In August and September 2021, Sadaka, in collaboration with DCI Palestine, conducted a campaign to highlight the difficulties faced by Palestinian children over the course of their education. The ‘Back to School Run’ campaign aimed to raise public awareness of the plight of Palestinian children, especially with regard to accessing education. Through this general awareness raising campaign, the Irish public were encouraged to put pressure on politicians and local government officials to build momentum and call for action following the government’s recognition of the de facto annexation of Palestine. We hope that throughout and beyond this campaign the Irish people will call on the government to uphold their commitments to take meaningful action on Palestine, including reintroducing the Occupied Territories Bill. The Irish government can no longer merely condemn the violence, but must now act to end the impunity with which Israel continues to commit crimes against the children of Palestine.
A Different Kind of School Run
In the first few days of a return to school 2021, primary school children in Tubas village in the northern West bank were teargassed by Israeli military and had to be evacuated. Palestinian children being escorted by international volunteers in the South Hebron Hills were intimidated and injured by illegal Israeli settlers as they walked to their school. These are not isolated or unusual incidents.
Palestinian children are routinely harassed by Israeli military and illegal settlers as they try to get to their classrooms.
Sadaka, The Ireland Palestine Alliance, in partnership with Defence for Children International, ran a campaign to highlight the extraordinary difficulties faced by Palestinian children as they try to safely get to their classrooms. ‘A Different Kind of School Run’ ran from August 23rd to September 6th, 2021.
"The soldiers make me very scared. When I come to the school, I don’t know if I will make it back home. Maybe they will kill me for no reason or maybe they will take me to jail. Whenever I see the Israeli soldiers, I am frightened"
The campaign was formally launched in front of Liberty Hall in Dublin by Justin Kilcullen (Sadaka Board), Prionsias de Rossa (Sadaka Patron and former MEP) and Ivana Bacik TD. Shown left, this six-storey banner was placed on Liberty Hall, digital screens toured Dublin, Cork and Galway and a high-level media and social media campaign was conducted to raise awareness of the violence perpetrated upon Palestinian children as they endure illegal Israeli settlers, checkpoints and other military paraphernalia on the daily trip to school.
- Return to school rekindles fear of Israeli soldier and settler violence (DCI Palestine, 14 October 2020)
- Israel’s school demolition order leaves Palestinian children in limbo (Middle East Eye, 9 October 2020)
- Hope under the rubble (Save The Children, 2021)
- The Six Grave Violations (UN, 2021)
- 10 attacks on Palestinian education per month by Israeli authorities and settlers (Norwegian Refugee Council,12 November 2020)
Israel is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and has been heavily criticised by the Committee on the Convention for its abuse of Palestinian children and for multiple breaches of its responsibilities. Defence for Children Palestine note that ‘Attacks on schools violate international humanitarian and criminal laws and are one of the six grave violations against children in conflict that are identified and condemned in the UN Security Council’s Children and Armed Conflict agenda.’
- Israeli forces, private security guards, and settlers launched an average of 10 attacks per month on West Bank kindergarten and school students, staff and facilities between January 2018 and June 2020
- ‘53 Palestinian schools are under Israeli demolition orders.
- It is estimated by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs that more than half a million children across Palestine face challenges in accessing quality education in a safe, child-friendly environment.
"I remember once we asked the soldiers if we could go through the pathway without going through the search room. One of the soldiers shouted at us and threatened to shoot at us. My classmates and I were terrified and immediately went into the search room."
The Palestinian childhood experience of safely accessing education is indicative of their entire life experience under occupation and siege. Already this year, 79 children have lost their lives in the West Bank and Gaza as a direct result of Israeli military and illegal settler presence. Many more have been injured, made homeless, traumatised. The journey to and from school is just part of the wider system of human rights abuses perpetrated by Israel against the most vulnerable section of the Palestinian population. Each year, approximately 500-700 Palestinian children, some as young as 12 years old, are detained and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system. Israel is the only country in the world that routinely detains and tries children in a military system.
"My dream is for the army not to come and attack us and live a normal life like everyone else"
Israel has a responsibility to protect children and teachers from harassment and violence by illegal settlers and military on their way to and from school. The protection of children in accordance with international law should be paramount for any country. As Ireland assumes Presidency of the UN Security Council in September, and as a country with a strong track record in advocating for human rights, Ireland has a unique role to play in ensuring that the rights of Palestinian children are upheld while accessing education.