Saturday, June 02, 2007

Something stirs..."No one should be denied getting an education"

ANOTHER kind of "boycott". Students may be a little late for lectures today,
if they can get in at all. Israeli troops slap a temporary roadblock outside Bir Zeit University and check IDs.

IT may be a coincidence, but on the same day British college lecturers at their union conference in Bournemouth were voting for a resolution that could lead to a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, a group of well-known Israeli writers and academics were putting their names to a letter to the Israeli government, demanding that it grants Palestinian students from the Gaza Strip permission to travel to institutions of higher education in the West Bank.

It may not be much - neither they nor Israel's Western backers question Israel's power to say who can enter or leave, or travel between, the truncated Palestinian territories. Or even inside them, as when Palestinians have been prevented from reaching hospitals, travelling to work or college, even going to bathe in the Dead Sea. But it is the first time such an esteemed group -including university presidents - has got behind such a demand.

In a joint letter to Defense Minister Amir Peretz, they called on Israel to lift its sweeping ban on the travel of Palestinians between the West Bank and Gaza so students could pursue their education."Blocking access to higher education for Palestinian students from Gaza who choose to study in the West Bank casts a dark shadow over Israel's image as a state which respects and supports the principle of academic freedom and the right to education," the letter states.

The appeal was signed by authors Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua and David Grossman, and the presidents of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Ben-Gurion University, Haifa University and the Haifa Technion.

The Defense Ministry said it hadn't received the letter and had no immediate comment. In the past, the ministry has said it would be time-consuming and impractical to check each Gazan wanting to apply. The Israeli military tightened its travel restrictions after the elected Hamas-led Palestinian government took office last year.

West Bank universities have far higher standards than those in Gaza, and offer programs that are not available there, such as occupational therapy, physical therapy and health administration, said Sari Bashi, director of Gisha, an Israeli group that initiated the appeal. The group has challenged the travel restrictions in a petition to the Supreme Court. The case is scheduled to be heard in July.

Bashi said her group is demanding that Israel do away with the blanket travel ban on Palestinian students and evaluate each case individually."These are students who asking to study a profession that is not available in Gaza," she said. "No one should be denied getting an education."

This item from Associated Press was passed on to me by an Israeli academic living in Britain who has been among those arguing for an institutional boycott He adds: "Note that this is the first time Israeli universities have made a demand of this sort. The boycott is having a welcome effect.
Note also the Bar-Ilan University -- a hotbed of religious Zionist fanaticism -- is not among the signatories of this demand".

Another academic initiative I heard about yesterday is from Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace(FIPP), which is an international network of academics with Palestinians and Israelis among its members, committed to demanding an end to Israeli occupation so a just peace can be achieved. It comes after Israeli forces detained some 40 leading Palestinians, including MPs and academics. (Note -when Palestinians or Lebanese fighters take an armed Israeli prisoner on their soil they are said to have "kidnapped" the person; whereas Israeli forces can "arrest" elected leaders of a government, while our media keeps telling us it is down to the Palestinians to negotiate, and recognise, Israel.).

The FIPP have sent this
Open Letter to Israeli Education Minister Yael Tamir

From: FFIPP – Faculty For Israeli-Palestinian Peace

To: Prof Yael Tamir, Minister of Education
Cc: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz,
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni

In the recent spate of seizures carried out by the Israeli Defense Forces, Dr.Nassereddine Shaer, (Minister of Education and Higher Education (Palestine) Dean of Faculty of Islamic Law, An-Najah National University (Palestine)) was abducted, along with over 30 others, some of whom are elected Palestinian representatives and government Ministers.

This practice of the Israeli authorities is illegal under international law. More so, it goes against any attempt to promote a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians. As academics – Israeli, Palestinian, and International – we view this act as one more destructive step in the Israeli policy of obstruction of the right to education and academic freedom in Palestine.

It is in line with the ongoing policy of the Israeli military authorities to deny access to Palestinian students and academics to venues of study or research. Abducting the Minister of Education at this time, when final preparations are underway for 80,000 high school students to take the general high-school examination, is a major blow to the educational system in Palestine. It is, in fact, a blatant act of persecution which we vigorously oppose.

As academics we have an obligation to guard and promote critical thinking, personal morality and human solidarity. We are witness now to the intensification of human suffering which has spiraled into a grave crisis. You –an academic, a professor of philosophy and education, and Minister of Education– are a party to actions which are devastating for the Palestinian society, its cultural and educational subsistence, and its very existence. You must speak up and act!

Release the Palestinian Minister of Education and all those who have been unlawfully detained.

“Those who have the privilege to know, have the duty to act.”
- Albert Einstein

Last night I heard that Professor Avraham Oz of Haifa University had added his name to this protest. He is one of a number of Israeli academics who do consistently challenge their governments' oppressive policies and deserve our recognition and support.

I was hoping to give more information on the backing the FIPP letter had received, but was unable to access the websites of either FIPP-UK or Jews for Justice for Palestinians, who work with them, today. Perhaps they are being worked on to update with news of the campaign. I should hate to get paranoid about interference on the web, though it has been known to happen!

(During an earlier row about boycotts etc. AOL appeared to be blocking some e-mails, and this in turn led to university servers rejecting them. With the help of Professor Moshe Machover I found that they were systematically blocking anything containing the web address of Gush Shalom in Israel. Because this was being done automatically a way was found round it).

Anyway, the international web address for Faculty for Israel-Palestinian Peace is:

The UK one - though at present seemingly inaccessible is:

And while I am at it, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, which also could not be found today is normally

Gush Shalom is

Design for Living, not for Oppressing!

ANOTHER group of professionals who can make a difference to what is happening in Israel/Palestine are the architects and planners. Israel is notorious for using planning regulations to prevent Palestinians building their homes, and order demolitions, and Israeli architects do play an important part in designing new settlements that carve up Palestinian land.

Abe Hayeem is a retired architect who is making it his business to focus attention on these issues. He was a founder of Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine, who have launched an international petition on the settlements issue. Last week Abe, who is Jewish, was able to speak about this on the Islamic Channel's TV news programme. It is a very good interview and the news programme itself is very informative. You may still be able to see it if you go to click on the top item no 1 under Islam Channel News that says News-30-05-07

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home