Academia for Equality: Protesting the denial of entry to foreign academics

To: Honourable Ayelet Shaked, Minister of the Interior
Government of the State of Israel

Honourable Yair Lapid, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Government of the State of Israel

Re: Protesting the denial of entry to foreign academics

Dear Honourable Ministers,

As members of Academy for Equality, an organization of some 700 Israeli Academics who advocate equality, human rights, and peace, we were horrified to read about the latest case (and regrettably not the first), involving visiting foreign academics on their way to collaborate with colleagues in Palestinian Universities in the West Bank, who were denied entry to Israel and were expelled.

The case under consideration occurred on November 27, 2021, when two doctoral students from Siegen university in Germany (Sarah Rüller and Belén Giménez Ciciolli) arrived for a visit that was planned to include both tourism and collaborative engagement with colleagues in Birzeit University on their research (Digitalization Processes in Nonurban Areas). The two students were treated to hours of abusive behaviour by immigration officials in Ben Gurion Airport, including shouting, threats, expropriation of their telephones and intrusive entry into their social media and personal correspondence. All that without any explanation concerning their rights and their legal standing. Finally, they received a document stating that they are refused entry to Israel on the grounds of ‘the prevention illegal immigration.’ An absurd claim, given the fact that both were in possession of return tickets to Germany for two weeks hence.

It is entirely clear what their ‘crime’ was, as far as the immigration officials were concerned: their desire to collaborate with Palestinian colleagues. The officials levelled a further ‘accusation’ at them: that they intended to participate in a human rights’ demonstration. When, exactly, did it become a crime to participate in human rights’ demonstrations? For such an ‘accusation’ to be used as grounds for the denial of entry is worthy of the darkest regimes.

In the absence of an airport or any control over their border crossings, Palestinian universities are entirely dependent on Israel to approve the arrival of students, researchers, or lecturers from abroad. By abusing its power to prevent access to foreign academics, Israel is responsible for seriously harming the higher education of the Palestinian people. Beyond the cruelty and inhumanity of such policies and their clear violation of human rights, they hurt Israel itself, in seriously tarnishing Israel’s reputation among academics worldwide. Let us not forget that higher education and economic developments for Palestinians is in Israel’s interests if we ever wish to live in peace in this country.

As academics in general, and Israeli academics in particular, we strongly urge you to act to stop the objectionable practice of denying academic visits in Palestinian universities.

Academy for Equality