Israeli Military Bans Palestinian Students from Studying at Israeli Universities

October 11, 2006: The nonprofit organization Gisha: Center for the Legal Protection of Freedom of Movement petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court this week against a sweeping policy which bans Palestinian students from studying at Israeli universities. The prohibition prevents all Palestinian students accepted to Israeli institutions of higher learning from receiving permits to enter Israel in order to study. Gisha exposed the existence of the ban in a court petition filed on behalf of Sawsan Salame, a doctoral student in chemistry accepted to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem but denied permission to enter Israel due to the new policy.

The prohibition prevents Ms. Salame, a 29-year old woman from the village of Anata in the West Bank, from studying for a PhD. This is because there is no recognized doctoral study program at universities in the Palestinian territories. Ms. Salame, an elected village council member in Anata and a feminist leader there, has been trying for eight months to reach her studies. She has been promised a full scholarship.

In the court petition, Gisha argues that the sweeping prohibition violates Israeli and international law and asks that requests by Palestinian students to enter Israel be evaluated individually. The petition argues that: “The refusal of the army to even review her request is unreasonable and disproportional, and it breaches the military commander’s obligations to allow life to continue as normal in the territories, including development of the educational system …” The petition notes that the ban blocks the entrance of Palestinians into Israel for the purpose of studies without any individual consideration, even though requests to enter Israel for other reasons are individually reviewed. Attorneys Noam Peleg and Sari Bashi wrote the petition.

The ban particularly hurts women, for whom there are societal prohibitions against traveling abroad to study, and poor students, who cannot afford studies abroad. Gisha argues that it is in Israel’s interest to allow Palestinian young people to access advanced degrees and to develop the Palestinian educational system.

According to Ms. Salame: “All I want is to be allowed to study, to do research and to become the first female professor of chemistry in the Palestinian educational system”.

According to Sari Bashi, Director of Gisha: “At a time when Israeli professors are rightfully opposing attempts to prevent them from teaching – just because they are Israeli – Gisha calls upon Israel not to prevent Palestinian students from studying – just because they are Palestinian. Academic freedom is universal.”