Thursday, June 05, 2008

Education, education and no right to leave the country

Societies thrive when all members are healthy, vibrant, active and reflective. Similarly my life is improved by the wellbeing of my neighbours. But that may just be me. Others may delight in the misfortunes of their neighbours. But not me.

Israel's future depends on a thriving Palestinian state. And a thriving state needs intelligent educated people. Students in Gaza have been given scholarships to study overseas. Some have been given Fulbright scholarships to study in the USA and others have places waiting at other institutions elsewhere.

I would have thought that it was in Israel's interest to let out all students with offers of places to study overseas. Well, after much protesting from the US State Department some of the Fulbright scholars have been allowed to proceed with their Israeli entry visa applications. Other students are not so fortunate.

At least two students have places in the UK. Wissam Abuajwa has a scholarship and a UK visa to study at Nottingham University; and Abir Abu Warda has a Ford Foundation-funded place at London Metropolitan University. Both of these students are appealing to the British government to support their applications for entry visas to Israel so they can leave the country.

In the Israeli High Court of Justice, Justice Elyakim Rubinstein is reported by the Jpost as saying that the ban is no less harmful to the Israeli interest because we have to live with the Palestinians in the future, too."

He warned that preventing students from accessing education "harms chances for some kind of coexistence."

The court case was run by Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, an Israeli non-profit organization.

Gisha say that Israel has refused to grant hundreds of requests by Gaza students for entry permits to Israel so that they can travel abroad to continue their studies. And Gisha further says
"the ban "is part of a policy of closure and collective punishment that is trapping 1.5 million civilians."

Gisha's briefing on Israel's ban on students, and others, leaving Gaza, is an informative document, that argues
according to the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Hague Conventions of 1907, which were designed to protect the rights of civilians in times of war and occupation, the State of Israel is obligated to protect the residents of Gaza, to allow them to live normal lives and to safeguard their rights. Also according to the Geneva Convention and the Hague Conventions, Israel must provide for the regular functioning of civil institutions in Gaza, including the school system and institutions of higher education.
The Fourth Geneva Convention and its First Additional Protocol prohibit the use of collective punishment.
Among the rights which the State of Israel is obligated to uphold for the residents of Gaza is the right to leave and reenter the Gaza Strip. The right of any person to leave a given territory, including the territory in which he or she lives, is protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Israel's policy of stopping students take up courses either in Israel or overseas is morally and legally wrong and is politically stupid.

By its actions Israel is building up a generation of disaffected intelligent young people with a rage against Israel for stopping them studying overseas *and* is also delaying the much needed economic growth of Gaza and Palestine.

That's a double whammy of bad consequences that comes from being politically inept and stupid.

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