Thursday, 5 November 2009

How the “most moral army in the world” wages war on students - Update 1

By Stuart Littlewood

[Update to story – How the “most moral army in the world” wages war on students – published on 1 November.]

The Israeli embassy in London has finally made its excuses for the “senseless outrage” of preventing Berlanty Azzam, a fourth-year student of Bethlehem University, from continuing her studies and robbing her of her degree. She was arrested at an Israeli checkpoint and deported to Gaza blindfolded and handcuffed, and dumped there in the dark late at night.
Re: Ms Berlanty Azzam (I.D. 801158791)

Ms Azzam is a Gaza resident who is staying in the West Bank illegally. Ms Azzam held a permit to stay in the West Bank for 4 days in 2005 and since the permit has expired has been residing in the West Bank illegally.

As you probably know, every Gaza resident who stays in the West Bank requires a permit, failing to do so is a breach of the law. As Ms Azzam has failed to provide a valid permit she was deported back to Gaza.

If Ms Azzam wishes to complete her studies in Bethlehem University, she will need to submit her application to the relevant authorities (COGAT) in Gaza where they will be processed.

Sincerely yours,
Ms Ma'ayan, Israeli Public Affairs Department
Embassy of Israel
2 Palace Green
London W8 4QB
Tel: +44-(0)207-957-9541
Fax: +44-(0)207-957-9555
Berlanty was resident in the West Bank since 2005 and all that time resisted the temptation to return home to Gaza to see her folks. If her permit expired in 2005 why did the Israelis wait to ‘discover’ this fact just 2 months before she was due to graduate?

What the embassy tells me does not tally with what the University has been told. In an update issued today Bethlehem University management reports:
  • On Tuesday, 3 November 2009 the lawyers at Gisha were informed that the state of Israel claims that Berlanty has no right to be at Bethlehem University - to be in the West Bank. However, Berlanty did not need a permit to remain in the West Bank after entering, and no such kind of permit existed in 2005, so she couldn't have requested one. Berlanty only needed the Israeli permit to cross through Israel from Gaza to the West Bank, which she received.
  • The Israeli High Court of Justice will hold another court hearing on Berlanty's case next Thursday, 12 November 2009 at 9:00am to have the Israeli military to further explain why Berlanty was removed from Bethlehem to Gaza.
  • In their response to the court, the Israeli state admits that a "mistake" was made in removing Berlanty on the night of Wednesday, 28 October 2009. Orders were given by the legal adviser's office not to do it. It was done anyway and still they refuse to return her to her studies at Bethlehem University.

The West Bank and the Gaza Strip are internationally recognized as one integral territory. The embassy’s explanation is at odds with the contention by Birzeit (another West Bank university) that similar action by Israel against a number of Birzeit students from Gaza was “in clear violation of the fundamental human right to education, the right to freedom of movement and the right to choose one’s place of residence within a single territory, in accordance with internationally accepted standards of human rights law”.

I’m not a lawyer, but it would be nice to hear a legal expert explain what authority Israel has for its bloody-minded and cruel conduct towards hard-working students.

Stuart Littlewood
4 November 2009

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