Knesset Education Committee: Preventing Students in Gaza From Studying Abroad is Immoral and Unwise

Lawmakers Hear from Gaza Student Seeking to Study Abroad; Urge Military to Change Policy

Wed., May 28, 2008 – "I received a permit to leave Gaza today to attend a visa interview, and tonight I return to Gaza. I don’t know if I’ll be able to leave again, in order to reach my studies." said Obaida Abu Hashem, an 18-year old Gaza resident seeking to reach his studies in mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States. "The field I want to study does not exist in Gaza, and study abroad is my only opportunity."

Abu Hashem spoke to lawmakers at an urgent hearing in the Knesset Education Committee today, during which lawmakers called on the military to reverse a policy preventing hundreds of students in Gaza from reaching their studies abroad.

"Preventing students in Gaza from studying is reminiscent of a painful point in Jewish history. We are a nation that for years was prevented from studying – how can we do the same thing to another people?" said Committee Chair Rabbi Michael Malchior. "Trapping hundreds of students in Gaza is immoral and unwise."

At the hearing, Gisha-Legal Center for Freedom of Movement presented findings of a forthcoming report showing that the military’s refusal to let students leave Gaza for study abroad is choking educational development and violating the rights of hundreds of students. Military officials present at the hearing said that exit from Gaza is permitted "for exceptional humanitarian and urgent medical cases only".

MK Dov Hanin: "The logic of the security apparatus is warped – they are denying education to students who want to study in order to contribute to the entire region," MK Avshalom Vilan added that the military’s policy preventing education is actually causing "tremendous damage to the security of the State of Israel".

The Committee concluded by emphasizing the importance of allowing students in Gaza to realize their right to access education and noted that preventing students from reaching their studies does not serve the security interests of Israel and causes tremendous harm to its image abroad. The committee will send an urgent request to change the policy to the Prime Minister, the Defense Minister, and Members of the Security Cabinet with a request for an answer within two weeks.