Knesset studies Palestinian student travel ban

Some students, particularly women pursuing doctoral studies, who have difficulty going abroad, must study in Israel.

Nablus checkpoint 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Nablus checkpoint 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The Civil Administration has refused to allow 10 Palestinians from Gaza to study physiotherapy in the West Bank even though there is only one physiotherapist in the Strip and no schools to teach the profession, representatives of Gisha, the Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, told the Knesset Education Committee on Tuesday. The committee held a special session to discuss the refusal of security forces to allow Palestinians to study in Israel and Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to study in the West Bank. Committee head Michael Melchior (Labor-Meimad) learned that the clampdown on the movement of Palestinian students began with the outbreak of the second Intifada in 2000. Matters deteriorated in 2004 when the IDF sharply reduced the number of students allowed to travel and worsened this year when it refused to allow any new Palestinian students to enter Israel or move from Gaza to the West Bank. According to Gisha, the Palestinian higher education system is based on the assumption that the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are one territorial unit. Thus, there are key subjects which the three universities in the Strip do not offer, including medicine, physiotherapy and health system administration. The West Bank does not offer doctoral studies in subjects such as chemistry. Some students, particularly women pursuing doctoral studies, who have difficulty going abroad, must study in Israel. They are now completely barred from doing so. According to Maj. Liran Alush, the legal adviser for Judea and Samaria, all Palestinians, not only students, are barred from entering Israel because of the security situation. Permits are only issued in exceptional cases. She added, however, that Palestinians who began their studies before the cutoff date were allowed to study this year. Prof. Simon Benninga, dean of the faculty of management at Tel Aviv University, said that at least one of his students who lives in the Gaza Strip was unable to return to school after beginning a special course last year. The faculty runs the two-year Kellog-Recanati MBA program for managers, which includes students from Israel and abroad. This year, said Benninga, the program had not received permission to bring in a single Palestinian student and Olga Betran, a woman from Belarus married to a Gazan, did not return to complete her second year. David Lehrer, director of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies at Kibbutz Ketura, said that no Palestinian students were enrolled in this year's course. In the past, five or six students each year have been Palestinians. The school stresses regional environmental problems and students come from Israel, Jordan and abroad. Lehrer said the army's policy harmed Palestinian students as well as Israeli universities. "Academia involves dialogue, dialogue between students and staff and among the students themselves," he said. "The army policy does not allow us to learn from the other side." Palestinian student Sawsan Salameh also addressed the committee. She has a scholarship to earn a doctorate in chemistry at Hebrew University. However, the army will not give her a permit to enter Israel. Gisha took her case to the High Court of Justice. Last week the court ordered the state to draft criteria for determining which Palestinian students can enter Israel and which can not. In the meantime, the army granted Salameh a sixth-month entry visa, not enough time for her to complete the school year.