European call to defend the right to education in Palestine : AURDIP and BRICUP’s second letter to the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and to the European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation

Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Dear Madam, Sir, On October 22, we wrote to….

Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science

Dear Madam, Sir,

On October 22, we wrote to alert you to the illegal actions of the Israeli occupying forces towards Palestinian students, teachers and professors, and to urge the European Commission to accept that Israel’s grave and continuous breach of its obligations under international law requires the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement.

Our letter has now been co-signed by 400 academics, mostly from Europe, but also from other countries including Israel. We enclosed the list of signatories.

Since writing to you in October, the situation on the ground has not improved. For example, we have received a detailed report from the President of the Palestinian Technical University – Kadoorie at Tulkarm. The President confirms that the Israeli army has established an active military base on four acres of the campus and uses the base for military exercises which are conducted metres away from the citrus orchards and greenhouses of the University’s college of agriculture. Over the past two weeks, Israeli forces have stormed the campus, firing tear gas and live bullets at members of the University. More than 20 students have been wounded and many more have been tear gassed. In addition, the Israeli army has showered the library building with hazardous sewage water, with as can be imagined highly disruptive effects on academic life. The building includes, in addition to the library, the centre for competence on fashion design financed by the GIZ, the centre for excellence in accounting financed by the World Bank, the centre for educational innovation financed by USAID, the digital library financed by Kuwait, and the institute for applied agricultural research.

The Israeli forces’ constant intimidation and harassment at the Palestinian Technical University are depriving around seven thousand students of their basic right to education. This situation is replicated across Palestine: for example on November 2nd the border police once again invaded the campus of Al-Quds University, firing rubber bullets and tear gas grenades [[Violents heurts dans une université de Jérusalem, Belgian news agency, November 2nd, 2015]]. This is clearly part of a deliberate policy of the Israeli occupation forces to prevent universities from functioning normally.

During this period there have been, as Amnesty International has reported, a series of unlawful killings of Palestinans by Israeli forces “using intentional lethal force without justification” [[Israeli forces in Occupied Palestinian Territories must end pattern of unlawful killings, Amnesty International, 27 October 2015]]. Amnesty documents cases of people shot by soldiers, or lynched by a mob, while posing no threat. Among the victims a disproportionate number are students attending high school or university.

Amnesty concludes that “Israel’s investigation systems have long served to perpetuate impunity for unlawful killings of Palestinians by Israeli military and police forces. While we urge the Israeli authorities to conduct independent, impartial investigations into all these incidents, willful killings of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention, over which all states can exercise universal jurisdiction.” [[ibid]]

Under all these circumstance, and as the gravity of the situation continues or even deepens, we must urge you, even more strongly than before, to advise the European Commission that Israel is both in violation of the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and in breach of its obligations under Article 2 of the EU-Israel Association Agreement. That Agreement must surely now be either suspended or cancelled.

Yours respectfully,

Ivar Ekeland, Président de l’Association des Universitaires pour le Respect du Droit International en Palestine (AURDIP)

Jonathan Rosenhead, Chair, British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP)