"The universities in Israel are open to whoever fits the academic criteria for higher learning without regard to gender, religion, ethnicity or nationality," the letter reads. "We are protesting the sweeping ban that has been imposed and call on the security establishment to deal individually with each case. There is a need to allow students who are not suspected of any activities that endanger the security of Israel to stay in Israel for purpose of academic learning."
The call was initiated by Prof Rabinowitch after the Sawsan Salameh, a Palestinian student from a village outside of Jerusalem, was not allowed to enter Israel for her academic studies. Salameh was accepted for her Doctorate studies in chemistry last year at Hebrew University, but was denied entry into Israel with no specific explanation. Because of the ban, the university waived Salameh's tuition for the previous year.
Prof Rabinowitch told Ynet that "we have no political interest in the matter. This is the reason we ask the minister of defense to examine every case on an individual basis. There is a need to allow anyone who is not suspected of hostile activities to enter Israel. We have no problem banning terrorists, murderers and thieves, but whoever is clean of any wrongdoing should be allowed to study."
"How can we send Israeli students to universities abroad while we act this way when Israeli academics have been boycotted in countries like England and Canada? How can we appeal to those countries if we are doing the exact same thing?" he said.
The International Advisory Board for Academic Freedom (IAB) at Bar Ilan University said it had already sent a letter to all Knesset members and Israeli ministers last Friday calling on them to restore individual reviews of Palestinian students' requests to study in Israeli universities.
The IAB said in the letter that "it believes that such comprehensive action has no place in the academic community," and that "in the long run, academic cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians will help foster understanding and peace." The IAB noted that it is aware of security aspects that may affect such permits but still asks for fair review of each case and not a sweeping policy that denies in total and attempt of Palestinian students to study in Israel.
Signing the letter in addition to Prof Rabinowitch, were the rectors of: Tel Aviv University Prof. Dany Leviatan; the University of Haifa, Prof. Yossi Ben-Artzi; and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Prof. Jimmy Weinblatt; plus the dean of the Feinberg Graduate School of the Weizmann Institute of Science, Prof. Yosef Yarden, and the Senior Executive Vice Rector of the Technion, Prof. Aviv Rosen.