Israel obstructing education by refusing visas for academics with foreign passports – minister
RAMALLAH, July 12, 2018 (WAFA) – Minister of Education Sabri Saidam said on Thursday that more than half of the academics of Palestinian origin who hold foreign passports and who work at Palestinian universities in the occupied territories have been either denied or delayed getting an Israeli visa over the past two years that would allow them to enter or stay in the occupied Palestinian territories.
He told a press conference in Ramallah that the unfair Israeli policies and restrictions have made Palestinian and foreign academics less willing to accept educational and research positions in Palestinian higher education institutions and deprived the Palestinian universities of the potential academics and researchers can contribute to national development goals.
Saidam called for a concerted effort by the Arab universities and international institutions defending the right to education to raise this issue at international forums and to work actively to launch an Arab and international campaign to address the Israeli policies aimed at the academics and Palestinian universities.
He urged the international academic community to shoulder its responsibilities and pressure the Israeli authorities to immediately cancel its flagrant measures against seven academics working at Birzeit University.
Speaking at the same press conference, Salwa Dueibis, an activist in the Campaign to Defend the Right of Entry and Residence of Foreign Passport Holders to the Palestinian Territories, said the Israeli authorities have refused to extend visas for seven international faculty members at Birzeit University, who make up one-third of the university’s international academics.
“This is a dangerous sign and it has a negative impact on education at Birzeit University and other Palestinian universities because it leads to further isolation of Palestinian universities from the academic community in the world,” she said. “There is a dangerous and disturbing rise in the rejection of applications for visa extension and the size of arbitrary requirements and conditions imposed by the Israeli authorities.”
Dueibis said “most international staff at Birzeit University has had problems renewing their visas last year and three of them have left the university in the past two months because of the difficulty in obtaining visas.”
She pointed out that those affected by this issue include senior faculty members, heads of departments and key administrative staff who serve a large segment of the Palestinian society through educational and cultural activities and research, and a number of them have been teaching at Birzeit University for more than 10 years and have had a role in internationalizing curricula by teaching foreign language and presenting important academic experiences and skills.
Birzeit University had earlier issued a press statement voicing a strong complaint against Israeli visa restriction on it foreign academics, describing it as an infringement on freedom of education guaranteed by international law.