Eliminating Palestine from Palestinian consciousness is a preoccupation of Israel, particularly prior to the start of each academic year, with additional efforts at intermittent intervals. The depletion of Palestinian territory was aided by the international community in accordance with the colonial ambition behind the creation of Israel. The erasure of Palestinian memory has, however, proved to be impossible for Israel, resulting in renewed efforts to promote the colonial narrative in schools.
According to Palestine News Network, the Israeli authorities have distributed books to schools in occupied East Jerusalem which have removed references to Qur’anic verses, literature pertaining to Palestinian resistance, the Palestinian map, flag and anthem, and the relevance of Al-Aqsa Mosque. This attempted assault on collective memory was justified by the claim that Palestinian educational textbooks encourage violence.
Earlier this year, Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett started to tempt schools in East Jerusalem with promises of extra funding if they adopt the Israeli curriculum, despite the fact that the allocated education budget is supposed to serve all schools equally. During an interview on Israel’s Channel 10 television, Bennett declared: “My policy is clear. I want to aid the process of Israelisation.”
In other news reported by Ma’an, Khan Al-Ahmar School in the occupied West Bank has been closed down. The school, which serves the Bedouin community, was built in 2009 by an Italian aid organisation and targeted for demolition only a month after completion. Petitions by Israeli settlers to the Supreme Court have so far been rejected; however, resources donated to the school by the Italian government have been destroyed.
Subjugation is what Bennett and Israel are after. However, such blatant belligerence fails to take into consideration one particular characteristic of memory – it is rarely wiped out altogether. While undoubtedly intertwined, the politics of land and memory have evolved into distinct narrations.
Israel has sought to deplete territory and memory in identical ways; through appropriation, violence, expansion and annihilation. The tactics have worked in relation to the geophysical expansion given international complicity and Israel’s military capabilities. Settlement expansion and the forced displacement of Palestinians remain Israel’s best weapons for colonisation.
Education veers over into the dynamics of both land and memory. One of the objectives of Israel’s 2014 Operation Protective Edge military offensive against Gaza was clearly to inflict as much damage as possible upon educational infrastructure; universities and schools were targeted with the aim of disrupting education for several months, thus creating at least a temporary vacuum and an even lengthier timeframe during which the younger generation of Palestinians would be unable to pursue education in areas that would contribute to building the necessary basics of Palestinian society and autonomy. However, the Israeli aggression and subsequent efforts by Bennett to eliminate Palestinian collective and historical memory continue to fail spectacularly.
If there is no conscious decision to forget, memory will continue to be absorbed and regenerated. Israel’s efforts against this evolving sequence will undoubtedly yield further frustration for the colonial project and increased tenacity on the part of the Palestinians. One must also keep in mind the differences between Palestinian memory and Israel’s fabricated history which is void of collective memory. Indeed, Palestinian collective memory may yet prove to be the highest form of resistance against Israel’s colonial violence.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.