Israeli Military Continues Sweeping Ban on Palestinian Students Studying in Israeli Universities

Sun., May 20, 2007 – Despite a 2006 Supreme Court decision asking the state to set criteria for admitting Palestinian students into Israel for academic studies, the sweeping ban on Palestinians studying in Israel has not been lifted. Today, for the third time, the military requested a delay in submitting criteria for allowing Palestinian students into Israel – jeopardizing their ability to study in Israel in the coming academic year.

In a response submitted to the court, “Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement” warned that the State’s repeated delays perpetuate the ban. Gisha told the court that the delay jeopardizes the ability of Palestinians to study in Israel next year, too, because university registration will soon end – without Palestinian students.

Gisha first revealed the existence of the ban in a court petition submitted in October on behalf of a Palestinian doctoral student. Because of the ban, requests from Palestinian students to enter Israel are automatically denied by the army – even though major programs, including doctoral studies, are not available in Palestinian universities.

Gisha emphasizes that the sweeping ban violates the right of Palestinian students to access education and the academic freedom of Israeli academic institutions, including the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, which asked to join the petition.

The current policy contradicts the position of the Minister of Education and of the leaders of Israel’s academy: in a public statement addressed to the Minister of Defense, the heads of Israeli universities expressed their wish to admit any student who meets the academic criteria – irrespective of nationality. Israel’s National Academy of Sciences and international institutions promoting academic freedom, among them Nobel Prize Laureates, have joined the demand to cancel the total ban.

Attorney Sari Bashi, director of Gisha: “These days, as the Israeli academy is rightfully fighting attempts to prevent Israeli academics from teaching and studying – just because they are Israeli, the military should not ban Palestinian students from studying in Israeli universities – just because they are Palestinian.”

Following a Supreme Court decision on Dec. 18, 2006, and in light of the public pressure, the military was to have submitted criteria in February 2007 for allowing Palestinian students into Israel. In today’s request, the military requested a third extension until June 27 – risking that the ban will continue for the next academic year.