East Jerusalem Students Get Textbooks Month Into New School Year Due to Israeli Censor

Jerusalem's municipality wanted to censor content created by the Palestinian Education Ministry perceived as incitement to Palestinian nationalism

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Israeli students walking to school in East Jerusalem.
File photo: Students walking to school in East Jerusalem.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

New textbooks arrived belatedly to East Jerusalem schools for the new school year due to Israeli censorship. According to sources in the area's education system, the books, which have begun arriving only over the past several days, came almost a month after the school year began.

Most East Jerusalem schools follow the Palestinian curriculum, so the textbooks are printed by the Palestinian Education Ministry and then sent to the schools.

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But Israel prevented their arrival, because the Jerusalem Municipality first wanted to censor content that its advisors on Arab affairs viewed as incitement to Palestinian nationalism. The city then reprinted the books without that content.

Textbooks have arrived belatedly at East Jerusalem schools in previous years as well, but sources in the local school system said this year’s delay was particularly pronounced.

“For the past two years, it’s been very belated,” said Fares Halem, chairman of the parents' committee in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. “Once, they used to send it during the summer vacation.”

Since the books hadn’t arrived by September 1, he added, teachers have spent the past month using photocopies from the old textbooks, and some schools sent children home early.

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“They return home at 12:30,” he said. “The parents are at work and the children are in the streets. This means more violence and more traffic accidents.”

The Jerusalem Municipality said the problem stemmed from the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to prevent the censorship.

“In an attempt to prevent Israeli supervision of textbooks in the Palestinian curriculum, the books were distributed only at the end of August, shortly before the opening of the school year, with the goal of reducing Israel’s supervision as much as possible,” the municipality said in a statement.

“Despite these efforts, the municipality worked quickly, exercised supervision and censorship over the textbooks and removed inflammatory content from them.

“Because of this, there was some delay, but only in distributing the new books published this year,” it added. “All the books from previous years are in the schools and at the students’ disposal.”

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