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Palestinian Education: A thrreat to Israeli's security?
The Israeli policy of school closures in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip
(JMCC, pp. 54, August 1990)


  •  1. Introduction
  • 2. The School System in the Occupied Territories
  • 3. The Sequence of Closures
      • 3.1 West Bank
      • 3.2 East Jerusalem
      • 3.3 Gaza Strip
  • 4. Closure Rationale
      • 4.1 An Examination of the Official Explanation
      • 4.2 Collective Punishment
      • 4.3 A Policy of Enforced Ignorance
      • 4.4 An Issue of Asserting Control
      • 4.5 Differences in Policy - West Bank and Gaza Strip
      • 4.6 Illegality of Closures
      • 4.7 The Policy of Individual School Closures
  • 5. Consequences
      • 5.1 Academic Effects
        • 5.1.1 Elementary Level (6 - 12 year-olds)
        • 5.1.2 Preparatory Level (13 - 15 year-olds)
        • 5.1.3 Secondary Level (15 - 18 year-olds)
        • 5.1.4 Longterm Effects on Overall Educational Standards
      • 5.2 Social Effects
        • 5.2.1 Socialisation and Cultural Literacy
        • 5.2.2 Response to Authority
        • 5.2.3 Motivation to Learn
        • 5.2.4 Strain on Teachers and Parents
      • 5.3 Economic Effects
        • 5.3.1 Teachers
        • 5.3.2 Parents
        • 5.3.3 Institutions
  • 6. Conclusion
      • TABLE 1: Grade Levels with Equivalent Student Ages
      • TABLE 2: Percentage of Students in UNRWA, Government and Private Schools
      • TABLE 3: Number of West Bank Schools/Students by Grade Level
      • TABLE 4: Number of Gaza Strip Students by Grade Level
      • Al. Area-Wide School Closure Orders - West Bank
      • A2. Individual School Closure Orders - West Bank
      • A3. Individual School Closure Orders - East Jerusalem
      • A4. Individual School Closure Orders - Gaza Strip
      • B. Translation of School Closure Orders


      Since December 1987 the Israeli military authorities have implemented a range of measures of collective punishment in response to the Palestinian uprising. Among the most comprehensive and widely implemented of these measures has been interference in Palestinian education, carried out at all levels and in all areas of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It has involved extended and widespread closures of schools and universities, military attacks on schools, the military occupation of schools for use as military headquarters and detention centres, the outlawing of popularly initiated alternative education programmes, and the harassment and detention of educators and students.

      In 1988 all educational institutions in the West Bank were closed for nearly eight months of the year, preventing nearly 300,000 school students, and 18,000 university and college students from pursuing their education - the entire population was denied access to any formal educational In 1989, again, all schools in the West Bank were closed for a period of six months.

      In July 1989, the Israeli authorities announced the reopening of all West Bank schools - a decision which Palestinians have interpreted, at least in part, as a response to increasing international concern over the denial of education to a whole generation of Palestinians. Since then, West Bank schools have officially been open. In reality, however, interference with Palestinian education has taken a less conspicuous form: rather than issuing blanket closure orders for the whole West Bank area, the Israeli authorities have resorted to closing down individual schools instead. Since July 1989, at least 250 West Bank schools have been ordered closed again, some of them repeatedly. In the Gaza Strip, too, individual school closures and curfews continue to daily prevent students from attending classes.

      This report is a revised, updated version of a report initially published in February 1989; it focuses on the closure of primary and secondary schools in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip by the Israeli authorities between 9 December 1987 and 31 May 1990, and the implications of this policy.

      The data presented in this report is based primarily on information collected from interviews made with teachers, professors, and students throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. An effort was made to speak with persons with as wide a variety of experience and expertise as possible. Elementary, preparatory, and secondary teachers from government, private, and UNRWA schools, as well as school administrators and professors of higher education were interviewed, in addition to students from all levels and all types of schools. All those interviewed were asked to describe their experience of education during the period of study and to analyse the consequences of the various sanctions. Additional information was taken from the local press.

      For security reasons, most of those interviewed preferred to remain anonymous, and many also requested that their positions and places of employment not be mentioned for fear of repercussions from the military. This in itself demonstrates the tight restrictions under which the occupiers have placed education.

      In view of the extent to which the school closure policy has disrupted education, this report can be no more than an introduction to the crisis-situation Palestinian education f aces today. Although by no means comprehensive, the report presents a selection of experiences of educators and students, and their evaluation of the implications of these experiences. Among the topics discussed are: the scope of the closures, reasons behind the closure policy, and the academic, social, and economic effects of this policy.

      Details on school closures have been taken from the local Arabic and English press, and, in the case of UNRWA schools, have been confirmed by UNRWA data. In view of the restrictions under which the local Palestinian press is operating in the occupied territories, the information on school closures can hardly be complete; it is therefore reasonable to assume that figures mentioned in this report are an underestimation of the actual scale of closures.