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On December 9th 2009 the Israeli High Court upheld the actions of the Israeli military and denied Azzam re-entry into the West Bank in order for her to finish her degree. Azzam was defended by Israeli human rights organisation Gisha.
The High Court admitted that Azzam posed no security threat to Israel, basing their case on Azzam being “illegally” present in the West Bank on account of the address on her ID card being in the Gaza Strip. The allegation was upheld despite Azzam having obtained the only available permit for travel at the time (2005). The visa in question was taken from Azzam by state representatives on her arrest, and was not presented in court. Azzam had also made numerous attempts to amend the address on her ID card. Her applications were rejected on the grounds that Israel will not accept a change of address from Gaza to the West Bank.
The deportation of Azzam and the denial of her re-entry into the West Bank results from the Israeli ban imposed on Gazan students studying at universities in the West Bank since 2000. The ban was reviewed in 2007, with the High Court ruling that Gazan students should be permitted to study in the West Bank in the case of Â“positive humanitarian implicationsÂ”. Since this ruling, there has been no record of Israel issuing a single entry permit for a student from Gaza to study in the West Bank.
Although attempts to get Azzam back into the West Bank have now been dropped, there are currently 12 students in the Gaza Strip waiting to be awarded visas to travel after having been accepted into Bethlehem University in the fall. Gisha is continuing to work with Bethlehem University to ensure that students have the necessary documentation to apply for a permit to leave Gaza for study.
The denial of freedom of movement between the Gaza Strip and Palestine constitutes a breach of international requirements for Israel to treat the two areas as a single entity. Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005.
As shown by the case of Berlanty Azzam, Israeli fragmentation policy has resulted in the continued denial of academic freedom to Palestinian students, denying not only their right to study but to play a role in the social and economic development of their country.