200 Professors to Defense Minister: Let Students from Gaza Study in the West Bank

Tue., September 5, 2006 – Today more than 200 professors and lecturers at Israeli universities and colleges called upon the Defense Minister and Prime Minister to cancel the sweeping ban preventing young Gaza residents from reaching the West Bank in order to study. Gisha initiated the appeal.

Professor Kenneth Mann, Chair of Gisha’s Advisory Board asked his fellow scholars to sign the declaration.

In recent years, Israel’s military has prevented Gaza residents from traveling to the West Bank in order to study at colleges and universities there. The ban is sweeping and applies irrespective of whether there is security information about any particular student.

The ban prevents Gaza residents from becoming doctors and occupational or physical therapists – professions that can be studied only in the West Bank and not in Gaza.

The appeal to the Defense Minister was made after Gisha submitted petitions to Israel’s High Court on behalf of 10 occupational therapy students from Gaza who have been trying to reach their studies at Bethlehem University. There is no program in Gaza to teach occupational therapy. The ban means that Gaza residents will not receive occupational therapy services, because in all of Gaza there is just one certified working occupational therapist.

The ban has forced 300 students in the health professions to study by "remote control" – video conferences, Internet correspondence, and trips to Egypt. Two Palestinian community organizations joined the petitions, because they need the services of occupational therapists to care for patients in Gaza: Gaza Community Mental Health Programme and Bitona for Community Development.

According to Professor Kenneth Mann, Chair of Gisha’s Advisory Board: "The academic community has expressed its support for giving Israel’s neighbors the chance to learn the tools they need to build a prosperous, peaceful society."

The professors to the Defense Minister: "Academic and professional training are vital to the well-being of Palestinian society and to the personal development of every young man and woman seeking to advance."

According to Mohammed Azaiza, Occupational Therapy Student: "I call on anyone who is listening, who believes in freedom of movement and the right to education, to help us reach our studies – and to help the disabled Gaza residents who need the services we will learn to provide."