Creating people's geographies
Because in apartheid Israel Palestinians are all the more threatening educated … anywhere else they’d be competing for talented students.
By Tamara Traubmann :: Ha’aretz :: 12 October 2006
Sawsan Salameh was born to a family of limited means in the Palestinian village of Anata, east of Jerusalem. Despite her family’s financial problems, Salameh completed high school and went on to Al-Quds University in Abu Dis, where she obtained bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry. Recently, Salameh won an outstanding student scholarship to pursue doctoral studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
However, due to the sweeping ban on the entry of Palestinian students into Israeli institutions of higher education, Salameh will not be able to begin studying this year. According to the coordinator of government activities in the territories, this decision was made around a month ago. However, Salameh also cannot study in the West Bank, because none of the universities there offers a doctoral program in chemistry. And in any case, many students at West Bank universities are also unable to get to their classes, because of the separation fence and army checkpoints.
On Tuesday, Salameh and Access (Gisha), an association that advocates freedom of movement in the territories, petitioned the High Court of Justice against this decision. The petition demanded that Salameh’s application to begin her studies be reviewed in a thorough and straightforward manner. It also asked the court to cancel the sweeping ban on the entry of Palestinians into Israel for the purpose of studying – a ban that prohibits all Palestinians from studying in Israel, regardless of whether or not they pose a security risk.
Salameh submitted two requests for entry permits, which were both rejected. Her adviser, Professor Rafael Levine, also sought to obtain permission for her to enter Israel. According to Levine, she must enter Israel to conduct her research. The Association for Israeli-Palestinian Scientific Cooperation, an organization that comprises leading scientists and Nobel Prize winners from around the world, including from Israel and the Palestinian Authority, submitted a similar request. These requests were rejected as well. The responses made no claim that there was any kind of intelligence information against Salameh.
“There’s no specific security problem in her case,” acknowledged Shlomo Dror, a spokesman for the coordinator of government activities in the territories. “Due to the security situation, the defense establishment decided that no [Palestinian] students would enter Israel to study. This is a population that is deemed very problematic from the security and political standpoints.” However, he noted, the decision allows students who began studying in Israel last year to complete their degrees. As a result, Dror estimated, a few dozen Palestinian students will study in Israel this year, while a few dozen more will be barred.
“It’s not that we’re barring [Salameh] from studying,” added Dror. “She could go to Jordan, to Egypt. Moreover, studies in Israel are more expensive. If she’s so good, she could get a scholarship to other places, too.”
But Salameh cannot study at another university. Due to her financial situation, she is dependent on the scholarship promised by Hebrew University, which is not guaranteed to her anyplace else. Moreover, her traditional family consented to her studying in Israel and returning home to sleep every night – but it would not consent to her going abroad to study.
In a telephone interview, Salameh, 29, said that she wants to continue her studies because of her desire to increase the educational standards of Palestinian women. Al-Quds University’s chemistry department, she said, has not a single female lecturer. Currently, Salameh is supporting herself and her family on her salary of about NIS 2,500 a month from her job as a chemistry teacher in the girls’ high school in Anata. But over the last six months, even this source of income has dried up, because Israel is not transferring taxes collected on the PA’s behalf.
The petition noted that under international law, Israel is required to ensure normal life in the West Bank. Thus since there are no doctoral programs in chemistry there, it must allow Salameh to study in Israel.
But Israel’s policy is also affecting higher education within the West Bank. Today, there are around 500 internal checkpoints in the West Bank, and women are the first to be affected, according to a study by Dr. Nadir Shalhoub-Kevorkian, a senior lecturer at Hebrew University. She found that when checkpoints are set up, the families tend to tell the women to stay at home, to prevent clashes with soldiers and out of concern for the women’s welfare.