What is life like for Palestinian children?
On the wall of the girls’ school in the Palestinian West Bank village of Luban e-Sharqiyah, there is a drawing of a teacher and students. It reads “teach us arithmetic and not beatings,” in Arabic wordplay. Getting to and from school is just a normal part of the day for most students. For the Palestinian children of the Israeli-occupied village just south of Nablus, it can be a scary journey, facing Israeli soldiers along the way.
Luban is a Palestinian town surround by neighboring Israeli settlements of Ma’aleh Levona, Eli, Shiloh, and Givat Harel (see Haaretz). Luban Ash-Sharqiyah is home to over 3,500 Palestinians.
Israeli Troops and Settlers Confront Students
Palestinian children and their parents from Luban have reported having to find alternate ways to get home. They report encountering Israeli military units stationed at the main entrance of the village, near the main highway between Ramallah and Nablus.
“I drive my son to and from school every day because I’m scared of him being arrested by the soldiers,” Maoud Awais, a village resident, recently told Al Jazeera. His 11-year-old son Mahmoud said that he was scared of Israeli troops because he had seen friends recently confronted by soldiers. Over the past year, 24 Palestinian children were reported injured in the West Bank (according to a statement by Lynn Hastings, the U.N. humanitarian and resident coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territories).
“We were in a group and the soldiers stopped us and threatened us,” 11-year-old Mahmoud reported.
Palestinian Children Provoked
According to a recent article in Haaretz, villagers claim the Israeli Defense Force has broken into Luban schools eight times during classes. Drones are reported to have been spotted above the school grounds. And Luban villagers couldn’t tell whether the Israeli army or the Israeli settlers had launched them.
“What right do armed settlers come to a school’s gates?” Noubani asked an Haaretz reporter.
Fighting for Dunams
Throughout the last few years, the Palestinian people of Luban have dealt with more than just threats to their children’s education.
Abdullah Malah from the Luban Ash-Sharqiyah Municipality recently told Al Jazeera that a villager was arrested when he went to confront a group of settlers who were allegedly trying to take 20 dunams (each approximately one-fourth acre) of village land.
Villagers of Luban Ash-Sharqiyah have claimed that over the years settlers have damaged their land and hurt their animals.
Problems Persist in Other Villages
In 2009, members of the Israeli rights group Yesh Din, wrote in Haaretz about Israeli settlers from Eli who had taken control of the area which seriously hindered the ability of the Palestinian villagers to live.
According to the human rights campaigners, it was part of a strategy to remove all Palestinians from Area C, which makes up 60 percent of the occupied West Bank. Area C is presently under Israeli control. But some believe it was meant to be returned to the Palestinians years ago. In their letter, the two authors write that, “an infrastructure” has been created in the West Bank, one based on intimidation.
Is what is going on at Luban an example of this infrastructure? It should be noted that getting home from school is also a problem for Palestinian children in the village of Urif, just north of Luban Ash-Sharqiya. Amer Safadi, a municipal employee in Urif, recently told Haaretz that he escorts his children to and from school to avoid them being provoked by settlers from the Yitzhar Israeli settlement located on the next hill near the village.
Safadi stated the school built an extended roof over the area outside the school building because of stones thrown. The breaking of several windows sparked the construction.
A Systematic Problem
When asked about the hardest thing with the conflicts involving Palestinian children, a Luban religious studies teacher told Haaretz it’s “the curses our children hear from the settlers.”
Perhaps, however, it’s more than just a curse, but instead a systematic problem throughout the West Bank.
“And when the soldiers stand next to the classroom window,” the religious studies teacher added, “that scares the children.”