Teaching Racism

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A demonstration against the Petah Tikva municipality treatment of asylum-seekers, in 2019.
A demonstration against the Petah Tikva municipality treatment of asylum-seekers, in 2019.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Racism against blacks is not unique to the United States; in Petah Tikva, the school doors are slammed shut to children of African asylum seekers. The city continues to flout the law, to disregard the Education Ministry, the courts, the children’s right to an education, and the whole country’s obligation under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Israel is a signatory, to recognize the rights of foreigners’ children.

The Petah Tikva municipality is again preventing children of asylum seekers from registering for preschools and elementary schools in the city. Consequently, 130 parents from the community of asylum seekers in Petah Tikva turned to the University of Haifa’s Clinic for Law and Educational Policy.

They say the city is not placing their children in schools even though the registration process began in January. Israeli children have already received their school placements for the coming year, while the Eritrean children have not.

As usual, the excuses offered are bureaucratic: It’s a matter of time, a missing form, a required review. Except that the asylum seekers submitted the documents for proving their place of residence to the municipality on time, and many of the children are already known to the municipality in any case. 

This isn’t the first time that the Petah Tikva municipality is abusing the innocent children of asylum seekers. Last year, too, the city tried to prevent 135 of them from registering for school. And it would surely have succeeded were it not for a ruling by the Lod District Court. 

The court required the municipality to register the children and subsequently accused it of contempt for the court ruling when it did not meet the timetable for fulfilling the directive. “The municipality’s conduct is insensitive. This is a disadvantaged population,” Judge Varda Meroz said. “The city did not open the door as it should have. [These children] did not choose to be migrants or refugees.” 

Israeli law on this matter leaves no room for interpretation. An Education Ministry circular from 2000 says the compulsory education law applies to every child over the age of three who has resided in Israel for more than three months, regardless of his status in Israel or how he is listed in the population registry.

This directive also applies to foreigners’ children of compulsory education age who reside in Israel, regardless of their parents’ formal status.

Education Minister Yoav Galant should immediately intervene and instruct the Petah Tikva municipality to obey the law, to place and register the foreigners’ children in preschools and elementary schools.

Racism is racism, whether it occurs in America or Israel, whether it is manifested in police brutality against citizens or in denying children an education.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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