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Palestinians protest Israel's closure of institutions in East Jerusalem

Israel is attempting to erase our culture in Jerusalem, say Palestinians protesting recent closures
A Palestinian giving a speech in a standing protest in front of Al-Aytam school which was closed by Israeli authorities in East Jerusalem (MEE\Sondus Ewies)

Tens of Palestinians held a protest on Tuesday in the occupied city of East Jerusalem against Israel’s closure of several Palestinian institutions in the Old City.

Israeli authorities closed down several institutions on 21 November, claiming that they are funded and belong to the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA).

These institutions included offices of Palestine TV, a branch of the PA’s ministry of education, the Orient House, the Palestinian Prisoner’s Club, and the Commercial Chamber, among others.

The Palestinian Authority claims East Jerusalem as the future capital of a Palestinian state, however US President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital dashed these hopes.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem, including the Old City, in the 1967 Middle East war, and its occupation is deemed illegal under international law. 

Al-Aytam school in the Old City of Jerusalem, which hosts the office of the PA's ministry of education, was closed for six months by an order of the Israeli minister of internal security, Gilad Erdan.

Areej Jamjoom, one of several teachers in East Jerusalem protesting and demanding the immediate opening of Al-Aytam, told Middle East Eye that the Israeli closures are another attempt to bury the Arab and Palestinian culture in Jerusalem and “Judaise” the schools’ textbooks and education.

“We want to preserve our culture and fight the Israeli culture that is imposing a fabricated historical narrative of Jerusalem, and wants to impose ungenuine facts on the grounds in the city,” Jamjoom said.

Ahmed Safadi, a member of the Palestinians Teachers' Union, told MEE that shutting down the office of the ministry of education will impact 50 schools and 100,000 students in East Jerusalem.

Safadi said that Palestinian educational institutions have been targeted ever since Israel's occupation of the city in 1967.

“Hosni al-Ashhab, a teacher, at the time opposed the policy to impose the Israeli curriculum instead of the Palestinian one, and he founded several schools in East Jerusalem that are independent of the Israeli education system”, Safadi said.

And, now, Israel's attempts to empty East Jerusalem from any educational institutions is part of a slow ethnic cleansing process, according to Rasim Obiedat, a political analyst.

“They want to cleanse any Arab or Muslim traces in the city, so it will all look Israeli. It goes far beyond closing down branches of PA institutions.”

Obiedat linked the Israeli closures with the US announcement last week that it will no longer consider the settlements in the occupied West Bank as illegal.

“The Israelis want to invest in these US pro-Israel decisions in Jerusalem and the West Bank. We are facing an extremist Israeli government and an extremist society. The decision to shut down Palestinian institutions in the city is political,” Obiedat said.