Palestinian School Funded by Belgium No Longer Named for Mass-Murderer, but Keeps Logo Erasing Israel
Palestinian officials last month changed the name of a Belgian-funded school formerly dedicated to a mass-murderer, but gave the same controversial name to two other West Bank schools.
The Martyr Dalal Mughrabi Elementary Mixed School — whose Palestinian namesake helped massacre 38 people, including 13 children, near Tel Aviv in 1978 — is now known as the Belgian Elementary Mixed School, in honor of the Belgian government and the Belgian Development Agency that first helped established it.
Yet the school — located in the town of Beit Awwa near Hebron — has not removed controversial elements from its logo, which continues to feature a map depicting Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip as a single territory. Its newest iteration shows a Palestinian flag overlaying all of Israel.
After the school first drew criticism in October, Belgium announced that it had raised the issue with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and pledged “not allow itself to be associated with the names of terrorists in any way.” It also suspended two projects related to the construction of Palestinian schools.
Yet Palestinian Media Watch, the Jerusalem-based monitoring group that first uncovered the change, said Belgium’s “good intentions” were being undermined by the PA’s simultaneous decision to name two other schools in Beit Awwa after Mughrabi.
The official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reported (PDF) last week that the PA Education Ministry “transferred the name [of the Dalal Mughrabi School] to the Beit Awwa Elementary School for Girls.”
The Belgian School confirmed this account in a social media post last Wednesday, explaining that while it was renamed following a request from its Belgian financiers, the name would not be completely scrapped, but rather “transferred to another school named Dalal Mughrabi instead of our school.”
Al-Hayat Al-Jadida also reported that the PA was “building a new school named after Dalal, which includes a kindergarten.” Palestinian officials were photographed laying the cornerstone of this school, with Khalid Abu Sharar — head of the Southern Hebron Education Directorate — defending the decision to honor Mughrabi.
While Abu Sharar said the new school would “be funded from the state treasury,” rather than by international donors, a significant chunk of the PA’s annual budget is reliant on foreign aid. The body has cumulatively received billions of dollars in direct budgetary assistance from international donors in recent years, according to the Jerusalem Center of Public Affairs think tank.
Belgium in particular is a donor to the Joint Financing Arrangement (JFA), a pooled fund that has committed some €95 million ($110 million) to the PA education sector’s development plans for 2016-2019.
Besides financial support, JFA says that it is also involved in dialogue on education policy, strategic planning, and financial management.
The Belgian Foreign Ministry did not immediately provide a comment when contacted by The Algemeiner.
Efforts to change the school’s name have previously been opposed in Beit Awwa. An October post published by the school’s Facebook page read, “The name of Dalal is engraved in our hearts and will remain engraved in our minds.”
The page also shared a poem written to express the “sadness” of “the faculty and students” over “the confiscation and robbery of the right and the will of the Palestinian people to name its institutions.”
“It is possible to change the name in the official records,” another post observed, “but it is very difficult to change what is in the heart and conscience… and it is very difficult to submit to this intellectual occupation.”