Ten Israel Prize laureates and some 50 intellectuals sent a letter to Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Wednesday urging him to revoke Israel's prohibition of the movement of Palestinian students from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank for academic purposes.
The signatories include Professor Avishai Margalit, Professor Yehoshua Kolodny, Professor David Tartakover, and Yehuda Jad Neeman, as well as culture figures Yehoshua Sobol and Nir Baram.
Recently, the Gisha the Legal Center for Freedom of Movement requested three students, who were accepted to study at Bethlehem University, be allowed to travel to the academic institution in the West Bank.
The three, Jawdat Michael, Dana Tarazi and Odeh al-Jeldeh, were meant to begin their studies in the summer of 2009, but so far, their requests to the defense establishment to travel to the West Bank have been denied. The three now hope to begin their studies this summer.
The letter the Israeli academics sent to Barak read: "We believe that the general prohibition of any resident of Gaza wishing to study in the West Bank, is a disproportionate prohibition that should be revoked. Instead of this prohibition, we ask to allow these youths to reach their schools following specific security checks of each of their requests and, at the very least, the defense minister should establish a system to enable specific checks in cases which, when solved, could have positive humanitarian repercussions."
The letter's signatories further noted that, "Academic and professional training is vital for the Palestinian society's growth and wellbeing, and for the personal development of every single young man and woman that wishes to advance. Granting our Palestinian neighbors the chance to build a thriving, peace-loving, civilian society, promotes an Israeli interest."
Since the year 2000, Israel has prohibited Palestinians from the Gaza Strip from attending universities in the West Banks. Gisha said that in the late 1990s, some 1,000 Gaza residents studied in the West Bank, many of them in vital fields that cannot be studied in the Strip, such as occupational therapy, dentistry, physical therapy, and more.