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Israel academics call for Israel to allow Gazans to attend their universities abroad

Palestinian students celebrate during their graduation ceremony on 1 September 2018 [Atia Darwish/Apaimages]
Palestinian students celebrate during their graduation ceremony on 1 September 2018 [Atia Darwish/Apaimages]

Some 450 Israeli university professors have signed a petition calling for the Israeli government to allow Palestinian students besieged in Gaza to attend their universities abroad, Israeli rights group Gisha-Maslak said last week.

The petition also called for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) to take immediate action to allow students from Gaza to exit the Strip in order to reach their academic institutions abroad.

According to the NGO, the petition was initiated and drafted by members of Gisha's board, against the backdrop of Israel's ongoing prohibition on almost all travel via the Erez Crossing.

The NGO said: "Since March 2020, Israeli authorities have agreed to process permit applications in even fewer, rarer circumstances than before, only allowing a small number of patients in need of urgent medical treatment and their companions, and a handful of others, to exit the Strip."

It added: "Among the people impacted by this continued lockdown at Erez are students, including post-graduate students with lucrative scholarships, enrolled at academic institutions abroad requiring in–person attendance."

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The NGO continued: "Before the closure was tightened further in March [2020], students in this situation met Israel's narrow criteria for travel, one of few exceptions to the sweeping restrictions on movement it enforced well before the pandemic."

Meanwhile, the rights group stated that the "Rafah Crossing is completely closed."

The academics' petition, according to Gisha-Maslak, stated: "Access to quality higher education is essential in every society. […] We believe that preventing students from Gaza from exiting the Strip because of the coronavirus pandemic, without any security justification, for such a prolonged and indefinite period of time is a wrongful, immoral policy."

The NGO said that it sent a letter two weeks ago to COGAT, listing the names of eight students who requested urgent assistance from Gisha as all of them must arrive at their campuses in January.

Gisha also said it submitted a petition to the Jerusalem District Court on behalf of a PhD student who needs to exit the Strip to continue her studies in Jordan, noting that a hearing on her case has been scheduled for next week.

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