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Birzeit University: Israel trying to restrict Palestinians right to education

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The file photo shows Birzeit University in the occupied West Bank.

Israel is trying to restrict the Palestinians’ right to education and undermine the academic freedom and autonomy of Palestinian universities, a report says.

Officials at Birzeit University (BZU), located in the occupied West Bank, said the university rejected the Tel Aviv regime’s most recent attempt to limit the fundamental right of Palestinians to education, the official Wafa news agency reported on Sunday.

According to an Israeli military order titled “Procedure for Entry and Residency of Foreigners in Judea and Samaria Region,” which is scheduled to take effect in May, the Israeli military will be granted immense powers to isolate Palestinian universities from the outside world and to determine the future course of Palestinian higher education.

“The new directive invests the Israeli military the absolute right to select which international faculty, academic researchers and students may be present at Palestinian universities, as well as impose their own arbitrary criteria on which fields of study are permissible and what qualifications are acceptable,” the BZU said in a statement carried by Wafa.

The public university said the new directive requires each applicants “to submit to interrogation at an Israeli diplomatic mission in the country of origin, while imposing stiff monetary bonds on those selected for entry. Further, the directive sets a low ceiling on the number of foreign teachers and students (100 and 150 per year, respectively), and limits the duration of employment to five non-consecutive years, thereby denying sustainable hiring and promotion of faculty.”

“Consequently, some current faculty and students who do not hold residency permits may be forced to leave and academic programs face the inability to recruit new hires and undertake collaborative scholarly research and exchanges. Plainly put, the directive puts Palestinian Universities under siege and divests them of basic control over their academic decisions.”

The statement denounced the order as an “attack” launched by the regime on the Palestinians’ right to education and academic freedom.

“Birzeit University students, faculty and employees have suffered for decades under a relentless Israeli military campaign that includes forced closures, campus incursions, intimidation, and imprisonment. Such actions are inseparable from the racist and multilayered system of apartheid and persecution which denies the Palestinian people their most fundamental rights, including to freedom of expression, and the pursuit of scientific advancement and development.”

The BZU urged all academic and human rights organizations to reject such procedures, demanding that governments across the world hold Israel accountable for the clear violation of international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949), the right to education enshrined in Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (1966).

The university described the current situation as dangerous for the future of Palestinian higher education, and at the same time called for unity to achieve “justice, freedom, and equality.”

“Support our efforts to defend the Palestinian people’s right to education, free from duress, intervention, and political persecution. Work with us to break the siege that these regulations impose on Birzeit and other Palestinian universities. Accept our invitation to teach and learn in Palestine. Help us exercise our basic right to education and to preserve the institutional autonomy that we built over the decades despite all obstacles,” the university said in its statement.

Founded in 1975, the BZU offers graduate and undergraduate programs in information technology, engineering, sciences, social policy, arts, law, nursing, pharmacy, health sciences, economics, and management through its nine faculties. It is located in Birzeit, near Ramallah.

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