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Right to Education

Statement in Support of the Right to Education at Birzeit University and for International Protection for Palestinian Civilians

Written by admin  •  Sunday, 15.09.2002, 15:37

Appeal Statement, International Academics, 15 September 2002

As academics, educators, writers and artists, we are deeply concerned with the plight of Birzeit University, an independent Palestinian university with a population of over 5000 students and 700 faculty and staff members, located eight kilometers north of Ramallah in the Occupied West Bank.

Since March 2001, the working life of the University has been severely disrupted by an intimidating Israeli military checkpoint on the Ramallah-Birzeit road, which is part of the expanded network of roadblocks preventing communication between all Palestinian towns and villages in the West Bank.

Even when open the checkpoint allows only pedestrian traffic to pass; Israeli soldiers posted there arbitrarily deny passage to students and other civilians, as well as regularly engage in various forms of harassment which at times have resulted in the physical injury of students and faculty. When closed the checkpoint effectively brings the working life of the university to a halt.

Since March 2002, the situation at the checkpoint has deteriorated further and access to the University has on the majority of days been totally impeded.

Following Israel’s military re-occupation of West Bank towns (including Ramallah) in mid-June 2002, all Palestinian educational life within the re-occupation zones has been brought to a grinding halt by a blanket curfew imposed on the civilian population. The majority of Birzeit students and faculty are confined to their homes with dwindling hope of returning to their academic lives in the foreseeable future.

The cumulative effects of these measures over the past 18 months have put the future of Birzeit University at grave risk. Birzeit University has a long and respected history as a center of academic excellence. It has been a leader in the development of pioneering academic programs that promote human rights, the rule of law, and women’s rights. It is internationally acknowledged as an institution dedicated to democratic values, pluralism and the free exchange of ideas, as well as playing a fundamental role in providing community service.

This process of dismantlement of a major Palestinian university augurs badly for the development of a healthy and sustainable Palestinian society and polity, as well as for the possibility of peace and reconciliation between the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.

We believe that these measures, resulting in the virtual strangulation of a major Palestinian institution, violate international humanitarian law, including provisions against collective punishment and guarantees for the protection of civilian populations under military occupation, students’ right to education, academic freedom, and the fundamental rights of human beings to live in dignity and freedom.

Sadly, these actions are indicative of Israeli policies towards Palestinian civil society and its institutions as whole. They serve as yet another reminder of the failure of the international community in upholding its responsibility to provide protection to the Palestinian civilian population and to ensure Israel’s respect for humanitarian law in the territories that it occupies. Without such protection, we believe the destruction of Palestinian civil life, including its educational institutions will continue unchallenged.

Therefore, We Urgently Call Upon

Israel to take immediate action to restore the right of education to Birzeit University students and all students in the Palestinian territory by removing all military obstacles to free and safe access to educational institutions and work places.

The international community to assume its responsibility under humanitarian law by taking real and concrete steps to provide protection to the Palestinian civilian population.

Naseer Aruri
Chancellor Professor in Political Science (Emeritus), University of Massachusetts

Etienne Balibar
Professor of Philosophy, University of Nanterre, Paris

Russell Banks
Howard G. B. Clarke University Professor in the Humanities (Emeritus), Princeton University

Andre Brink
Writer, South Africa

Wendy Brown
Professor of Political Science, University of California at Berkley

Judith Butler
Maxine Elliot Professor of Rhetoric, University of California at Berkeley

Sir Iain Chalmers
Director, UK Cochrane Center

Natalie Zemon Davis
Professor of History Emerita, Princeton University;
Adjunct Professor of History, University of Toronto

Jacques Derrida
Professor of Philosophy, Ecole des hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris

Freeman Dyson
Professor Emeritus, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University

Arturo Escobar
Professor of Anthropology
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Richard Falk
Professor Emeritus, Princeton University;
Visiting Distinguished Professor, University of California, Santa Barbara

Samih Farsoun
Professor of Sociology
American University

Irene Gendzier
Professor of History, Boston University

Oleg Grabar
Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Art Emeritus, Harvard University
Professor Emeritus, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University

Stan Grillner
Professor and Director of the Nobel Institute for Neurophysiology, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm

Paul Kessler
Director of Research (hon.), Chairman of the Human Rights Committee of the French Physical Society

Emma Kirkby
Singer, UK

Henri Korn
Professor of Biology, Institut Pasteur, Paris;
Member of the Academy of Sciences of France

Mahmood Mamdani
Herbert Lehman Professor of Government and Director of the Institute of African Studies, Columbia University;
President, Council for the Development of Social Research in Africa, Dakar, Senegal

Paul Mendes-Flohr
Director, The Franz Rosenzweig Research for German-Jewish Literature and Cultural History, The Hebrew University;
The Divinity School, The University of Chicago

Juliet Mitchell
Professor of Psychoanalysis and Gender Studies, University of Cambridge

Robin Morgan
Author and activist

Hilary Putnam
Cogan University Professor Emeritus in Philosophy, Harvard University

Hilary Rose
Visiting Research Professor of Sociology, City University;
Joint Professor of Physics, Gresham College London;
Emerita Professor of Social Policy, Bradford University

Steven Rose
Professor of Biology and Director Brain and Behaviour Research Group;
Joint Professor of Physic, Gresham College London
Visiting Professor, University College, London

Edward Said
University Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University

Joachim Sartorius
Director, Berlin Festivals

Joan Scott
School of Social Science, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

David Shulman
Professor of Indian Studies, Hebrew University

Dorothy Smith
Professor of Sociology, University of Victoria;
Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto

Ahdaf Soueif
Writer, UK

Wole Soyinka
Playwright, Nigeria;
Nobel Laureate in Literature

Gerard Toulouse
Professor of Physics;
Director of Research at Ecole Normale Superieure, Paris

Abraham Udovitch
Department of Near Eastern Studies, Princeton University

Edward Witten
Professor of Physics, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

Note:  Appeal sponsors’ institutional affiliations are for identification purposes only.

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