Student travel between Gaza and the West Bank 101
In September 2000, following the outbreak of the Second Intifada, Israel instituted a sweeping ban on travel for Palestinian students from Gaza Strip wishing to study at Palestinian universities in the West Bank. Since its inception in 2005, Gisha has brought three court challenges of the ban. Gaza's five universities do not offer degrees in a number of programs which are available in the West Bank, and in other cases, students make individual choices to study at West Bank universities, even when degree programs are available in Gaza.
In 2007, the High Court recommended that the state establish a mechanism to approve exceptional cases of students whose studies would have "positive human implications" for the region. The state never established such a mechanism.
Most recently, Gisha presented arguments against the 12-year ban, particularly as it impacts the ability of five women students from Gaza to complete their degrees. Four of the women, in their 30s and 40s, began Master's programs in gender studies and human rights and democracy at Birzeit University before the travel ban was imposed. In 2000, the army refused to renew their permits and they returned to Gaza without having completed their degrees. The fifth petitioner is a young woman who sought to obtain a law degree at Birzeit, the most prestigious program in the Palestinian territory for the study of law. The court issued a conditional order, recommending that the state reconsider its application of the ban, however, the state refused to reverse its decision and allow the women to travel. On September 24, 2012, the court accepted the state's position and rejected the petition. Justice Elyakim Rubinstein wrote in the verdict in support of issuing an order to the state to create a mechanism for screening individual applications for travel by students, however Justice Miriam Naor and Justice Zvi Zylbertal opposed the suggestion.
Gisha believes that Palestinian students have a right to study in the Palestinian universities established for their benefit, in Gaza and the West Bank. Israel should lift the 12-year old ban on student travel from Gaza and instead adopt a policy that reflects its obligations and long-term interests, as well as its security concerns. Israel's legitimate security concerns are not served by preventing residents of the Strip, especially young people, from accessing the educational and professional opportunities they need to build a better future.