2 September 2002
                                   Gaza Community Mental Health Programme
                                                          Press Release

                                     A New School Year under the Occupation


On 31 August 2002, the new school year started in the Palestinian areas. About one million
children went to school (if allowed) on the same day that two children (7 and 13) and two
minors (17) were killed by an Israeli helicopter attack. The second day of school witnessed
the death of 4 Palestinian laborers on their way back home in Hebron. However, the new
school year was not any better (or worse) than the children’s summer vacation, which was full
of killing, injury, curfews, and other traumas.

These events and actions are part of an overall Israeli policy that includes total or partial
curfews, closures, and checkpoints that prevent children and teachers from reaching schools.
There is a real danger on the lives of children and teachers as they commute to and from
schools. Moreover, there are schools that were bombarded or bulldozed, and others turned
into Israeli army barracks.

In this situation that is a reflection of the history of the conflict, children grow up with the
oppression, violence, and humiliation of the occupation. The enemy is engraved in their
personalities from scarred childhood. To break this “norm” and for the peace to have any
chance in the future, seeds must be planted today. Our children must be spared the scars of
violence and subjugation. They must be given a better option, the option of play and fun,
peace and harmony, and love of fellow human beings.

On another front, the right to education is a fundamental right guaranteed by international law.
It will be impossible to build a healthy society that participates in decision-making and
contributes towards development without education. Furthermore, sound mental health cannot
be attained with a combination of ignorance and occupation. The root of the problem is the
occupation and it must be ended as a first step towards solving its consequences.

We call upon governments, human rights organizations, and advocates of justice and peace in
Israel and the international community to pressure the Israeli government to comply with
international law, especially the 4th Geneva Convention, and to respect the right of the
Palestinian people to education, as a fundamental right contributing to peace and development
in Palestine and the rest of the world.

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Gaza Community Mental Health Programme