The largest Middle East academic body in North America Tuesday protested an Israeli directive denying Palestinians the right to education.

The Middle East Studies Association (MESA) said that it sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet, Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Head of the so-called Civil Administration in the West Bank Brigadier-General Ghasan Alyan, and the Supreme Court’s Chief Clerk Idit Malul, protesting Israel’s recently released directive, “Procedure for Entry and Residency of Foreigners in Judea and Samaria Region,” scheduled to take effect as policy in May 2022.

“Released by COGAT (Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories), the policy vests the Israeli military with the unilateral power to select and exclude international faculty, academic researchers, and students who wish to teach, study, and conduct research at Palestinian universities,” MESA said in the letter.

The academic body, which asserted its commitment to ensuring academic freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere, slammed the directive as “both an attempt to isolate Palestinian scholars and students from the international scholarly community and a form of censorship aimed at constraining the freedom of speech and association of international academics and students by denying them access to and engagement with Palestinian scholars and students, as well as professional and educational opportunities at Palestinian universities.”

“We condemn this proposed policy in the strongest terms as a clear escalation of the persistent efforts of your government to deny Palestinians the right to education.”

“If the above directive becomes policy, written into law, it will limit the number of foreign instructors to 100 and foreign students to 150 annually for all institutions of higher education in the West Bank. The Israeli military will have the authority to determine the acceptability of the qualifications and fields of study of applicants. To quote the proposed policy, lecturers and researchers who excel in “necessary professions” will be approved “if it is proven, to the satisfaction of the authorized COGAT official”. It is unclear what, if any, expertise such an official would have to adjudicate qualifications of these academics and students, nor is a clear timeline given for this approval process. Moreover, if issued, a permit to teach or study at a Palestinian university would be valid for a period of one year and renewable for twenty-seven months, after which the scholar would have to depart the West Bank for nine months before applying for a permit again. The entire period of residence, even in this non-consecutive structure, cannot exceed five years.”

“This policy will uproot faculty and students who do not hold residency permits (which are rarely granted) and constrain Palestinian universities’ capacity for recruitment and intellectual exchange. It also imposes an unworkable timeframe on long-term research programs and initiative planning, undermines the accreditation, recruitment, appointment and promotion procedures already in place at Palestinian educational institutions, and further constrains existing projects and programs funded by donor states and institutions — including the European Union, US Department of Education, the British Council, and other international bodies.”

The academic body said that the fact that an occupying military force acts as an academic arbiter in the Israeli occupation institutions should not be accepted, while stressing that “this directive is but the most recent development in the ongoing constriction and violation of Palestinian academic freedom.”

“A brief glimpse over the last months points to this long record. In fact, our committee has written to you numerous times about egregious and violent attacks on Palestinian university students and staff, and in particular those at Birzeit University. These attacks, assaults, and detentions are grave violations of basic rights to education and academic freedom. Specifically, these are clear violations of the right to education enshrined in Article 26 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 13 of the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. Israel is a party to the UDHR and a signatory to the ICESCR and is therefore obligated to uphold them.”

MESA called upon the addressees to “reject these proposed policies and prevent their becoming law.”

Source: Palestine News & Information Agency

By webdesk