Boycotting Occupation: Educators and Palestine

This editorial, by the editors of Rethinking Schools, first appeared in Rethinking Schools magazine, spring 2016. “They are targeting our children. They know our children are the future of Palestine,” a mother and community activist told Rethinking Schools editor Jody Sokolower. In this Palestinian woman’s East Jerusalem neighborhood, dozens of children have been arrested from their beds at 4 in the morning, cuffed and blindfolded, and taken for lengthy interrogations. One 5-year-old was arrested and detained because he rushed to his mother’s defense in their own house. After the children return home, they are often on house arrest for months. Many of these children show the effects of trauma: bedwetting, nightmares, depression.…

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Education Under Occupation: East Jerusalem

An interview with Zakaria Odeh This interview, by Jody Sokolower, first appeared in Rethinking Schools magazine, spring 2016. When Israel declared itself a state in 1948, it forcibly ejected 750,000 Palestinians, who became refugees. The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, ended up under Jordanian control; Gaza under Egyptian control. Almost 20 years later, as a result of the June 1967 war, all those areas were conquered by Israel. Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza, but it annexed East Jerusalem—in the face of universal opposition from the international community and in defiance of international law. Palestinian residents of Jerusalem were issued special Jerusalem ID cards, which identify them as “permanent residents.” Now the…

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Children’s Books About Palestine

By Katharine Davies Samway

This article appeared originally in Rethinking Schools, vol. 27, no. 2, winter 2012–13.


It was a beautiful fall day for the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival and I was volunteering at a booth devoted to Palestine and the impact of the Israeli occupation. Crowds of people passed by the booth and many of them stopped to look at the posters and pick up handouts. But what really captured my attention were the children, 9 or 10 years of age, who were riveted by one particular image—a photo of an Israeli soldier pointing his gun at a Palestinian child of about 5.

“Mami, Mami! Come and look!” Children pulled their parents and older siblings into the booth to look more carefully at the photo and talk with me about it. They were horrified that such a young child had such a frightening experience.

Talking with the children and their families, I learned that they didn’t know much, if anything, about that part of the Middle East. As I tried to explain some of the key events that led to the photo, and why it is important for Americans to be informed, I realized that we had no information written for children. I should have brought some books and an annotated booklist to hand out, I acknowledged to myself. But I could think of less than a handful of possibilities.

Maybe, I thought, there are good books out there for K-8 learners that I’m not familiar with, and so I began to scour my local libraries. I ordered books through interlibrary loan, read books recommended by friends, and reread books that I already owned. What did I learn? I discovered that there are several nonfiction books about life in ancient Palestine. There are also many nonfiction books about modern-day Israel that serve as propaganda for Israel and do not treat the plight of Palestinians honestly and comprehensively. These books tend to be dense, with a lot of complex historical information jammed into a few pages and a springling of photos.


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