Palestinian teachers fight

SINCE FEBRUARY, 27,000 Palestinian teachers from the West Bank have been on strike, demanding the implementation of the Service Law, and for democratic elections to the teachers’ union.

The Service Law, approved by Arafat in 1998, raised teachers salaries to NIS 2,000 a month. It has been implemented in Gaza but not in the West Bank.

In fact, Palestinian teachers in the West Bank only received this pay rise for one month, after which their salaries were reduced back to the original NIS 1,500 ($350), which is a poverty wage. The Palestinian Authority gave funds as an excuse for not implementing the Service Law.

Teachers are also demanding that the union leadership be democratically elected, instead of being personally appointed by Arafat, as at present.

The teachers elected an alternative leadership, the teachers coordinating committees, to run the strike.

In February, thousands of students demonstrated in solidarity with their teachers, and against the dismissal of striking teachers. They clashed with Palestinian police and some were arrested.

The teachers’ strike has currently been suspended because of the recent Palestinian uprisings against the Israeli army, which left six Palestinians dead and 1,000 injured. Unless the Palestinian Authority meets the teachers’ demands, the teachers will resume their strike at the start of the new school year in September.

Two of the strike leaders, Omar Sharouf and Omar Assaf, were arrested during the strike and are still being detained without charges ever having been brought against them. Furthermore, tens of teachers who are active in the co-ordinating committees have been called in by Palestinian security forces and threatened.

Mandy Rabin, Maavak Sozialisti, CWI Israel