Has anybody spoken about human rights?
Article by Vera Polycarpou, Head of International Relations and European Policy, member CC AKEL
Sunday 9 April 2023, “Haravgi” newspaper
As the Cypriot Parliament is debating how to deal with the four-monthly exams system and quite justifiably pupils, parents and teachers are anxious because it directly concern their children’s future, not far from us a school attended by sixty-six children is in danger of being demolished in less than sixty days.
Any rational person would be in disbelief that anyone could demolish schools. However, this is precisely what is going on before the very eyes of humanity. This is the case of the “Challenge 5” school in the village of Beit Ta’mar, just five kilometres south-east of Bethlehem – yes, the Bethlehem that we all know. The decision was taken by an Israeli court following a complaint filed by an Israeli NGO because the school was allegedly built without a permit; the usual pretext for demolishing Palestinian property in order to expel Palestinians from their own land and subsequently confiscate it.
Unfortunately, it is not the only school in danger, while others have already been demolished, such as the school of the Bedouin community in Khan al-Ahmar near Jerusalem. The ultimate goal is the expansion of colonalisation.
Next to Beit Ta’mar is the archaeological site where, among other things, the tomb and Palace of Herod is to be found, a cultural heritage which the Palestinians of the region have been associated with for centuries. Moreover this land also belongs to them. On 14 July 2020, the Israeli occupation forces fenced off the area under the pretext that it is a “national archaeological park” – except that the land belongs to Palestinians!!! Today this land is controlled by Israel’s antiquities department depriving the Palestinian community of significant revenue from tourists visiting the area.
Settlements have been built in the surrounding area for the last twenty years or so, again on Palestinian land. And there is no need to explain to Cypriots what colonalisation means and that it constitutes a flagrant violation of international law.
What are human rights at the end of the day and who is “entitled” to enjoy them?
Isn’t the right to education – I would add to free and quality public education – a human right?
Isn’t every child regardless of ethnic or religious or class origin or gender entitled to enjoy the right to education?
Or do the sixty-six children in the school in Beit Ta’mar not have this right? I wonder why? Do they not have this right because they were born on their ancestral land that some people feel they have the right to take away from them? And destroy their school? To deprive them of the right to live in safety with their families? To deprive them of the right to study and contribute to the development of their country?
Let each and every one of us just consider how deeply these events are etched into the souls and memories of these children and what the impact will be on their lives.
Unfortunately, all this is happening in the West Bank and Gaza, which have been under occupation since 1967. The West Bank and Gaza where, since the beginning of 2023 alone, 95 Palestinians, mostly young people, have been killed by the Israeli forces. Where in the month of Ramadan the occupation forces enter at night the Al Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest place of worship for Muslims, beating, shooting, destroying and arresting Palestinians.
What does the international community have to say about the violation of the right to worship?
What does the international community have to say when members of the far-right government of Israel make inflammatory statements full of hatred against the Palestinian people, when houses and entire neighbourhoods are being set on fire?
The only solution is to end the occupation so that the Palestinian people can live freely and develop their country as they wish. But it is also the only way for children in both Palestine and Israel to live and create in security and peace.

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