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Right to Education

American teacher at Birzeit University denied academic freedom

Written by admin  •  Tuesday, 05.05.2009, 14:47

Julie Dylan*, an American teacher, has been a lecturer in the English Literature and Language Department and a student of Arabic with the Palestinian and Arabic Studies Program at Birzeit University since September 2008. She is one of the founding members of Campus Action Network, set up in April 2008 as a resource and network for student groups who work for justice in Palestine across campuses in the U.S.

Julie is one of the many international teachers working at universities throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt) who are reliant on three-month tourist visas in order to continue teaching here. At the end of November 2008 Julie was denied an extension to her tourist visa and was then forced to leave by the state of Israel. In order to get a single month extension, she was forced to spend nearly three full days procuring additional documents, including a new plane ticket for a specific date determined by the State and to sign a statement that she would not seek another tourist visa extension and promised to leave the country on the date the State determined. She was therefore unable to complete her semester of teaching at the University. As a result of Julie’s deportation 75 students were denied their right to complete their writing courses that semester and therefore denied their right to education.

Israel has controlled the borders and population register of the oPt since the start of the military occupation in 1967. This ongoing policy means that Israel has de facto control over who has access to teach, study or work at Birzeit University. Cases of deportations, denials of entry and denials of visa renewals for international passport holders who want to visit, work or study in the oPt have increased dramatically since 2006.

In November 2008, Julie was forced to return back to the States and continue teaching her classes via video conference so that her students could complete the semester. This proved to be an expensive procedure, particularly in terms of logistics, for a university, which is already suffering financially. Ultimately, the video conferencing failed and Morgan had to prepare full, detailed lecture notes and use a department teaching assistant and student aides.

In February 2009, Julie managed to return to the West Bank on a three month tourist visa, to resume her teaching duties at Birzeit University. Although she was allowed back into the country, she lives every day at risk of not being able to continue her teaching post at the university, because she may not be given a renewal of her current tourist visa, which expires in May 2009.

Recent events have proved that Julie is almost definitely not going to be given a visa renewal by the Israelis, who seem determined to prove to her that she is being watched. Before leaving the States to return to Palestine, Julie had posted her MA thesis to herself at an address in Ramallah, in order to avoid the possibility of being searched and interrogated by the Israeli immigration controls at the airport, and therefore putting her at further risk of being denied entry into the country (she would already have been at risk due to her previous deportation).

The thesis, which explores the topic of “Occupation power structures and the complicity of the international activist” arrived at the end of December to the Ramallah address Julie had sent it to. She was not able to take the package until she returned in February and only opened it recently. The friend who received the packaged envelope informed her that he found it opened when it arrived. When she looked inside, Julie was shocked to find that every single one of her Professor’s hand-written comments or corrections on her thesis had been erased with white-out! This was a clear sign to let Julie know that her thesis had been read and once again her academic freedom was being infringed upon by the Israeli military occupation.

Read Julie’s blog here:

* Name has been changed

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