Israeli Military to Court: No Gaza Students May Study in Israel

Tue., June 5, 2007 – Despite public pressure, Israel’s military announced that it will not change its policy and will continue the sweeping ban preventing Gaza students from studying in Israel. The military made its announcement yesterday to Israel’s Supreme Court at a hearing in a petition asking to allow a Gaza resident to reach an admissions interview for a doctoral program at Tel Aviv University. Even though there is no claim that the student’s entry to Israel poses a security risk, the state claimed there is no point in allowing him to reach the interview, because the ban against Gaza residents studying in Israel will continue.

"In Israel, people are angry over the British demand for an academic boycott, but Israel itself is in fact academically boycotting Palestinians" said the petitioner, Mr. Wisam Madhoon, seeking to do a Ph.D. in environmental science.

In the hearing in the petition submitted by Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom Movement, the Court accepted the state’s position refusing entry for Madhoon to reach the interview. In a previous and pending petition submitted by Gisha, the Court had asked the state to set criteria for Palestinian students to study in Israel. Yesterday, the state announced that the criteria will apply only to residents of the West Bank and not to Gaza residents. The state said that no Gaza residents will be allowed to study in Israel.

The ruling prevents Wisam Madhoon, a 28 year old Gaza resident, father of three, from reaching his admissions interview, even though the army does not claim that his entrance into Israel constitutes any threat at all. "Pursuing my studies at Tel Aviv University is my only chance to become a researcher in the field of environmental science", says Madhoon, "there are no doctoral studies in Gaza, or in any area of the Palestinian Authority, and as the sole provider for my family, I cannot travel abroad to study." Madhoon, who wishes to specialize in air pollution and the greenhouse effect, adds that "there is an opportunity to build human and academic bridges and a better future for Israelis and Palestinians. In my case, there is potential for collaboration in the field of air pollution. We are indeed living under the same sky."

The ruling sharply contradicts the demand of Israeli institutions of higher education, who asked the Defense Minister to be permitted to accept all students who meet academic criteria – irrespective of nationality.

According to Prof. Kenneth Mann, the Chair of Gisha’s Advisory Board: "It is unreasonable to prevent an academically qualified candidate such as Wisam Madhoon from reaching an entrance interview, just because he lives in Gaza. Gisha will continue its campaign for the right of Palestinians to access education."