Gisha Asks Israel’s High Court to Overturn the Ban on Students from Gaza to Study in the West Bank

 Thu., December 1, 2005 Gisha petitioned Israel’s High Court in the name of 10 students, residents of Gaza, who have been prohibited from reaching their studies in Bethlehem, in the field of occupational therapy. Ten petitions were submitted, one in the name of each student, challenging the sweeping ban on students traveling from Gaza to the West Bank. The prohibition has forced these 10 students to learn occupational therapy "by remote control" – through video broadcasts, Internet correspondence, and foreign lecturers flown into Gaza. Two Palestinian nonprofit organizations – both of whom need the services of trained occupational therapists for their care of the community in Gaza – joined the petition: Gaza Community Mental Health Programme and Bitona for Community Development.

The students’ requests to cross to Bethlehem have been rejected since 2003, despite the fact that, regarding most of them, the army does not even claim that there is any specific security threat at all. Banning their travel means banning their studies, because in the Gaza Strip, there is no program for certifying occupational therapists. The ban also means that occupational therapy services will not be available to the civilian population in Gaza, because in the entire Strip, there is only one certified working occupational therapist.

According to Paragraph 48 of the petition: "The ban on travel by students is based on a presumption that a student seeking to travel to the West Bank … constitutes a security threat … so long as [the military commander] fails to conduct an individual examination of the personal circumstances of each student seeking to travel between Gaza and the West Bank, that presumption is perpetuated, and it becomes irrefutable." The result is obstruction of the path of young people in the Gaza Strip who seek to develop themselves and acquire higher education.

In the words of Ms. Huda Abu Roos, Student-Petitioner: "Sometimes, I feel like my attempt to study is hopeless, and I don’t have the strength to continue. But my great love for the field of occupational therapy and the practical result of my studies – helping people in need –help me maintain hope."

In the words of Prof. Kenneth Mann, Chair of Gisha’s Board: "Gisha demands that Israel individually evaluate the request of each student who seeks to cross between Gaza and the West Bank and that it respect its commitments to recognize the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a single territorial unit, within which there should be freedom of movement."

Bethlehem University and the Norwegian Occupational Therapy Association, both of whom sponsor the occupational therapy program, join the call that the students be permitted to reach their studies.