Political Conflict Confronted through Prison Education: A Case Study of Israeli Teachers Working with Palestinian Prisoners

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Abstract

Political Conflict Confronted Through Prison Education: A Case Study of Israeli Teachers Working with Palestinian Prisoners

This paper explores a unique and controversial case of Israeli English-language teachers working with Palestinian inmates incarcerated in prisons around Israel for Involvement in terrorist activity against Israelis. This phenomenon is profoundly complex as the prisoners in question have been convicted of terrorist crimes against Israeli soldiers and civilians. The teachers who enter the prisons to teach these inmates therefore in effect belong to the group targeted in the terrorist activity. This paper explores the Israeli teachers' perceptions of the inmates, the teachers' perceptions of the value of education for these prisoners and how these perceptions influence their decisions to go in to the prisons to assist these students with their academic studies. Beyond offering an understanding of the interplay between political confrontation and prison education in Israel, this paper opens up a discussion surrounding the increasingly relevant issue of prison education of Islamic terrorists worldwide and raises a number of questions regarding educational programmes for this particular prison population.

The recent escalation In Islamic terrorist activity worldwide, commonly referred to as global Jihad, has led to the Incarceration of Individuals Involved In terrorism. It may be predicted that the incarceration of Islamic terrorists will make their education an Issue of Increasing relevance for many prison-educators worldwide. Despite the abundance of research on prison education and its various aspects, no such abundance of research on the prison education of Islamic terrorists yet exists. This gap In the literature might be explained by the fact that the surge of Islamic terrorism In Western countries and the subsequent arrest of Islamic terrorists is a relatively recent phenomenon. As a topic of increasing relevance and concern for prison educators worldwide, this study aims at opening up a discussion surrounding the prison education of Islamic terrorists.

This study deals specifically with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and focuses on the highly complex phenomenon of Jewish Israeli teachers working with Palestinian prisoners. It explores a unique and controversial case of Israeli English-language teachers teaching Palestinian Inmates incarcerated In prisons around Israel for involvement In terrorist activity against Israelis. The prisoners are enrolled in academic studies with the Open University of Israel and the teachers are employed by the Open University. The Open University of Israel was established In 1974 under the original name of Everyman's University and was Intended to be an educational Institution for all students regardless of age, background, prior education, or place of residence (University Prospectus, 1982).

A small though significant number of Its students are prisoners, Including Palestinian prisoners incarcerated for involvement In terrorist activity. This paper focuses on the case of eight Israeli English-language teachers involved in teaching the Palestinian prisoners and explores the teachers' perceptions of the Inmates, the teachers' perceptions of the value of education for these prisoners and how these perceptions influence their decisions to enter the prisons and assist the students with their academic studies. A further issue here explored is how and If the teachers' own political opinions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict impact their decisions to teach these inmates.

In order to convey to the reader the profound complexity surrounding the phenomenon of Israeli teachers educating Palestinian prisoners incarcerated for Involvement in terrorist activity, it Is important to point out that the prisoners have been convicted of terrorist crimes against Israeli soldiers and civilians. The teachers who enter the prisons to teach these inmates therefore in effect belong to the group targeted In the terrorist activity. …