The Hebrew University assists Israeli police brutality in occupied Issawiyeh

This picture, obtained by Academia for Equality, clearly shows two policemen surveilling the neighborhood of Issawiya from the rooftop of “Rabin Building” in the Mount Scopus campus of The Hebrew….

This picture, obtained by Academia for Equality, clearly shows two policemen surveilling the neighborhood of Issawiya from the rooftop of “Rabin Building” in the Mount Scopus campus of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

This type of activity undermines the university’s autonomy, and blurs the boundaries between civic educational institutions and state policing mechanisms. This is particularly true when it comes to supporting collective punishment measures in occupied territories.

Over the past six months, the residents of Issawiya have been suffering from unrelenting and unfathomable police brutality. In light of this situation, we sent a letter to the heads of the university to inquire about the nature of this activity (see full letter below).

We were not surprised to receive an evasive response from the university, hiding behind vague claims of “security concerns”: The police force on the roof of the building was acting to “thwart an attempt to attack students and faculty”. Lacking any public information or evidence regarding such an “attack” or “security risk” – information that would allow the public to assess the proportionality and the necessity for police intervention from campus territory – we are forced to view it as part of the oppressive and disproportionate violence unleashed against civilians in Issawiya, and the human rights violations that we condemn.

This situation raises moral questions and puts the Hebrew University and Israeli academia as a whole in conflict with international standards and academic values endorsed throughout the democratic world.

It is unacceptable that the university campus serve as a forward base to violate human rights!

Academia for Equality

December 11, 2019

Prof. Asher Cohen, President, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Prof. Barak Medina, Rector, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Mr. Yishai Fraenkel, Vice President and CEO, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Mr. Yoav Atias, Head of Security, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Subject: Police Operation on Har Hazofim Campus

Dear Sirs,

We appeal to you on behalf of more than 500 members of the organization Academia for Equality, an organization for the democratization of Israeli academia and society, to address what appears to be the use of campus territory and facilities for police operations directed against the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya. A picture that we have obtained (attached hereby) shows clearly two policemen surveilling the neighborhood from the rooftop of Rabin building on campus.

The violence unleashed by the police against this neighborhood has been going on for the past six months, the longest “police operation” in its history. From media reports and contacts with the residents of the neighborhood, we learned about nightly police raids, aggressive house searches, severe restrictions of movement, harassments through fines and police reports, the arrest of hundreds of residents including minors (the vast majority released without being charged), dozens of wounded from rubber bullets shootings and use of riot gear, and one victim, Mohammad Samir Abbed, killed by gun fire. The more we know about such activities, the more questions emerge regarding the necessity and goals of this disproportionate use of force against civilians.

In light of the reality detailed above, and out of genuine concern for the institutional integrity of Israeli academia, concern for academic freedom and the principle of access to education to all, we wish to highlight the issues at stake. Firstly, turning academic campuses to grounds for police activity in the neighborhood constitutes a severe violation of the acceptable standards of academic institutions in the world, and undermines the vital separation between civilian infrastructure and systems of police enforcement. Secondly, this lack of separation damages the trust between University students and workers, both Jews and Arabs, and relations with the residents of the neighborhood, especially those who are employed by the University. How do you imagine residents of Issawiya see the University, when its roof tops are used for surveillance turned against their community? Thirdly, the activities of the police have been recently subject to growing public criticism. The police conducts militarized campaigns in cooperation with military forces in an Occupied Territory according to international law. Especially disconcerting is military actions in the vicinity of and during school hours, activities which terrorize children and parents fearing for their safety and lives. Cooperating with such aggressive military actions against civilians raises moral questions, and exposes the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Israeli academia in general to justified international critique in the name of academic values and standards respected in the democratic world.

Out of deep concern, we solicit your response to the following questions:

  1. Does the Hebrew University of Jerusalem authorize the Israel police use of campus facilities for its policing activity?
  2. On the basis of what procedure is this authorization regulated?
  3. How frequently is this procedure implemented?

The executive Board,
Academia for Equality