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As Israel continues its policy of separating Gaza from the West Bank:
10 Israel Prize laureates and dozens of academics urge the Defense Minister:
`Cancel sweeping ban preventing Palestinians in Gaza from attending Palestinian universities in the West Bank`
Ten Israel Prize laureates and more than 50 academics and intellectuals wrote to the Israeli Defense Minister today asking him to cancel the sweeping ban Israel has imposed, since 2000, on Palestinian students from Gaza studying in the West Bank. Among the signatories are 2010 Israel Prize winners Prof. Avishai Margalit and Prof. Yehoshua Kolodny, past winners David Tartakover and Yehuda Jad Ne`eman, and intellectuals Joshua Sobol and Nir Baram.
`A sweeping ban on the passage of any resident of Gaza wishing to study in the West Bank is a disproportional ban that must be canceled,` they write. `Instead of the ban, we ask that the young people be allowed to attend their places of study subject to individual security checks of their applications. At the very least, we ask the Defense Minister to establish a mechanism for individual evaluations in cases which could result in positive human consequences.`
The academics and intellectuals who signed the letter added that `academic and professional training is critical to the well-being and growth of Palestinian society and the individual development of each one of its young men and women who wishes to better himself or herself,` and that `Israel has a clear interest in allowing our Palestinian neighbors to build a prosperous and peaceful civil society.`
Since 2000 Israel has imposed a sweeping ban on Palestinians from the Gaza Strip wishing to attend Palestinian universities in the West Bank. Despite an Israeli High Court ruling in 2007 that determined that students from Gaza wishing to study in the West Bank should be allowed to do so `in cases that would have positive human consequences,` to the best of Gisha`s knowledge, Israel has not let a single student from Gaza pass through Israel in order to reach his or her studies in the West Bank since the ruling. In the late 1990s, about 1,000 students from Gaza studied in the West Bank, many in critical disciplines that are not available in the Gaza Strip, such as occupational therapy, dentistry, physical therapy and others.
Gisha has recently appealed again to the Israeli authorities on behalf of three students from Gaza accepted for studies at Bethlehem University in the West Bank. The three, Jawdat Michael, Dana Al Tarazi and Owda Aljelda were supposed to start school in the summer of 2009, but despite requests by Gisha and Bethlehem University, Israel refused to let them leave Gaza. They are now seeking to attend the 2010 summer session at the university.
The sweeping ban on the passage of students from Gaza to the West Bank is only one part of an overall Israeli policy whose purpose is to separate the two parts of Palestinian territory. A new order recently went into effect, which threatens every Palestinian in the West Bank, whose registered address is in Gaza, with removal to the Strip, even if they have lived in the West Bank for years or even all their lives. For many years, and even prior to the issuing of the order, Israel has been implementing this removal policy. For example, in October 2009, Berlanty Azzam, a 22-year-old student who had been in the West Bank since 2005 and was only two months away from completing her BA in Business Administration from Bethlehem University was removed to Gaza. Meanwhile, since 2000, Israel, which controls the Palestinian population registry, has refused to allow changes of address from Gaza to the West Bank.