Reports suggest that Palestinian medical students are being coerced into cooperating with Israeli intelligence services in return for permits to train in hospitals in occupied Jerusalem. Based on testimonies from students at the University of Abu Dis in Jerusalem, as well as the nature of complaints received by Physicians for Human Rights, it is claimed that Israel’s General Security Service, Shin Bet, is putting extreme psychological – and sometimes physical pressure on students to recruit them to work for Israeli Intelligence, Mossad.
Students have confirmed that although they were in possession of the necessary permits these were withdrawn after investigation by Shin Bet and the students’ refusal to work for Mossad. No logical or convincing explanation has ever been offered by the Israeli authorities for the withdrawal of the permits.
Such action is prohibited by international law, which makes it illegal for the occupying power (in this case, Israel) to expose the population under occupation to extortion of any kind. The action of Shin Bet is also, coincidentally, illegal under Israeli law because it is considered to be “blackmail under threat”, a criminal offence.
It is noteworthy that cooperation between the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Jerusalem and Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem has existed for many years, and many of the lecturers at the University work at these hospitals.
Physicians for Human Rights and Mizan Centre for Human Rights in Gaza have sent a joint letter to the Israeli Prime Minister, Minister of Security and Attorney General urging them to order Shin Bet to stop blackmailing Palestinian students and refrain from linking permits to enter Jerusalem to collaboration with the Mossad.
A lawyer from the Justice Centre, Haneen Na’amah, said, “The requirement for students to cooperate with the intelligence services in order to enter Jerusalem violates students’ rights to dignity and autonomy.” By stopping Palestinian medical students from entering Jerusalem to train in Israeli hospitals, she added, the authorities are basically denying them the right to complete their education. “Vocational training is an essential condition for the completion of medical studies and thus the authorities are depriving students of their right to study and practice the profession of their choice.”
In legal terms, Ms. Na’amah believes that this procedure is “conspicuous extortion”, a violation of the fundamental right to learn, the freedom of employment and occupation. Long-term, of course, it also affects the right of access to adequate medical facilities for all Palestinians across the occupied territories, where there is a dire need to strengthen, not weaken, such provision.
According to a field researcher at Mizan Centre, Samir Zaqout, “We are talking about a deliberate strategy on the part of government intelligence services to blackmail Palestinian patients, students and workers; all Palestinians who need to leave Gaza for work, education or medical treatment, face such tactics and are thus held hostage by Israeli intelligence.”
As the Palestinians are living under occupation, he added, they are – or should be – protected by international laws and conventions. “There is an unequivocal prohibition on occupying forces imposing or demanding cooperation between the citizens under occupation and the occupiers.”
“Israel thinks that it is above the law,” concluded Mr. Zaquot, “and the silence of the international community about Israeli practices encourages the Jewish state to commit ever more crimes and human rights violations.”