Nour Joudah, 25, a Palestinian-American high school teacher at the Ramallah Friends School was denied entry into Israel last week. This marked the second time in two months Israel denied Joudah the right to enrich the minds of her students.
Joudah left Palestine for a short vacation at the end of the last semester but was refused entry into the West Bank when she returned. She held out in neighboring Jordan and attempted to fly into Ben Gurion Airport on February 25. She was denied entry again.
The following day, she emailed her ninety students a final goodbye.
This is educational apartheid, deliberate and subversive. The Palestinian school system has come under attack designed to chip away at the potential of the youth — the potential to overcome Israel’s occupation.
In Gaza just four years ago, Israel showed a propensity to bomb schools outright. Today, it is similarly becoming more outward in its sabotage of Palestine’s educational infrastructure. It now does what it can, whenever it can, to restrict Palestinian children’s accessibility to knowledge, skill, expertise, and guidance.
Joudah’s may be the first public case in quite some time but if left unchallenged, it will set a precedent that will further entrench the educational apartheid historically suffered by Palestinians.
Last year, when the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced plans to establish a Chair in Astronomy, Astrophysics, and Space Sciences at the Islamic University in Gaza, Israel went on the offensive and waged a campaign to paint the university as a “greenhouse and breeding ground for Hamas terrorists”.
Israel’s wish is to stifle the growth of the Palestinian mind. In the past it has used Hamas as a scapegoat to avoid accountability for its its school bombings, its arbitrary sanctions on school supplies entering Gaza, and its relentless assaults against UNESCO for seeking to advance higher education in the occupied Palestinian territories. But similar things are happening in the West Bank where “But Hamas!” cannot be used.
This leads to one conclusion: Israel’s campaign against education is fueled by a campaign against the Palestinian people. It is this regime of racial domination that it wishes to maintain. Joudah’s ninety students are but a small fraction of the victims whose endeavors, hopes, and dreams might very well be undermined by Israel’s increasing attempts to interfere in their accessibility to education and enrichment.
In Joudah’s goodbye email to her students, she makes a very important point (emphasis my own):
“Remember – just because I lost this small fight now, doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth fighting – and it doesn’t mean the larger fight is over. Never let anyone keep you from living in your country. It’s always worth standing up for yourself. Don’t forget that there are millions of Palestinians that would give up everything to be in your position – to even have a day in the homeland. Even if it doesn’t always feel like it because of our struggles living under occupation, remember you being in Palestine is a right that others are still fighting for. It’s your job to use the potential that I know all of you have to find a way to use your lives to help bring all of us Palestinians around the world together.“
Never let anyone keep you from living in your country. Never let anyone keep you from learning in your country either.