State tells court it may allow Gazans to study abroad

Decision comes after days of heavy US pressure regarding seven US Fulbright scholars from the Gaza Strip.

arab ulpan 224.88 (photo credit: Michael Green)
arab ulpan 224.88
(photo credit: Michael Green)
A few days after coming under heavy US pressure to allow seven Fulbright scholars from the Gaza Strip to study abroad, the state informed the High Court of Justice on Monday it might reconsider its blanket refusal to allow Gaza students to leave the area. "Different opinions are being raised in the government and its policy might change," said the state's representative, Yuval Roitman, during a hearing on a petition by Nibal Nayef, 27, who received a full scholarship from the German public foundation DAAD to pursue her doctoral studies in computer engineering at the Technische Universitat Kaiserslautern in Germany. "For the moment, [however,] the policy we are presenting to the court is that students from Gaza may not go abroad to study," Roitman continued. The court made it clear it wanted the state to reconsider the matter. "If there are different opinions," Justice Elyakim Rubinstein told Roitman, "perhaps it is a good idea that they be heard." Rubinstein also said that the ban seemed "no less harmful to the Israeli interest because we have to live with the Palestinians in the future, too." He warned that preventing students from accessing education "harms chances for some kind of coexistence." The court gave the state 15 days to report back on whether it had indeed decided to change its policy. Later in the day, another High Court panel heard a similar petition by 31-year-old Wissam Abuajwa, who received a full scholarship for a Master's Degree in Environmental Science at Nottingham University in the UK. In that case, the court postponed its decision on technical grounds, regarding a question of whether the High Court or Beersheba District Court should hear the petition. Both students were represented by Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, an Israeli non-profit organization. According to Gisha Director Sari Bashi, Israel has refused to grant hundreds of requests by Gaza students for entry permits to Israel so that they can travel abroad to continue their studies. She charged that the ban "is part of a policy of closure and collective punishment that is trapping 1.5 million civilians." The state argued that the court should not intervene in the matter because the ban was a matter of government diplomatic policy. It also said the travel ban had been imposed for security reasons and that the only possible exceptions were for urgent humanitarian cases.