IDF Insists: Berlanty Azzam can not complete the final 2 months of her degree in Bethlehem

· Gisha requests that the Court instruct the army to let Berlanty return to her studies in Bethlehem.

· Berlanty has already missed almost a month of her studies; she was due to finish her BA in Business Management in less than two months.

· Israel admits that it has no security concerns regarding Berlanty and that she was removed only because the address listed on her identity card is in Gaza.

· Since 2000, Israel has enforced a sweeping ban on Palestinian students from Gaza studying at universities in the West Bank.

Tue., November 24, 2009 – The IDF maintained its refusal to allow Berlanty to return to her studies in Bethlehem, stated the Israeli State Attorney’s Office in a supplementary statement submitted today to the High Court of Justice following an urgent petition submitted by "Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement". The State’s update was submitted following a military hearing conducted for Berlanty after the High Court ordered the State to grant her the legal right that was originally denied to her – the opportunity to present her claims and appeal her removal, while exercising her right to legal representation.The hearing took place on November 17, 2009, at the Erez Crossing in the presence of Gisha attorney, Adv. Yadin Elam.

In its statement today, the State continues to claim that Berlanty, a 22-year-old student who was forcibly removed to the Gaza Strip last month, was present in the West Bank "illegally”, despite the fact that Berlanty herself clarified in her military hearing that she traveled from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank legally – using an entry permit to Israel issued to her by the military commander. This permit was issued to her after she passed a rigorous security investigation.Moreover, after she entered the West Bank, Berlanty did everything she could to change her address as listed on her identity card to her new place of residence, Bethlehem.Over the past four years, she and her parents submitted numerous applications to change her address but all were summarily rejected – they were told that Israel, which controls the Palestinian population registry, refuses to register changes in address from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank.

After she heard about the army’s refusal to let her finish her studies, Berlanty Azzam said:“I’m extremely disappointed. All I want is to be able to return to my studies in Bethlehem. I need the court to deliver justice”.
Adv. Yadin Elam:“The army’s decision not to allow a promising student to complete her studies is a sign of severe myopia. It is also a symptom of broad-ranging Israeli policy that does not perceive students for who they really are – young people with the desire and potential to build a better future – but rather as a homogenous group that constitutes a threat.I hope that the Court will acknowledge Berlanty’s right to education”.

Since 2000, Israel has enforced a sweeping ban preventing Palestinians from Gaza from studying at Palestinian universities in the West Bank.In 2007, a High Court decision determined that students from Gaza wishing to study in the West Bank should be allowed to do so “in cases where positive humanitarian implications are known”, However, to the best of Gisha’s knowledge, since this judgment was handed down in 2007, Israel has not issued a single entry permit for the purpose of traveling to study in the West Bank to a student from Gaza. Just last summer, Israel refused to allow 12 students from Gaza to study at Bethlehem University.In the late 1990s, about 1,000 students from Gaza studied in the West Bank, most of them in disciplines that are not offered in the Gaza Strip.

An estimated 25,000 people live in the West Bank but have Gaza addresses listed on their identity cards. Like Berlanty, due to this fact alone they are at risk of being removed from their homes and separated from their families, jobs and studies. These people, some of whom have lived in the West Bank for decades, are extremely limited in their daily movements due to the fear that they will be detained and removed. This is due to the fact that Israel does not recognize their right to live in the West Bank and, since 2000, has not allowed addresses to be changed from Gaza to the West Bank. As a result, they have limited opportunities for employment, business and studies.These policies are not only a breach of Israel’s obligations under international accords to treat the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a “single territorial entity” but they also inhibit the healthy development of Palestinian society.

Berlanty was detained on October 28, 2009, on her way back from Ramallah to Bethlehem, where she has studied and lived for the past four years.Despite the fact that she had less than two months left before completing her BA at Bethlehem University and that she has not been identified with any security claim, Berlanty was handcuffed, blindfolded, and removed to the Gaza Strip on that same day. This was in violation of an explicit promise made to her attorney that she would be allowed to meet with him, and a denial of her right to a hearing, as the High Court rightly determined.