Monday, 25 May 2009

Palestinian Students Who Are Barred From Entering Israel Can Appeal, Israeli Court Says

Daily News Blog, May 25, 2009

Jerusalem — In a hearing here today on military restrictions on Palestinian students who wish to study at Israeli universities, Israel’s Supreme Court invited students who are denied entry permits to appeal to the Israeli courts.

The hearing was held on a petition related to a case that was brought in 2006 by a Palestinian, Sawsan Salameh, and backed by the human-rights group Gisha. Ms. Salameh had been accepted as a doctoral student in chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in January 2006 but had been unable to attend until late that year for lack of military permission to enter Israel.

In an earlier ruling in the case, the court had asked the state to replace the sweeping restrictions then in place with more specific criteria for allowing students to enter Israel. Instead of easing the restrictions, however, the state made them even harsher, Gisha contends. Among other conditions, the new restrictions introduced an arbitrary quota on the number of Palestinian students who could enter each year, Sari Bashi, director of Gisha, told The Chronicle.

Today’s hearing was held at Gisha’s request. While the court declined to take a stand on the restrictions themselves, it did emphasize that students who were denied entry had a right to appeal. The ruling also dismissed Ms. Salameh’s petition, since she has been allowed to continue her studies at the Hebrew University.

Alon Harel, a professor at the Hebrew University who asked to join the petition along with four other professors, said in a statement on Gisha’s Web site that Israeli universities “are being forcibly prevented from accepting students who can make a decidedly valuable contribution to higher education in Israel. I call upon the court and the defense establishment to respect academic freedom. The decision whether or not to accept a student needs to be the exclusive decision of the university, while the military should be limited to performing a security check.” —Matthew Kalman

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