Israeli University Presidents and Authors to Defense Minister: Stop Blocking Access to Education for Palestinian Students

Four Israeli University Presidents and Authors David Grossman, Amos Oz, and A.B. Yehoshua to Defense Minister:

Stop Blocking Access to Education for Palestinian Students

Wed., May 30, 2007 – In a letter to Minister of Defense Amir Peretz, the authors and four presidents of Israeli universities asked to change the policy prohibiting Gaza residents from traveling to the West Bank for purposes of study. The appeal comes at a time when the Israeli academy is battling a threatened boycott. Today, the British-based University and College Union will vote on the boycott motion.

The presidents of Ben-Gurion University, Prof. Rivka Carmi, the Hebrew University, Prof. Menachem Megidor,Haifa University, Prof. Aharon Ben-Zeev,the Technion, Prof. Yitzhak Apeloig, anda group of Israeli authors, — including Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua, David Grossman, Nathan Zach, Ariel Hirschfeld, Agi Mishol, and Yitzhak Laor – called upon the minister of defense, Amir Peretz, to change the policy that severely violates the right of Palestinian students in Gaza to higher education and that harms the development of Palestinian society.

The presidents and authors write: “In recent years, the security authorities have instituted a policy which prevents residents of Gaza from traveling to the West Bank for the purpose of studies in Palestinian institutions of higher education located there,” even though “essential professions such as medicine, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and health administration may only be studied in the West Bank and are not available in Gaza.”

“Blocking access to higher education for Palestinian students from Gaza who choose to study in the West Bank casts a dark shadow over Israel’s image as a state which respects and supports the principle of academic freedom and the right to education,” the letter states.

Prof. Kenneth Mann, Chairperson of the Advisory Committee of Gisha-Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, asked the presidents of Israel’s universities to make a public statement in support of the universal principle of academic freedom and the rights of Palestinian students to access education. Four university presidents agreed, although the presidents of Tel Aviv University and Bar Ilan University declined to sign.

Prof. Kenneth Mann: “The military should listen to calls from intellectuals and the Israeli academy who ask that the universal principle of academic freedom be respected – for Palestinians and Israelis alike.”

Gisha has petitioned Israel’s High Court against the ban. The case will be heard in July.