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Appeal, Right to Education Campaign, 8 June 2005
“Seven lanes for pedestrians, equipped with the last word in security technology, and three lanes for vehicles will be put at the disposal of Jerusalemites ‘with blue identity cards’…There will also be a ‘green lane’ for elementary and high-school students, whose homes are separated from their schools [by the wall]” (Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz, 3/6/05).
On the site of Qalandia checkpoint, Israel is currently building what has been interchangeably described as a ‘terminal’, ‘transit station’ and ‘international border crossing’ between Jerusalem and the West Bank. It is the latest manifestation of Israel’s ongoing actions to physically cut Jerusalem off from the West Bank, by construction of the illegal wall, severe restrictions on movement in and out of the city, and expansion of illegal settlements around East Jerusalem.
For many Palestinians, the separation of Jerusalem from the West Bank is already a reality. In violation of international law, Palestinians holding a West Bank ID have been banned from entering Jerusalem without a permit since 1991. Fourteen years later, in January 2005, an Israeli Army commander announced that Palestinians holding a Jerusalem ID would also soon need a permit to enter the West Bank, completing the separation full circle (Amira Hass, Ha’aretz, 25/1/05).
At the present time, entry to the West Bank by Palestinians from Jerusalem is at the whim of soldiers. Since January 2005, there have been a number of documented cases of people in cars being refused entry in to the West Bank and turned back at Qalandia checkpoint.
Implications for Birzeit University and the right to education
Later this month, the Right to Education Campaign at Birzeit University will publish a research report on the impact of the separation of Jerusalem from the West Bank on the students and faculty of Birzeit University.
Over 1000 of the total 6500 students at Birzeit University are from Jerusalem, with a similar proportion of faculty and employees.
Approximately two-thirds continue to make the daily journey between Jerusalem and Birzeit, passing through Qalandia, Al-Dahiye and Hizma checkpoints every day. In addition, there are often ‘flying checkpoints’ along the way, particularly on the road from Ramallah to Birzeit. The journey is described by students as “exhausting”, “humiliating” and “traumatic”, with classes and exams frequently missed due to delays and harassment by soldiers at the checkpoints. As a result, many Birzeit students from Jerusalem have been forced to move to Ramallah or Birzeit in order to make the daily journey to university possible, increasing the already weighty financial burden on their families.
As a national academic institution serving the whole of Palestinian society, Birzeit University has experienced directly the catastrophic affect of Israel’s continuing separation and isolation of Palestinian areas. The following are just two examples of the changing geographic distribution of students as a direct result of the military barriers separating Palestinian areas and ever-tightening restrictions on movement:
* It is now virtually impossible for students from Gaza to gain or renew the permits, introduced by Israel in 1991, to reach the eight Palestinian universities in the West Bank. In 2000, Birzeit had around 350 students from Gaza, today there are only 35 and most are in their final year.
* In the academic year 2003-2004, the number of new students coming to Birzeit University from the north West Bank town of Jenin declined from around 120 new students per year, to zero.
On the basis of these existing trends, it is reasonable to surmise that with the completion of the wall, the construction of an Erez-style ‘terminal’ at Qalandia, and the possible introduction of permits for Jerusalem ID-holders to enter the West Bank, students from Jerusalem will face a similar situation to that already experienced by students from Gaza: they will be barred from reaching Palestinian universities in the West Bank.
Furthermore, given that Al Quds University in Abu Dis is now also separated from Jerusalem by the wall, cutting it off from some 36% of its students, the residents of Jerusalem will no longer have access to any Palestinian university, effectively robbing them of their right to higher education.
Appeal to the International Community
The Right to Education Campaign at Birzeit University appeals to the international community to uphold international law and the internationally recognized status of East Jerusalem as occupied Palestinian territory, by intervening to repeal and prevent the illegal separation of East Jerusalem from the West Bank:
* Act now to place the necessary pressure on Israel to stop the illegal separation of Palestinian East Jerusalem from the West Bank
* The right to education is a fundamental human right and essential to the development of Palestinian society as a whole: demand that Israel adheres to its legal obligations to allow Palestinians unimpeded access to their educational institutions
* Demand an end to the military barriers, restrictions on movement and illegal permit systems that divide and isolate Palestinian areas, cutting populations off from their schools, universities and other jobs and services
* Demand that Israel complies with the ruling of the International Court of Justice on 9 July 2004, which stipulates that Israel must immediately cease and dismantle illegal construction of the wall in occupied Palestinian territory, including in and around East Jerusalem
* Demand that Israel stops the expansion of illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, including in and around East Jerusalem
Presented by Helen Murray, Coordinator of Birzeit University’s Right to Education Campaign, at a Diplomatic Briefing on Jerusalem, held at MIFTAH, Jerusalem, 7 June 2005