Occupation of Palestine, Non-Profit law

Donations for Dispossession: How a Palestinian school became the site of charity-funded colonialism

The ethnic cleansing of Palestine is engineered by American non-profits.

Lea Kayali

September 19, 2022

Nestled in the sloping hills of the eastern villages of Bethlehem, there is a primary school. The walls are adorned with hand drawn pictures and spelling drills, and the halls echo with lilt of children’s voices. A drone suspends in the sky beyond the ceiling, its low humming whir inaudible amongst the cacophony of the classroom. It snaps photos of students coming in and out, then reels back into the horizon.


The school belongs to the village of Kisan, and it is brand new. On opening day, the building bustles with teachers and administrators, community leaders, and international visitors. We drink ‘ahuwa arabiya (Arabic coffee) from small plastic cups. Tiny Palestinian flags hang as garlands throughout the open foyer that rises another story above our heads. From this central location, we can see (and hear) children all around. We pass through a first-grade English classroom, and it is bursting with color. Students wave inflated balloons above their heads representing each shade of the rainbow. They sing a song to help them remember the colors: “Burtuqaall – oraaange! Azraq – blue!”

Outside, a stone plaque celebrates the Kisan Village Council, who operates the school, and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, who funded it. Thanks in part to Kisan’s European benefactors, the building is impressive by rural Palestinian standards. Its sandstone walls are smoothed and beaming. The windows are freshly painted bright orange. Pink and grey mosaic tiles line the school’s entrance. A recently paved basketball court serves as a parking lot for the momentous day. You can imagine children jumping over each other to score hoops during recess.