Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Like in Lebanon in 2006, Israel targets schools

"A new word emerged from the carnage in Gaza this week: "scholasticide"– the systematic destruction by Israeli forces of centres of education dear to Palestinian society, as the ministry of education was bombed, the infrastructure of teaching destroyed, and schools across the Gaza strip targeted for attack by the air, sea and ground offensives.

Learn, baby, learn" was a slogan of the black rights movement in America's ghettoes a generation ago, but it also epitomises the idea of education as the central pillar of Palestinian identity – a traditional premium on schooling steeled by occupation, and something the Israelis "cannot abide… and seek to destroy", according to Dr Karma Nabulsi, who teaches politics at St Edmund Hall, Oxford. "We knew before, and see more clearly now than ever, that Israel is seeking to annihilate an educated Palestine," she says."

Many bloggers have posted this very good article from the Guardian. I'm not sure how many remembered to say that this is exactly what Israel did during its war on Lebanon in 2006, when it systematically destroyed the Mabarrat Schools, all 50 of them. Education is also very central to the lives of the Shi'a of Lebanon, who, unlike the other Lebanese sects, were deprived of education for a long time. The Mabarrat schools are run by the people around Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, who is often described as the most "enlightened Shi'a cleric". In the 1980's Fadlallah was the target of a car bomb assassination attempt widely attributed to the CIA, which resulted in a very large number of collateral euphemisms (I remember 100 or so, but I'm not sure). He was never on very good terms with Hizbullah as he is a marja` (reference) but Hizbullah follow Khomeini as a marja`. I asked about the difference and I was told that Fadlallah is more "materialistic" while Khomeini is more mystical. I can believe that: while Khomeini is famous for having said "economics is for donkeys" (an Iranian acquaintance once told me it was a slogan painted on banners in Teheran), the Fadlallah "group" (jama`a) run a big restaurant and several gas stations called "al aytam", the proceeds of which are used to fund the schools for the orphans. The Mabarrat schools system is excellent, and has a unique mix of westernized-Islamic-Arabic education. The students always rank very high in the official Lebanese exams. In 2006, nearly all the schools were razed to the groundwhen the was ended in August, but they still started the school year as usual, in makeshift buildings. For many people in South lebanon and in the Southern suburbs of Beirut, the Mabarrat are their only chance to go to a decent school, and their only hope for a better future.

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