The United Nations has issued a warning that Palestinians in Area C are at risk of being transferred forcibly by Israel after its forces demolished two elementary school classrooms in the occupied West Bank Arab-Bedouin community of Abu an-Nuwar outside Jerusalem. The two modular classrooms were built last September with funds from the European Union.
At about 5:00 am on Sunday, February 4, Israeli authorities demolished two pre-fabricated classrooms that had been used by some 25 third and fourth grade pupils. The demolition of educational facilities is one of the means Israel uses in its attempt to expel Palestinian communities from their homes, so that it can force them to reside in enclaves and use the territory they had previously inhabited for its own needs.
The Abu an-Nawar community numbers approximately 650 persons, about half of whom are children and youths. The community is situated in an area referred to by the authorities as “E1.” The settlements of Kedar and Ma’ale Adumim have been established to either side of this site in Area C.
About 88% of Abu an-Nuwar’s Palestinian Bedouin residents are refugees, some of whom reside there on a seasonal basis. It is one of the 46 Bedouin communities in the central West Bank at risk of forcible transfer because of the coercion exerted on them by Israel, including a “relocation” plan advanced by occupation authorities.
International humanitarian law forbids the forcible transfer of individuals or masses of the population of an occupied territory regardless of the motive. Such transfer is a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and therefore involves criminal responsibility for those who foment or execute such moves. The destruction of property in an occupied territory is also prohibited, unless absolutely required for military operations.
The UN has found that there are 37 schools in Area C of the West Bank with pending demolition orders. The international organization has called for Israel to “immediately cease all practices that are directly or indirectly generating the risk of forcible transfer for Palestinians in various parts of the West Bank, including the destruction of schools and related property.”
Regarding this week’s demolition of the two classrooms at Abu an-Nuwar, Roberto Valent, the UN’s acting humanitarian coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, has said: “The demolition was carried out on the grounds that there were no Israeli construction permits issued for them; permits which are nearly impossible to obtain. Abu an-Nuwar is one of the most vulnerable communities in the occupied West Bank and is in dire need of humanitarian assistance. The conditions it faces also reflect those of many other Palestinian communities, where a combination of Israeli policies and practices – including demolitions and restricted access to basic services, such as education – have created a coercive environment that violates the human rights of residents and generates the risk of forcible transfer. This is the sixth demolition or confiscation incident at the Abu an-Nuwar School by the Israeli authorities since February 2016.”
“As in Abu an-Nuwar, hundreds of children attending one of at least 45 schools in the West Bank (37 in Area C and 8 in East Jerusalem) with pending demolition orders are living in a state of instability, the looming specter of school demolition threatens their access to education. Other children in Area C communities which have no primary school must often walk or travel long distances to reach their schools, and are exposed to settler harassment or searches at checkpoints. These constraints undermine the quality of education and increase the chances of early dropout. I call on the Israeli authorities to fulfill their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law and immediately cease all practices that are directly or indirectly generating a risk of forcible transfer for Palestinians in various parts of the West Bank, including the destruction of schools and related property.”
Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said “Israel’s demolition of EU funded Palestinian classrooms this morning is the continuation of Israel’s flaunting of international law and only aims to break the Palestinian will for freedom and life… It’s time for the international community to hold Israel accountable. Actions speak louder than words.”