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Continuing the Campaign on Behalf of Gaza Students Attending Institutions of Higher Learning in the West Bank

 

URGENT COMMUNIQUE

Continuing the Campaign on Behalf of Gaza Students Attending Institutions of Higher Learning in the West Bank

Published @ 9.00 GMT on 8 September 1996

As the beginning of the fall semester at universities and other institutions of higher learning in the West Bank approaches, the Israeli authorities continue to deny the right to education to more than 1,200 Gazan students who study in the West Bank, in violation of internationally accepted standards of human rights law.

Gaza students have been struggling for this right since the second semester of the 1990-91 academic year, when a closure lasting more than 43 days was imposed on the Occupied Territories during the Gulf War. Since then, the Israeli authorities have denied the right of Gaza students to pursue their education in the West Bank through such measures as the arbitrary denial of permits for “security reasons” for students who have no record of “security” offences, the delay of the issuing of permits until mid-way through the academic term so that it is too late for students to begin their studies, and the refusal to renew valid permits for Gazan students which have been cancelled because of closures. Israeli denial of permits represent a clear violation of the right to academic freedom, the right to education, and the right to freedom of movement.

Gaza students who study in the West Bank must undergo a rigorous security review before they are issued their magnetic card, the first of three documents they are required to hold in order to leave the Gaza Strip and study in the West Bank. They must also obtain a permit in order to travel through Israeli territory to the West Bank and a second permit in order to live in the West Bank during the period of their studies. These permits are summarily cancelled each time a closure is imposed by the Israeli authorities, and Gaza students are required to return to the Gaza Strip and begin the process again with each such cancellation. Those that remain in the West Bank are considered to be there illegally by the Israeli authorities, and risk a fine or imprisonment if caught.

Since the total closure imposed by Israel on the Occupied Territories February 25, 1996, after the first of four suicide bomb attacks in Israel, Israel has prevented 500 students from Gaza who were visiting their families in Gaza for the Ramadan feast on February 20 from returning to their West Bank institutions. It continues to refuse to issue permits to these students, to others who returned to Gaza after the closure was imposed, to those who remained in the West Bank, and to those who wish to begin their studies in the West Bank this academic year.

On March 12, an Israeli military order was issued, ordering all Gaza students who were in the West Bank when the closure was imposed to return to Gaza. This order was unreasonable, as it included those students who resided in areas completely under Palestinian jurisdiction in the West Bank where the Israelis no longer have authority. The Palestinian Authority did not respond or object to the military order and the students remained in the West Bank Ramallah area.

On March 25, Israel lifted the closure inside the West Bank which separated West Bank towns and villages from each other. Gazan students were thus physically able to travel to university and their places of residence in Birzeit, Abu Qush and Abu Shkhaidem. But the Israeli military orders were still in effect, leaving the students in an unstable predicament.

In the early morning of March 28, Israeli security forces launched a search and arrest campaign in the villages around Birzeit university where many students of the university were staying. Birzeit University sources estimate that around 370 persons were detained; of these 280 were students. The student detainees were reportedly beaten and then taken to a nearby military installation, and then to the Israeli military camp in Betounia near Ramallah, where they were interrogated by Israeli General Security Services. All but 16 of these students were released in the early hours of March 29, and 32 students from Gaza were transferred to the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, along with Bir Zeit University, al-Haq, B’Tselem, Hamoked, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and the Quakers have intervened on behalf of the Gaza students and their right to education for more than three years. Yet the Israeli authorities continue to pursue policies which each year leave more than 1,200 Gazan students uncertain as to whether or not they will be permitted to pursue their studies in the West Bank, and which deter increasing numbers of Gaza students from even applying to West Bank institutions due to the obstacles they know they must overcome to attend them.

The denial of a generation of future leaders its right to education only serves to make the search for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the region more difficult. This peace cannot be achieved if its fruits are not felt by all sectors of the population.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights urges that letters be sent to the Israeli authorities as well as the international community asking that:

    1. Measures which arbitrarily prevent Gazan students from attending West Bank universities be ended.

    2. Gaza students wishing to begin their studies in the West Bank this year be permitted to do so.

    3. Denial of permits on security grounds be issued in writing and be subject to regular, published procedures.

    4. Permits for students studying in the West Bank be exempted from cancellation when closures are imposed.

Please send your letters to:

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu

Office of the Prime Minister

3 Kaplan Street

Jerusalem, Israel 91919

Fax: 972-2-664 838

Israeli Minister of Justice Yaakov Neeman

Ministry of Justice

29 Salah ad-Din Street

Jerusalem, Israel 91029

Fax: 972-2-285 438

Israeli Minister of Defence Yitzhak Mordechai

Ministry of Defence

7 ‘A’ Street

Hakirya

Tel Aviv, Israel

Fax: 972-3-697 6218

Israeli Minister of Education Izhar Bear

Ministry of Education

43 Emek Refaim Street

Jerusalem, Israel 93141

Fax: 972-2-610 756

Ambassador Martin Indyk

American Embassy

71 Rehov Hayarkon

Tel Aviv, Israel

Fax: 972-3-510 8093

U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher

US Department of State

2201 C Street, NW

Washington, DC 20520

Fax: 001-202-647 5939

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