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Right to Education

No access to consulates, No academic freedom

Written by admin  •  Monday, 13.10.2008, 11:08

R2E Campaign, Birzeit University, 13 October 2008

Below is a letter written to the American Consulate in Jerusalem on behalf of a Palestinian academic who was unable to attend his visa interview due to the occupation’s segregation of Palestinian areas and the Wall. This case highlights simply one of the difficulties facing Palestinian academics on a regular basis, making it increasingly difficult for them to participate in the world of academia, exchange knowledge and ideas, and gain expertise in their field. Obstructing the access to visas is just one way in which the Israeli occupation impairs and often denies the academic freedom of Palestinians.

Scans of the denied permit which prevented Dr Abdul-Rahim Al-Shaikh from attending his visa interview at the American Consulate in Jerusalem, and his original letter of invitation from Columbia University, are provided after the letter.

Consular General of the United States in Jerusalem
Non-Immigrant Visa Section
Nablus Road

13 October 2008

Dear Sir or Madam,

We are writing to express our concern that a senior member of our academic staff, Dr Abdul-Rahim Al-Shaikh, was unable to attend a visa interview with your Consulate staff in Jerusalem due to the Israeli military administration’s refusal to grant him a permit to enter Jerusalem – without providing justification – and to urge you to reschedule his appointment as he is appealing this decision.

Dr Abdul-Rahim Al-Shaikh is the Head of Academic Support Unit at the School of Graduate Studies and an Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Cultural Studies, at Birzeit University, and has been invited by the Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University, to participate in a conference entitled “Orientalism from the Standpoints of its Victims, 1948-1978: Thirty Years of Orientalism, sixty to the Nakbah”, on the 7-8 November 2008. I have attached the letter of invitation which highlights the importance of Dr Al-Shaikh’s participation in this event.

On the 5th of October, Dr Al-Shaikh went to military offices in Qalandya checkpoint and applied for permission to enter Jerusalem in order to attend his visa interview on the following day. He waited at the offices for several hours and was eventually denied a permit without justification – a scanned copy of which is also attached. The Birzeit University lawyer is appealing this refusal on behalf of Dr Al-Shaikh and has 14 days to do so. However, for a permit to be issued it is essential that a new interview date and time be scheduled.

We urge you to reschedule an appointment for Dr Al-Shaikh as soon as possible and to put pressure to bear on the Israeli authorities to allow him to attend his interview in Jerusalem. Since the completion of the Wall in north Jerusalem – which expels major Palestinian areas from the city and cuts it off from the rest of the West Bank while incorporating its settlements – Palestinians holding West Bank Israeli identity cards have been unable to access your consular offices in Jerusalem. This has a clear and negative impact on the academic freedom of hundreds of Palestinians lecturers who are invited to participate in conferences in the USA but cannot participate due to their inability to obtain a visa. Your silence in this matter would amount to complicity in the collective punishment of Palestinian academics and the denial of their right to academic freedom.

Yours sincerely,

Right to Education Campaign
Public Relations Office
Birzeit University

Denial of permit for Al-Shaikh to attend visa interview in US Consulate in Jerusalem.
Letter of invitation from Columbia University to Dr Al-Shaikh.

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