10 Gaza students under travel ban petition court [pg. 4]

The High Court of Justice on Wednesday instructed the state to disclose how many Palestinians it allowed to travel from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank. It wants to assess whether the state was arbitrarily discriminating against 10 occupational-therapy students, as a group of petitioners has charged. The students have been attending classes in Bethlehem University since September 2003, when they were due to begin a special course provided for them by the university because of the allegedly severe shortage of occupational therapists in the Gaza Strip. Because of the travel ban, however, they have been barred from reaching the university, and have therefore been taking courses via computer and other long-distance methods. The petition was submitted by the students, the Israel-based Center for the Legal Protection of Freedom of Movement, the Gaza Community Mental Health Center and Bethuna, a Gaza community organization. The petitioners are asking the court to consider the application of each student separately. The state has rejected their applications en bloc on the grounds that the students fit the profile of the most dangerous type of Palestinian. In August 2004, the students first petitioned the High Court against the travel ban. That petition was rejected. The court accepted the state's argument that the students fit the most dangerous profile and that it also had specific intelligence information against four of the 10 that would have disqualified them from entering Israel in order to reach Bethlehem. The court explained that it was rejecting the petition because of the dangerous circumstances prevailing at the time, but added that the petitioners could return to the court in the future. The petitioners thus waited a year before approaching the court again. In addition to the arguments raised the previous year, the state added that the question of the passage of Palestinians from Gaza to the West Bank was a diplomatic matter currently being discussed by the political leaders of Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the US.