Students suffer as Israel denies Palestinian freedom of movement and education in the occupied territories

ActivismIsrael/Palestine
on 21 Comments

How long does it typically take university students to get to their morning lectures where you live? It might just be a matter of whether they decide to walk, cycle or take the bus. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for Palestinian students in the West Bank who continue to face incredible difficulties in accessing education because of the movement restrictions of the Israeli occupation.

There are 542 obstacles to movement in the West Bank, including checkpoints and roadblocks.  According to the Office for the Co-Ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, ‘60 Palestinian communities, with a combined population of about 190,000, are still compelled to use detours that are two to five times longer than the direct route to the closest city.’ The impact on Palestinian students has been significant: over half the students at an-Najah University in Nablus must cross checkpoints in order to study, and 91% of students have missed classes as a result of the checkpoints. Even more disturbingly, the majority of students surveyed at an-Najah reported that they were subjected to some form of abuse whilst stopped at checkpoints.

The most infamous checkpoint is Qalandia, which controls Palestinian movement into and out of Jerusalem. Students can often be delayed for one or two hours at Qalandia.  This is particularly concerning for students who live in Jerusalem but study at universities in Bethlehem or Birzeit, as they must face the humiliating and lengthy ordeal each day. Students at an-Najah who travel from Hebron or Bethlehem can face up to five checkpoints on each journey.

Checkpoints, as well as a vast network of settler-only roads have contributed to the cantonisation of the West Bank, creating an archipelago of disparate Palestinian universities and communities, with highly restricted freedom of movement. The impact on education has been dramatic, as students often choose to study at their local university rather than face a gruelling daily commute. The localization of Palestinian universities, a clear manifestation of the infrastructure of military occupation, impacts the quality of higher education at Palestinian institutions.

The rights to freedom of movement and education are protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Cultural, Economic and Social Rights, both of which Israel has signed. The Israeli occupation systematically targets Palestinian education through movement restrictions and simultaneously ensures greater access for Jewish-Israeli education in settlements through settler-only roads and other tools of an apartheid system. Thus, Israeli policies that disrupt Palestinian education actively discriminate against Palestinian students and violate international law.

Israel justifies the existence of checkpoints as a necessary security measure, which is also the justification applied to the illegal civilian settlements and the annexation wall. The truth is that Israel is pursuing a deliberate policy of strangling Palestinian education. Ariel Sharon, Israel’s prime minister from 2001 to 2006, has been quoted as saying, ‘Palestinian education and propaganda are more dangerous to Israel than Palestinian weapons.’

Israel’s violation of international law regarding freedom of movement and education is not only confined to the checkpoint regime in the West Bank. The policy of separating Gaza and the West Bank has led to a decline in students from Gaza attending West Bank universities. In 2000, 350 students from Gaza studied at Birzeit University near Ramallah, by 2005 this number had fallen to 35, and today no students from Gaza are able to attend Birzeit because of Israel’s closure policy.

Israel also restricts education by denying visas to foreign academics who wish to teach at Palestinian universities. Approximately a third of academics at Oxford, Harvard and Cambridge are foreign; indeed, universities have long recognized visiting academics as a critical component of institutional internationalization. This is unavailable to Palestinian universities, as there is no mechanism by which academics from overseas, including many Palestinian-Americans, can live and work in the West Bank for a Palestinian university. In fact, those foreign academics who do reside in the West Bank are forced to exit and re-enter with a succession of three-month tourist visas, facing an increasing risk of being denied entry by Israeli authorities upon each re-entry attempt.

What is most striking about the violation of the right to education in the West Bank via the restrictions on movement is that no such measures are in place affecting the Jewish-Israeli settlers who live in illegal Israeli enclaves in the West Bank. Almost half a million settlers enjoy government subsidies encouraging them to move to the West Bank, which include free education up to university level , and have unmitigated freedom of access to a network of Jewish-only roads in the West Bank. At the same time as Israel restricts access to Palestinian education, it has recently opened a new university in the settlement of Ariel, catering to 14,000 students including the West Bank settlers. Defence Minister Ehud Barak’s move to accredit the University has proved controversial even within Israel, with less than half of the Council for Higher Education approving the decision. Thus Israel’s education system in the West Bank is based on segregation, granting greater access to education to the illegal settlers – and even incentivizing the settlement enterprise by subsidizing the education of settler children – while choking Palestinians’ access to their own institutions.

A report conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa on the question of Israeli apartheid concluded that, ‘education is formally segregated in the OPT as part of a larger system of segregation imposed through the division of the territory’ and ‘Israel denies Palestinians the right to education through indirect measures, such as through obstacles to movement.’

