Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Of Demolished Schools - and Hasbara

An "intentional" demolition - Portland, Oregon, USA

A few days ago I walked across the campus of Portland State University, where bulldozers were tearing down an athletic building as part of a re-model project. Juxtaposed against this, when I got home, I opened my computer browser and read a story about the Bedouin "tire school" that was (again?  still?) under a demolition order (  

 And then I learned that, while still reeling from the recent demolitions in Sabastiya (see this blog, “Yet Another Sad Day in Sabastiya,” August 9, 2016), the farmers there are now dealing with a fire that destroyed more than 60,000 square meters planted in olive trees and other crops. 
Fire in Sebastiya (photo by Ahmad Kayed)
Destroying a school building to erect a newer one (as is happening here in Portland) is one thing – but wanton destruction of buildings or crops "just because" one can is another entirely!

In 2013, as part of my EAPPI orientation, we visited the “tire school,” located a short distance from Jerusalem.  It is so called because it was constructed of mud and tires, with materials and labor donated by the Italian government.   

Bedouin children, Khan al-Ahmar
The school, we were told, was built for the Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar because it had become too dangerous for the children of the village to walk to the nearest Palestinian school.  I remember the pride with which the community showed us their school – and the happy faces of the children! 

The school, we were told then, has been under demolition orders almost since its inception – the “reason” probably that it was built without a permit, which is the usual “reason” given for demolitions of home, schools and businesses.  Of course, permits are almost never given for any sort of Palestinian construction, and demolitions are becoming increasingly common.  And, while most buildings are demolished because of the lack of a permit, an increasing number are being demolished as “corporate punishment,” to the families of suspected “terrorists.”
Tire School under demolition order

Remember, in Israel, one can be labelled a “terrorist” for throwing stones – or, as of the last few weeks when the most recent draconian legislation was passed by the Knesset (Israeli Parliament), for simply speaking out against the Israeli government.  Now, in Israel, those involved in the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a historically respected form of peaceful protest, can be punished – even jailed.   

Foreign aid organizations are suspect as are Israeli “peace activists,” and, with the encouragement of the so-called “Israel Lobby” in the US (and elsewhere!), BDS has become a target for those who would strip us of freedom of speech and expression. 

There is, I am told, a Hebrew word that describes what is happening here – hasbara, defined as “a form of propaganda aimed at an international audience.”  Hasbara is one of the major weapons in Israel’s “war” against BDS – and against those of us who would educate others about the ills of the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine.  Columnist James Wall describes this far better than I ever could ( and I recommend his writings for a thorough explanation of this issue.

Those of us who can do something about all of this are required by our sense of humanity and justice to do so.  That “something” can be as small as writing a letter – or saying a prayer.

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