Palestinians accepted for study in Israel may seek Supreme Court remedy if military refuses them entrance

Mon., May 25, 2009 – At a Supreme Court hearing held today at the request of Gisha on the severe restrictions Israel imposes on Palestinians wishing to pursue academic studies in its territory, the Court emphasized that the doors of Israeli courts are open to Palestinian students accepted for study in Israel, even if they do not meet the criteria established by the State.

The Court chose not to take a stand on the stringent and discriminatory criteria Israel’s military established for allowing Palestinian students accepted to Israeli universities to enter Israel. The criteria not only violate the rights of Palestinian students to access education, they also infringe on the academic freedom of Israeli academics and universities, by mandating state interference in admissions decisions and study programs.

The Court dismissed the court petition, noting that the petitioner, Sawsan Salameh, is being permitted to enter Israel for her studies.

Prof. Alon Harel of Hebrew University, who asked to join Gisha’s petition along with four other professors, said at the end of the hearing: "We are being forcibly prevented from accepting students who can make a decidedly valuable contribution to higher education in Israel. I call upon the Court and the defense establishment to respect academic freedom – the decision whether or not to accept a student needs to be the exclusive decision of the university, while the military should be limited to performing a security check."

Adv. Yadin Elam of Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement: "The very existence of these harsh criteria deters Palestinian students from enrolling in academic programs in Israel. The Court’s message today to these young people is not to give up on their right to access education, including in Israel."

The hearing was held at Gisha’s request after Israel established harsh restrictions on Palestinians wishing to pursue academic studies within in its territory. Among other things, the State blatantly expropriated academic judgment from the universities and delegated it to the Army, including decisions on which academic programs could be studied by Palestinian students entering Israel. These criteria were established following a petition submitted by Gisha on behalf of Ms. Sawsan Salameh, a resident of the West Bank who wished to pursue a PhD in chemistry and came up against a sweeping prohibition by the Army. At the time, the Court ordered the State to remove the sweeping prohibition and to formulate criteria for the admission of Palestinian students to universities in Israel. Following the publication of the restrictive criteria and out of great concern for academic freedom, five Israeli professors