Prime Minister and Minister of Education Benyamin Netanyahu
Minister of Justice Amir Ohana
Minister of the Interior Aryeh Machluf Deri
Ambassador David Melech Friedman
US Ambassador to Israel
Major Bassem Hino
Commander of the Erez Coordination Officer
Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories
Dear Prime Minister, Ministers, and Major,
We write to you on behalf of the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) to urge a halt to the Israeli army and security forces’ practice of carrying out arbitrary arrests of Palestinian students and faculty. These arrests not only affect the individuals themselves, but also significantly obstruct academic life for thousands of students. We condemn in the strongest possible terms the harm the Israeli Army inflicts upon students at all levels of education through these arrests.
MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, MESA publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has over 2,500 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.
Over the past three weeks, a Birzeit University professor, a student, as well as a recent graduate, have been arrested. All three were interrogated and denied access to legal representation. Dr. Widad al-Barghouthy, a media and journalism professor at Birzeit University, was arrested at her home on 1 September 2019 and taken to Ofer prison. After repeated legal efforts, she was released conditionally to house arrest on 15 September (after paying bail of over $11,000). Mais Abu Gush, a Birzeit University media and journalism student, and a member of the university’s media club, was arrested on 29 August 2019. She was interrogated and denied the right to meet with or consult an attorney. Her arrest has since been extended without access to legal representation. A recent graduate of Birzeit University, Samah Jaradat, was arrested on 7 September 2019. She, too, was interrogated and denied the right to see an attorney.
According to Palestinian sources, there are currently sixty Birzeit University students and another 240 students from other Palestinian universities who have been arrested and are imprisoned. These recent arrests are a continuation of an undeclared but indisputable Israeli policy of targeting and disrupting Palestinian higher education. Our committee has written to you in the past to protest the repeated arbitrary arrests of Palestinian scholars and students (most recently, see letters dated 11 April 2019; 22 January 2018; 8 August 2019), and we condemn these unconscionable and unwarranted actions in the strongest possible terms.
The detentions described above are grave violations of Palestinians’ basic rights to education and academic freedom. The detention of faculty disrupts the educational process in the universities, and student detentions extend the time spent working toward the completion of academic degrees. Furthermore, these arbitrary arrests are clear violations of the right to education enshrined in Article 26 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 13 of the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. As a party to the UDHR and a signatory to the ICESCR, Israel is obligated to uphold these conventions. Hence, it must ensure the rights of the Palestinian people to education. We call upon you to immediately cease these arbitrary arrests unconditionally, to release Dr. Widad al-Barghouthy, Mais Abu-Ghosh and Samah Jaradat from detention, and to protect Palestinian students’ right to education.
We look forward to your response.
Judith E. Tucker
Professor, Georgetown University
Chair, Committee on Academic Freedom
Professor, University of Southern California