Israel’s network of segregated roads and checkpoints as well as barriers to entry such as visa denials and the closure of the Gaza Strip represent gross violations of the right to education as enshrined in international law. The policy of targeting education amounts to a collective punishment of young Palestinians, negating their fundamental human rights, and ought to draw greater attention from academics and universities worldwide.

21 Responses

  1. mondonut
    January 31, 2013, 1:16 pm

    Even beyond the usual hyperbole (i.e. Jewish-only roads in the West Bank) there is legitimate cause for concern. Education is a key component of nation building should the Palestinians ever get serious about a 2SS.

    Maybe they should consider sitting down with the Israelis and negotiating a solution.

    • RoHa
      January 31, 2013, 8:32 pm

      “Maybe they should consider sitting down with the Israelis and negotiating a solution.”

      They have tried that. The Israelis aren’t interested in negotiating.

    • Mooser
      January 31, 2013, 10:53 pm

      “Maybe they should consider sitting down with the Israelis and negotiating a solution.”

      Maybe the Zionist regime should consider copping a plea, and negotiating the restitution down to something we can afford.

      • mondonut
        February 1, 2013, 12:25 am

        Mooser says: Maybe the Zionist regime should consider copping a plea, and negotiating the restitution down to something we can afford.
        =====================================
        Ha! The old “we are going to defeat and eliminate Israel” fantasy. How exactly does clinging to those delusions help the Palestinians in their day to day lives? If you were more interested in helping Palestinians than punishing “Zionists”, we might hear something useful from you.

      • Annie Robbins
        February 1, 2013, 12:42 am

        How exactly does clinging to those delusions help the Palestinians in their day to day lives?

        how does denying palestinian freedom of movement and education help palestinians in their day today lives? helping palestinians in their day today lives doesn’t matter to you, so don’t pretend you care.

      • mondonut
        February 1, 2013, 12:00 pm

        Annie Robbins says: how does denying palestinian freedom of movement and education help palestinians in their day today lives? helping palestinians in their day today lives doesn’t matter to you, so don’t pretend you care.
        =============================================
        Denying freedom of movement does not help Palestinians, it addresses Israeli security concerns. That much should be obvious. And that is why the Palestinians should be talking to the Israelis to work out a solution.

        As for the rest, do not presume what matters to me.

      • Annie Robbins
        February 1, 2013, 12:27 pm

        it addresses Israeli security concerns.

        lol, you’re funny. if israel’s priority was security they wouldn’t be encouraging and protecting fanatical settlers and the illegal growth of settlements. everyone knows illegal expansion is israel’s priority. obviously if negotiations mattered one iota they’d call a building freeze. they don’t. they use palestinians’ resistance to their oppression as an excuse to abuse and oppress them more, while they keep expanding, which is the goal.

      • mondonut
        February 1, 2013, 12:50 pm

        Annie Robbins says: “everyone knows “, “obviously”
        ========================================
        So Israel has no security concerns? Do the Palestinians know about that? And why is the Palestinian negotiating position the “obvious” one? What seems obvious is that if a table were placed in a room, only the Israelis would walk in and sit down.

      • Woody Tanaka
        February 1, 2013, 12:53 pm

        “it addresses Israeli security concerns”

        Your “security” concerns don’t give you license to take away others’ civil rights.

        “As for the rest, do not presume what matters to me.”

        LMAO. It doesn’t take much to spot one of you bigots and to figure out what is important to you.

      • eljay
        February 1, 2013, 1:05 pm

        >> Denying freedom of movement does not help Palestinians, it addresses Israeli security concerns. That much should be obvious.

        It addresses concerns Israel has about its on-going occupation and colonization of Palestine. What should be obvious is that Israel has no business occupying and colonizing any land outside of its / Partition borders.

        Zio-supremacists have a hard time accepting the obvious immorality and injustice of their ideology and of the actions of their supremacist state.

      • American
        February 1, 2013, 1:16 pm

        Am I imaging it or has Israel mostly dropped the excuse of seizing Palestine land for ‘security purposes”?….they don’t seem to use that excuse as much any more.
        Maybe because they’ve ascended to the most on high status of thinking they don’t have to justify or offer excuse for seizing whatever they want.

      • MHughes976
        February 1, 2013, 1:51 pm

        It’s theirs anyway and always has been. Territories are not occupied but liberated – I remember Begin saying that all those years ago and Bennett echoing him recently. People continually seem to be surprised to hear these sentiments but without them Zionism would be denatured.

