This is the effect of the “separation policy”: Israel denies freedom of movement and violates the right to education, Sari Bashi, co-founder of “Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement”, explains.
by Giovanni Vigna
Mantova, 2nd of Febrary 2015, Nena News – “There are several restrictions on the access to Palestinian universities. Some are general restrictions on accessing Gaza and the West Bank which are applied to everyone, students and professors included. Other restrictions specifically target Palestinian students, who Israel describes as belonging to a ‘high risk profile’ and Palestinian universities, which Israel describes as ‘greenhouses for growing terrorists’. Israel has legitimate security concerns, nevertheless the restrictions go beyond what is necessary for security. They further political and demographic goals instead, to stabilize power over the West Bank and to separate it from the Gaza Strip”.
This analysis, written by Sari Bashi, author of an article published two weeks ago on the web magazine +972, focuses on the “separation policy” applied by Israel and the restriction on Palestinians’ freedom of movement that, among the numerous consequences, prevent local Arabic people from accessing education. That is the clear message from these few lines taken from the editorial by Bashi, co-founder of “Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement”, an Israeli non-profit organization founded in 2005, which includes legal academics and practitioners, whose goal is protecting the Palestinians’ freedom of movement of, especially Gaza residents.
“As a general matter – Bashi has declared – Israel does not allow travelling away from Gaza through its harbours, and it does not allow Gaza’s people to use the seaport and the airport. The Rafah Crossing between Egypt and Gaza has been mostly closed since October. Egypt and Israel have made some allowances to allow some students to travel abroad via their crossings, but the limitations mean that many students are not able to carry on their studies. Education is the key to the future of young people”. Surfing the web site of the Israeli non-profit organization, it is evident that Gisha promotes rights guaranteed by international and Israeli laws. Since the 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel’s military has developed a complex system of rules and sanctions to control the movement of the 4.5 million Palestinians who live in these areas.
The restrictions violate the Palestinians’ fundamental right to freedom of movement: “As a result, additional basic rights are violated, including the right to life, the right to access medical care, the right to education, the right to livelihood, the right to family unity and the right to freedom of religion […]. As part of its legal work, Gisha represents individuals and organizations in Israeli administrative proceedings and courts. […]. Since freedom of movement is a precondition for exercising other basic rights, Gisha’s work has a multiplier effect in helping residents of the occupied territories access education, jobs, family members and medical care”.
Palestinian students’ cataloguing as “high risk profiles” has been called into question by Gisha’s activists who have written on their web site the following words: “Young people, who constitute a majority of the residents of the Strip, should be seen for their potential as Gaza’s future doctors, teachers and lawyers. In addition, the case of the over 35-year-old Gaza women to whom in 2000 Israeli army didn’t renew the permission to complete their studies at the Birzeit University, demonstrates that age is not the consideration”.
Gisha believes that Palestinian students have the right to study in the universities in Gaza and the West Bank. Furthermore, in Bashi’s opinion, Israel should raise the ban on the 12-year-old students’ travel from Gaza and adopt a policy that reflects its obligations and long-term interests, as well as its security concerns. Gisha activists state: “Israel’s legitimate security concerns have not prevented residents of the Strip, especially young people, from accessing the educational and professional opportunities they need to build a better future”. In the same web site page specified before, they try to demolish the thesis with which Israel defends its “separation policy”.
The above-mentioned Israeli government orientation imposes Gaza Strip residents not to enter the Judea and Samaria area (the West Bank). Gisha reports that, according to State of Israel, “they allow only humanitarian and exceptional cases to enter the Judea and Samaria Area”. Anyway, Israeli non-profit organization volunteers intend to promote a in-depth and transparent debate on this policy that damages Occupied Territories Palestinian residents rights and clashes with Israel’s own interests.
As Gisha web site suggests, the State of Israel affirms that “since September 2000, following the outbreak of the Second Intifada, Palestinian terror organizations” have waged an armed confrontation against Israel. Thus restrictions on movement, limited to humanitarian and exceptional cases, would be seen “as means to prevent the development of terror infrastructure from the Gaza Strip to Judea and Samaria”. Furthermore, according to Gisha, Israel declares that it can choose who it wants to accept into its territory: Such a right would be based on the “broad authority to determine who will enter its jurisdiction”. Therefore foreigners would have no legal right “to enter the sovereign territory of the state, above all when that individual is the resident of a hostile territory”. In spite of this, Palestinians defending activists believe that “the question of entrance to Israeli territory is irrelevant because students are not allowed to enter the West Bank via Jordan. Their very presence in the West Bank is what is in question, not the way they arrive there”.
Gaza Strip young people dream to study abroad and lead a normal life. This applies to Awni Farhat, a young boy resident in Gaza who received an offer to attend a master’s course in “Violence Conflict and Development” at the School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas) of London University. “So – Awni explains – I have launched my fundraising campaign to undertake my postgraduate master’s degree at Soas. I was hesitant to ask for money after what had happened, after the attacks and aggression we faced in the Gaza Strip during the summer. Being different means keeping on fighting to reach your goal even in front of these continuous hurdles and challenges”.
Awni firmly believes in knowledge as an important and powerful weapon to make an effective stand against oppression and injustice: “With your help, I can really improve life in the Jabalia Camp and in the wider society across the Gaza Strip. As a future leader, I hope to be a positive and dynamic role model for others, especially for young people, because all Palestinians want to release their lands from the yoke of oppression and achieve justice and peace in the Middle East”. Nena News
To get more information about the project and the fundraising campaign of Awni Farhat it is possible to visit the Facebook page “Gaza Students”.