Education as a tool for oppression and liberation during conflicts & instability: The Palestine Case
According to article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to education. But isn't it a form of oppression if someone is denied the right to proper education, one that promotes the complete development of the human personality as well as the reinforcement of respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights?
Oppression has many forms. One of them is taking away citizens' right to acquire a formal education or their right to study what they desire. When people's right to education is denied, they struggle to get ahead in life, are victimized by numerous atrocities, etc.—being uneducated results in all these repercussions, reflecting oppression. However, the same education may also be a weapon to help citizens gain independence from the restrictions imposed by oppressive governments.
The situation of Palestine is shown below as an example of how education has been a double-edged weapon, instrument of oppression, and a tool for liberation.
Due to the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict and the establishment of the state of Israel, two-thirds of the Palestinian people were displaced and dwelt as refugees in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the surrounding countries. After the war of June 1967, the Israeli army conquered remaining Palestine (the West Bank and Gaza Strip).
Forced migration and a protracted conflict already had a profound impact on people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but later, Israeli efforts to undermine the educational infrastructure also had a severe impact on Palestinians, who took several steps to abolish formal education. For instance, funding for educational institutions was reduced, Palestinian educational institutions were closed down, teachers were subjected to oppressive measures, texts about the land, people, history, geography, and literature of Palestine and the Palestinians were banned or changed, classroom maps had to show Israel instead of Palestine, Quranic verses, poetry, and historical accounts of the struggle against the aggressor and texts referencing Arab unity against colonialism were removed, around 4,000 books in various fields were strictly banned, etc. (Alzaroo, Hunt).
Meanwhile, Palestinians began to understand the value of education and began participating in programs available to them. For instance, they concentrated on educational initiatives that included preschool instruction, vocational training, etc., health initiatives, human rights and information, initiatives for women, etc. (Alzaroo, Hunt). The Palestinian people, especially refugees, saw education as a means of surviving, and it assisted them adjust to life in exile while maintaining hope for their eventual return home.
This case, therefore, demonstrates the use of education for both oppression and a good cause. The Palestinian experience starkly contrasts how Israel exploited education as a tool of oppression while Palestinians used it as a tool of identity-building, political, economic, and social engagement, and most significantly, as a means of overcoming the subsequent displacement.
The photograph attached below is an interview of a refugee girl, and it demonstrates how education is the Palestinians' foremost concern.
Alzaroo, Salah, and Gillian Lewando Hunt. “Education in the Context of Conflict and Instability: The Palestinian Case.” Volume 37, Issue 2, 04 March 2003 https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9515.00332