At Gisha’s Request: High Court to Examine Why Israel Still Refuses to Let Palestinians Pursue Academic Studies in Israel

Tomorrow, Monday May 25, 2009 a hearing will be held on Israel’s discriminatory policy, which contradicts the instructions of the High Court of Justice.

•While publicly declaring that it will work to improve the lives of Palestinians, Israel continues to block their society’s access to the tools of development.

•Ahead of the hearing, Israel’s institutions of higher education sent a harshly worded letter to the Ministry of Defense protesting the army’s interference in their academic freedom to decide who can study at their institutions.

•Israeli professors ask to join the petition to the Court, claiming that the military is grossly interfering in their academic discretion.

Sun., May 24, 2009 – At the request of Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, the Israeli High Court of Justice will hold a hearing tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. on Israel’s severe restrictions on Palestinians who wish to pursue academic studies within its territory.

Gisha’s request was submitted in response to discriminatory and arbitrary criteria that Israel’s military established restricting Palestinian students accepted into Israeli universities from receiving permits to enter Israel.In effect, Israel has unjustifiably snatched academic discretion from the universities and placed it in the hands of the army.The criteria were established following a petition submitted by Gisha on behalf of Ms. Sawsan Salame, a resident of the West Bank accepted for a doctorate in chemistry at the Hebrew University but unable to reach her studies because of a sweeping ban from the army on Palestinian students studying in Israel.At the time, the High Court asked the government to remove the sweeping ban and to formulate criteria for the acceptance of Palestinian students to Israeli universities.

Following the publication of the restrictive criteria, out of serious concern for academic freedom in Israel, five Israeli professors applied to the High Court to join the petition against the criteria.The five – Prof. Zvi Mazeh, Prof. Miriam Schlesinger, Prof. Alon Harel, Prof. Ehud de Shalit and Prof. Moshe Ron – argue that Israel’s policies constitute illegitimate interference with academic freedom and are damaging the image of Israel’s academia in the international arena.

Prof. Ehud de Shalit said: “Our main line of argument in our attempt to oppose the academic boycott on Israel was academic freedom and the independence of Israel’s universities, that our doors are open to all students, including Palestinian students. We have the academic freedom to accept any student without external intervention”.

Mr. Anton Khalileh, who wants to enroll in an MA program in Desert Studies at Ben-Gurion University:"For three years I tried to get an entry permit to Israel to pursue environmental studies.Not only can Desert Studies only be studied in Israel, but this is a unique field that involves the region as a whole.I see academic studies as a means to my own personal development, but these studies will also help me contribute to the development of Palestinian society.I think that interaction between Palestinian and Israeli students is important for building a relationship between the two nations”.