European call to defend the right to education in Palestine: the European Union must act now to stop the Israeli aggression

On 22 October 2015, AURDIP and BRICUP have written to the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and to the European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation to alert them to the dramatic situation of Palestinian students confronted by the new Israeli aggression which targets in particular Palestine’s youth and its education system. The letter urges the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement.

Call closed on November 16, 2015

List of signatories

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

Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science

Dear Madam, Sir,

For the second time this year, we must call your attention to the illegal behaviour of the Israeli occupying forces towards Palestinian students, teachers and professors. Our letter of February 22 documented several instances of administrative detention, ranging from that of an internationally known astrophysicist to the case of a 14-year old boy [[How Israel victimises Palestinian teachers, students and schoolchildren, letter from AURDIP and BRICUP to Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, of February 22, 2015.]]. Indeed we depicted a pattern of harassment directed specifically at minors. We urged you to recognise that Israel was in clear breach of its obligations under Article 2 of the cooperation agreement [[Article 2 of the Association Agreement between the European Union and Israel stipulates that ’Relations between the Parties, as well as all the provisions of the Agreement itself, shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which guides their internal and international policy and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement’.]], and asked you to bring this conclusion to the attention of the European Commission. The clear implication of Israel’s repeated violations is that the EU-Israel Association Agreement should be suspended, if not cancelled.

With sorrow and concern, we have to report that the situation has much worsened since our previous letter, and that without prompt action it is likely to degenerate still further. Our colleagues in Palestinian universities are reporting extraordinary instances of violence against students. A few examples will need to stand in here for the rest.

On 22 September Hadeel al-Hashlamon, an 18 year old student at Hebron University, was shot by an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint in Hebron and left to bleed to death. Israeli sources claim that she was attempting to stab the soldier, but photographs do not support this. Amnesty International has called the shooting “a case of extrajudicial killing” [[Evidence obtained by Amnesty International indicates that the killing of Hadeel al-Hashlamoun by Israeli forces in Hebron, in the occupied West Bank, on 22 September 2015 was an extrajudicial execution, Amnesty International, September 24, 2015; See also Israeli Forces Murder Female Student at Shuhada Street Checkpoint: “They could have arrested her so easily but they didn´t.”, International Solidarity Movement, Al-Khalil team, September 22, 2015.]].

On October 7th, two students from Birzeit University, Abdul Rahman Abu Dahab and Ahmed Walid Hamid, were brutally beaten for demonstrating, and the latter was deliberately shot in the leg at point-blank range while restrained [[Birzeit University appeals to academic and human rights institutions to speak out against the crimes of the Israeli occupation, October 8, 2015; see the video of the incident.]]. Their present location is unknown.

On October 7th, 18 year-old Bethlehem University student Shurouq Dwayyat was attacked by a settler in the old city, who attempted to remove her veil. When she pushed him away in self-defence, he shot her. She has been in intensive care for more than a week [[Israeli settler opens fire on girl who he claims ‘tried to stab him’, Palestine News Network, October 7, 2015.]].

On October 13th, Israeli forces stormed the campus of Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem, arrested eight students and caused extensive damage [[Education under occupation: everyday disruption at a Palestinian university, by Brendan Browne, The Conversation, October 14, 2015; see also Israeli forces clash with, injure Palestinians at al-Quds University, Ma’an News Agency, October 4, 2015.]].

On October 13th, the Technical University in Tulkarem was forced to close until further notice after being stormed by Israeli forces [[Palestinian university closes due to Israeli threats to storm it, Middle East Monitor, October 13, 2015.]].

There are of course many other shocking examples of Israeli brutality during the current upsurge of violence, especially towards people in the student age group [“Israel’s Arbitrary Killings and its System of Structural Violence” a report of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, October 16, 2015.]]. But the Israeli occupation forces have a long record of specifically targeting schools and universities. Indeed during the first intifada, from 1988 to 1992, the whole Palestinian education system, from top to bottom, was closed by military order [[Birzeit University has been closed by military order fifteen times, the longest closure lasting four and a half years (1988-1992) during the first Intifada. In this period, Israeli military orders closed all Palestinian nurseries, schools, and universities, effectively making education illegal. Students and academics risked arrest for holding classes in defiance of the military oppression, the act of carrying a textbook became sufficient grounds for interrogation and detention. History of the Right to Education Campaign at Birzeit University]]. Despite the continuing attempts to hobble the Palestinian higher education sector (most recently documented by a Europe-wide academic delegation [[[Palestinian Universities under Occupation, a report prepared by a delegation of 8 academics from 5 European countries representing the European Platform for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (EPACBI) who visited seven Palestinian universities and academies in April 2015.]]), these universities have demonstrated remarkable resilience. Indeed Palestine is now widely regarded as having one of the best educational systems in the Middle East. We fear that this success is now in jeopardy, with the university sector in danger of suffering wholesale and lengthy closures as in the past.

The right to education is unconditional [[Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Articles 13 & 14 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.]]. The military occupation of the West Bank is illegal, as is recognized both by the European Union, and by the United Nations. We ask you once again to advise the European Commission that Israel is in violation of the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and in breach of its obligations under Article 2 of the cooperation treaty with the European Union. Consequently the latter should be de-activated.

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)

Call closed on November 16, 2015

List of signatories