      • mondonut
        February 1, 2013, 1:53 pm

        Woody Tanaka says: Your “security” concerns don’t give you license to take away others’ civil rights. LMAO. It doesn’t take much to spot one of you bigots and to figure out what is important to you.
        ==================================================
        Civil Rights? Sorry, but security concerns do allow for checkpoints. Pretty much everywhere in the world. As for your ad hominem attack they are supposedly banned on this site, but “everyone knows” about the built in double standard.

      • Cliff
        February 1, 2013, 1:55 pm

        israeli security concerns are overblown and absurd

        israel has an entire jewish population living on palestinian land

        if israel really cared about its security it would end the occupation and initiate a lasting peace

        the palestinians are a defeated people who pose virtually no threat

        israel simply wants the land and water and oppresses the palestinians to keep them from revolting

        and even then, israel exploits palestinian anger to steal more land and water from them

        you are deluded, mondonut

      • Woody Tanaka
        February 1, 2013, 2:01 pm

        “So Israel has no security concerns?”

        99.9% of these “concerns” are caused by their oppression of the Palestinians, theft and take over of their land and the occupation. End those things and see what kind of “security concerns” it has. israel’s security interests are the same as the rapist’s interest in keeping his victim from scratching his face.

        “What seems obvious is that if a table were placed in a room, only the Israelis would walk in and sit down.”

        Of course, because outside, while this supposed “negotiation” was occurring, other israelis would be continuing the oppression and theft of Palestine. israelis seem incapable of negotiating in good faith, as a result of their evil ideology.

      • mondonut
        February 1, 2013, 4:25 pm

        Woody Tanaka says: 99.9% of these “concerns” are caused by their oppression of the Palestinians, theft and take over of their land and the occupation. End those things and see what kind of “security concerns” it has.
        ========================================
        No, 99.9% of their concerns are existential. The Palestinians want the river to the sea, a sentiment shared by the vast majority of the Arab world (and Mondoweiss regulars).

        As for negotiations, how exactly does not talking to the Israelis produce better results than talking? More to the point of the essay, how will the Palestinian’s day to day freedom of movement and education improve by not negotiating with the Israelis?

  2. piotr
    January 31, 2013, 6:21 pm

    It is not true that Israelis never face obstructions on the way to school. There was a story of a young woman from Tel Aviv area who studied at Ariel college and was removed from the bus on the way to Ariel. Other passengers overheard her speaking Arabic on her cell phone…

  3. ToivoS
    January 31, 2013, 8:06 pm

    A little OT here. Electronic intifada has a review of Shlomo Sands latest book (Inventing the Land of Israel). I am sure we will see a review here also. I was struck by this paragraph:

    Sand explains that in Israel, “in the Hebrew-language edition of foreign books, the word ‘Palestine’ is systematically replaced with the words Eretz Israel … Even when the writings of important Zionist figures such as Theodor Herzl, Max Nordau, Ber Borochov and many others [who also used ‘Palestine’] … are translated into Hebrew”

    I didn’t know this. No wonder the Israelis live in a perpetual state of hysteria about Ahmedinijad’s statement that ‘Israel will be erased from the pages of time”. Here they are in the middle of trying to erase Palestine from the pages of time and not getting away with it.

  4. talknic
    January 31, 2013, 9:45 pm

    “Maybe they should consider sitting down with the Israelis and negotiating a solution.”

    Maybe Israel should abide by its obligations to the UN Charter, International Law and the relative conventions. The Palestinians have no legal obligation to negotiate and in negotiations they have no legal obligation to forgo any of their rights.

    It is Israel who must plea bargain in order to get itself out of its illegal ‘facts on the ground’ mess.

  5. mondonut
    February 1, 2013, 12:10 pm

    talknic says: The Palestinians have no legal obligation to negotiate and in negotiations they have no legal obligation to forgo any of their rights.
    ============================================
    You keep saying this over and over and over. As if it means what? That the Palestinian intransigence is a good idea? That not having an “obligation” to negotiate means it is not a good idea nonetheless?

    • sardelapasti
      February 1, 2013, 1:29 pm

      donut:
      “As if it means what?”
      It means that the starting position for any negotiation is that the Palestinian people (including 6-7% pre-Zionism Palestinian Jews) are the only legitimate owners of the place and all Zionist-sponsored immigration is illegal and by rights should get out, except for a concession by a representative Palestinian party. One corollary is that the Oslo “administration” foisted on the Palestinian population by Usrael is a puppet administration acting on behalf of the occupier.

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