Maxwell Gaylard, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory said:
The people of Gaza share with everyone else the right to dignified lives, free of indiscriminate and prolonged suffering. They should not be subjected to this continuation of collective punishment brought on by the blockade.
As known, “collective punishment” is prohibited under international law and constitutes a crime against humanity. Further, there is no need to say that Gaza depends on humanitarian aid in general. However, the Israeli government seems to completely ignore Palestinian students’ right to education by still maintaining strict restrictions on who is allowed to enter or exit the Gaza Strip. Besides many other problems that Palestinians face due to the blockade, including inability to access jobs and medical care, thousands of students are prevented from pursuing higher education in the nearby West Bank – part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. If they want to study abroad, they face obstacles that are even more serious.
Currently, Israel does not allow Gaza residents to enter the West Bank without a permit. Gaza students have to overcome a variety of obstacles to study abroad if the degree they choose is not offered in Gaza or the programs do not satisfy their needs. Israel continues to control all access points from Gaza to the West Bank, and even if there is no suspicious or security issues raised a Gaza student, they are still considered a potential threat by Israel. This type of approach taken by the Israeli government punishes civilians and particularly in this instance, students who would like to pursue a good quality of education. Just because they are Gaza residents, they are not allowed to access the educational institutions located in the West Bank.
The Israeli government tries to justify the blockade by saying that they have to keep the blockade for potential attacks from Palestinian armed groups. However, whatever the reason might be, the fact that the Israel government is punishing the whole population of Gaza does not have a justification under international law. Even though Israel has the right to protect its citizens and take necessary measures, it must act accordingly under international law and should not limit Palestinian students’ right to education.
With respect to this issue, Amnesty International invites people from all over the world to take action to help Palestinian students gain access to education they need and deserve. On its website, you may join the cause and urge the Israeli government to completely lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip so that Palestinian students in Gaza can have the freedom to access education.
Having recognized the Israeli government’s concern with respect to potential attacks from armed groups, what kinds of “security concerns” do you think can justify preventing thousands of students from pursing their education? Do you agree with the Israeli government’s approach in limiting all means of access to Palestinian civilians, particularly Palestinian students? Do you think that the blockade should be lifted completely or softened in a way to allow students pursue education outside Gaza?