Knesset Education Committee to Consider Restrictions on Palestinian Students

Mon., December 25, 2006 – On Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2006, at 9 am, the Knesset Education Committee will hold a hearing on the sweeping ban on Palestinian students entering Israel for purposes of study and the sweeping ban on students from Gaza studying in West Bank universities.

The hearing was initiated by Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, which petitioned the High Court asking that the bans be abolished.

Representatives of Israeli universities who asked the Defense Minister to cancel the ban will participate, as will Palestinian students whose studies have been blocked because of the overall ban. Participants include David Lehrer, Director of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, which seeks to enroll Palestinian students in a program for environmental studies. Gisha’s Legal Adviser, Prof. Kenneth Mann, will also participate, as will representatives from the Education and Defense Ministries.

The hearing was scheduled after Israel’s major universities called upon the Defense Minister to cancel the ban on Palestinian students studying in Israel and to respect the academic freedom of the Israeli Academy to accept qualified students, irrespective of national origin. Similarly, 200 Israeli academics called upon the Defense Minister to cancel the ban on Gaza residents studying in the West Bank.

Mr. Mohammad Azaiza, an occupational therapy student from Gaza seeking to reach his studies in Bethlehem University, has been invited to the hearing, as Ms. Sawsan Salameh, a Palestinian doctoral student initially prevented from reaching her studies at the Hebrew University because of the army’s policies.

The military has been asked to explain its position before Israel’s High Court: Tuesday’s hearing is an opportunity for lawmakers to ask the military for explanations of its position, including positions opposed by education officials.