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Right to Education Campaign, Birzeit University, 24 February 2005
In November 2004, four Birzeit University students from Gaza were forcibly removed from their studies in the West Bank and illegally deported to the Gaza Strip by the Israeli occupation Army. No charges were made against them, but they have been prevented from returning to Birzeit University to continue their studies. All four students were due to graduate by the end of this academic year.
The Right to Education Campaign at Birzeit University launched an international appeal for the deported Gaza students, and hundreds of prominent academics, concerned individuals, trade unions and human rights organizations around the world responded. The Israeli Army Legal Advisor received a stream of faxes and letters, demanding that the students be allowed to return to their studies.
As a result of this international pressure, the Israeli Army stated that the students might be permitted to come back to Birzeit University, but only if they signed a guarantee to permanently return to the Gaza Strip upon completion of their studies. This latest condition exposes the real motive behind the forced expulsion of Gaza students from the West Bank: to impose a final separation between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The West Bank and Gaza Strip are internationally recognized as one integral territory. Under international law everyone has the right to freely choose their place of residence within a single territory. As such, all Palestinians from Gaza have the right to live, work and study in the West Bank and vice versa. This has been actively undermined by the illegal permit system and closure policy imposed by the Israeli occupation since 1991, preventing thousands of Gaza students from studying at West Bank universities.
Since 2000, Israel has made it virtually impossible for Gaza students to reach the eight Palestinian universities in the West Bank. In 1999 there were some 350 Gaza students studying at Birzeit University, today there are only 35. The four deported students – Bashar Abu Shahala, Walid Muhanna, Bashar Abu Salim and Mohammad Matar – are among the last Gaza students still studying in the West Bank.
The Gaza students’ issue is part of the wider Israeli policy to obstruct and attack education in Palestine. Students in the West Bank are prevented from reaching their universities by frequent closures of cities, hundreds of military roadblocks and the construction of the illegal Wall. As a result, the number of new Birzeit students coming from Jenin in the northern West Bank declined by 100% in 2004. In the same year, over 1,500 Gaza students were prevented from traveling to their universities abroad.
Birzeit University urgently calls on all supporters, human rights organizations, and government representatives around the world to:
1. Demand the immediate and unconditional return of the four deported Gaza students to Birzeit University
2. Demand the right of Palestinian students to study at any university in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in accordance with international law
3. Demand the right of all Palestinian students to freely pursue their education in accordance with the right to freedom of movement and the fundamental human right to education
Please write to:
Col. Yaer Lutstein
Bet El Civil Administration
Fax number: +972 2 997 7326
Mr. Shaul Mofaz
Israeli Minister of Defense
Fax number: +972 3 697 6990
Please also copy your letters to the Right to Education Campaign at Birzeit University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Fax: +972 2 298 2059
To continue supporting Palestinian students’ rights, and to find out how to affiliate to the Right to Education Campaign at Birzeit University visit the http://right2edu.birzeit.edu/news/article5. You can also subscribe to the bi-monthly Right to Education Bulletin by emailing email@example.com with SUBSCRIBE in the subject line.
Gaza Students Appeal 29/11/04 http://right2edu.birzeit.edu/news/article238
Gaza Students Update 18/12/04 http://right2edu.birzeit.edu/news/article246
Amira Hass, Haaretz, 17/2/05 http://right2edu.birzeit.edu/news/article262