Israel refuses to allow a lawyer to leave Gaza to reach her studies in democracy and human rights in the West Bank

While Israel declares an easing of the closure and restrictions on movement of people out of the Gaza Strip: Israel refuses to allow a lawyer to leave Gaza to reach her studies in democracy and human rights in the West Bank

Ms. Sharif has been working as a lawyer to promote human rights in the Gaza Strip in a non-partisan setting since 2005.

The goal of the study program is to train professionals to help build a democratic Palestinian society.

There is no program of the kind in the Gaza Strip.

Israel has no security claim against Ms. Sharif.

Thur., July 1, 2010 – Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement submitted an urgent petition to the High Court of Justice yesterday concerning Ms. Fatma Sharif, a 29-year-old lawyer who wishes to travel from Gaza via Israel to attend a Master’s Degree program in human rights and democracy at Birzeit University in the West Bank. The petition was submitted after Israeli authorities denied her request on the grounds that it did not meet the criteria set by Israel for the exit of people from the Gaza Strip in "humanitarian and exceptional cases" only. The refusal to allow Ms. Sharif to travel is contrary to Israel’s recent declaration of a significant easing of the "civilian closure" of the Gaza Strip.

Ms. Sharif, who studied law in Gaza, currently works as a lawyer at the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza, a non-partisan organization whose goal is to promote human rights and democracy in the Gaza Strip and handle allegations of rights violations. Ms. Sharif has worked in human rights since becoming a lawyer in 2005, including at UNRWA and in a project to defend women against violence at the Center for Women’s Legal Research and Consulting. She now wishes to expand her knowledge of human rights and acquire tools that will help her more effectively promote awareness of human rights and civil society building in the Gaza Strip. Since there is no relevant academic program in Gaza, Ms. Sharif enrolled in studies at Birzeit University, with the intention of returning to Gaza at the end of her studies, where she has a job waiting for her at Al-Mezan, which supports her wish to develop professionally. She must arrive for her studies by July 15, 2010.

Ms. Fatma Sharif: "I want to go back to Gaza at the end of my Master’s Degree studies to raise awareness about human rights within the society in Gaza. I firmly believe that every person has rights that they must be made aware of, including where these rights are violated, whether from within their own society or from without".

Since 2000 Israel has imposed a sweeping ban on the exit of young Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank to study at Palestinian universities. Contrary to a High Court of Justice ruling from 2007, that the State should consider allowing students from Gaza wishing to study in the West Bank to do so in "cases that would have positive human consequences", as far as Gisha is aware, since the ruling was handed down, Israel has not granted a single student from Gaza an entry permit to Israel in order to travel to his or her studies in the West Bank.

“Had her application been reviewed individually”, wrote Adv. Dr. Nomi Heger of Gisha, “there is no doubt that it would have been approved because of her personality, her education, the study program that she chose and the welcome use she intends to make of the tools that she will acquire during her studies, when she returns to the Gaza Strip after graduation”.