Since the beginning of 2012, Gisha and Al Mezan, an Israeli and a Palestinian human rights organization, respectively, have been arguing a petition before Israel’s highest court asking that five women from Gaza be permitted to enter the West Bank to complete their academic studies. In September the petition was rejected, against the backdrop of a 12-year ban on travel between the two parts of the Palestinian territory for the purposes of engaging in academic studies.
Then it was revealed that even the United States cannot broker permits for its State Department-funded scholars from Gaza, who had hoped to start the academic year at Palestinian universities in the West Bank.
Despite having removed its settlements and military installations from inside Gaza, Israel continues to control all access points from Gaza to the West Bank and does not allow Gaza residents to enter the West Bank without a permit. If a student wants to study for a degree that isn’t offered in Gaza, or if she feels that the programs offered don’t meet her needs, she is expected to either travel abroad or forgo her academic aspirations.
Even when there are no concrete security claims or suspicions raised against her as an individual, she is considered a potential threat or a vessel for terror, condemned by the registration of her residency in Gaza and prevented from accessing the Palestinian universities established for her benefit.
There had been reason for hope. In the course of legal proceedings, the court recommended that the state reconsider its refusal to allow four of the petitioners to reach the West Bank to complete degrees they had started before the ban was implemented in 2000. The four women, master’s degree candidates in gender studies and democracy and human rights programs uniquely offered in the West Bank, had asked for temporary permits to complete their degrees.
Each woman holds leadership roles in various civil society organizations that are working, against the odds, on initiatives to prevent violence against women, train women in the agricultural sector and offer capacity building to women who are owners of small businesses. Completing their degrees has been a dream deferred.