to your support during this past year, we have fought for and achieved the opening of high school for Bedouin students and then saved this nascent school from being closed!

Last year, in November 2018, Adalah sent a letter to the Israeli authorities demanding that they open a high school in Al-Zarnouq, an unrecognized Bedouin village, located in the Naqab (Negev) desert.

The village of around 5,000 residents has 450 high school-age pupils who have to travel long distances to and from schools in other villages. As a result, many students drop out and never complete more than the 8th grade. After long correspondence, the Education Ministry and the local Regional Council was set to open the school in September for the 2019-2020 academic year. 

However, in August 2019, Regavim – a right-wing, pro-settler Israeli organization – filed a petition to the Be’er Sheva District Court to prevent the opening of the urgently needed high school. Regavim argued that the high school had not acquired all the necessary permits and paperwork to open its facility, and claimed that regardless of these documents, the school itself is still illegal because it is located in an unrecognized village.

Regavim regularly submits petitions before Israeli courts against Bedouins in the Naqab and in the West Bank. The organization claims that “the Jewish People are being robbed of the Land of Israel” by any development projects undertaken by/for these communities.

In a hearing on 29 August 2019, Adalah argued before the court that Regavim’s petition must be rejected. Adalah emphasized that the school had already been put in place and that preparations were under way to begin the new year in the fall of 2019. Adalah further argued that Regavim's petition was pursuing bad motives and intentions under the law.

The court accepted Adalah’s arguments. Adalah later participated in a meeting with the local planning committee to secure the remaining necessary permits. And the school was finally opened at the end of September 2019!

An achievement like this – the opening of the high school and fighting the right-wing to prevent its closure - is made possible by your ongoing support of our work.

Further, for the new school year, a journalist and cameraman for YNet – a leading Hebrew newspaper in Israel – accompanied Adalah to several villages in the Naqab and interviewed our staff and local residents about the government’s neglect of kindergartens for Bedouin children, producing a widely watched report (Hebrew).

Adalah also released a one-minute video to raise awareness of Israel’s refusal to provide basis infrastructure for transportation for Bedouin school kids.

About 12,000 Bedouin children continue to face danger every day as there are no bus stops to keep them safe from the busy highways where they need to be picked up.

Adalah took the Israeli authorities to court to construct these bus stops and won – but despite the state’s commitment, one year later, the bus stops have yet to be built.

Your support is crucial for us to take all actions necessary to ensure the state fulfils its obligations. Please donate to Adalah today.

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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?

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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

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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?

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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)
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Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel

Location: Haifa - Israel
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