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The fifth petitioner, a bright young woman seeking to study in Palestine’s most prestigious law program, was dropped from discussion weeks ago when it was determined that her request was not “exceptional” enough. Israel’s current policy is to allow entrance of Gaza residents to the West Bank in “exceptional humanitarian circumstances only, with an emphasis on urgent medical cases.”
I was lucky enough to be born in Israel, to a nice Jewish family that eventually immigrated to the United States. When I wanted to leave my family home to go to university, or when I thought about studying abroad, the world was my oyster. I didn’t have to change the then-current regime to get books or travel to school.
No one asked me to prove how exceptional or humanitarian my aspirations were. I certainly didn’t have to go to court to seek confirmation that my desire to study was sanctioned by law.
There are real and concrete security threats in the region, and, yes, Gaza is a ruled by a regime that tops America’s terror list. But if you were a woman in Gaza, what would you do?
If I were a woman in Gaza, I would do exactly what these courageous women did when they filed a petition to Israel’s highest court to let them study: I would declare in a court of law that my individual right to education, to movement, to freedom is just that, an individual right. I would tell the court that denying me access to a Palestinian university in another part of the Palestinian territory because of the existence of a regime that I have no individual power to change is as unjust as it is unwise.
After all, each of the women, in her own way, has dedicated her life to improving the conditions of women and promoting rights from within Gaza and without. Isn’t that what we should want and encourage?
Yes, Israel has legitimate security concerns. A smarter and more principled approach would take these concerns seriously and recognize that Israel is not made safer by preventing these exceptional women from pursuing their admirable goals.
Tania Hary is the director of international relations at Gisha — Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, an Israeli human rights organization.