Letter to Major General Kamil Abu Rukon about systematic interference by Israeli authorities in Palestinian education, academic freedom, freedom to travel and to teach, study and research



August 25, 2018

To: Major General Kamil Abu Rukon

Commander of Israel Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT)

Dear Commander,

We write on behalf of California Scholars for Academic Freedom (cs4af)* to express our profound concern at the systematic interference by Israeli authorities in Palestinian education, academic freedom, and freedom to travel and to teach, study and research.

While Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and its blockade of Gaza have had a serious and widely reported negative impact on Palestinian educational institutions in many areas and over many decades, at the present time we are specifically concerned with the impact of Israeli government policy on faculty at Palestinian institutions who hold foreign passports and face unjustifiable denials of work permits in order to carry out their regular teaching and research duties. It seems to us an intolerable contradiction to require work permits and then regularly deny them to faculty from overseas. This policy has resulted in numerous faculty who hold foreign passports, and are of Palestinian and other national origins, being declared “illegal” when they engage in teaching and research at Palestinian universities. This policy threatens both their right to reside in Palestine and their freedom to travel, and is a serious violation of academic freedom, including the right to travel for the purpose of conducting and presenting research. Likewise, it interferes with the capacity of such faculty to participate in and contribute fully in the intellectual and cultural life of their own and other Palestinian institutions.  

International academics seeking to enter or work in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) have long faced obstacles, but the situation has dramatically declined over the past year. Since 2017, foreign nationals wishing to maintain a presence in the oPt, whether for reasons of work or family unity, have faced an alarming escalation in the rejection of visa extension requests and in the frequency and range of arbitrary demands and conditions imposed by Israeli authorities. Palestinian educational institutions have been hard hit by Israeli denials or restrictions on entry and presence in the oPt, as evidenced by the recent survey of Palestinian universities undertaken by the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MOEHE). Of the eight universities responding, over half of all foreign national faculty and staff have been negatively affected over the past two academic years, causing serious disruption to the academic programs and administration of these institutions. Moreover, it has undermined Palestinian universities’ ability to attract further external expertise as foreign academics are deterred from accepting teaching and research posts by the arbitrary rejections and destructive restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities.

Restrictions of these kinds seriously impede the capacity of Palestinian society to maintain and reproduce its intellectual and artistic culture.  The systematic and regular nature of the obstacles posed by Israel’s occupation and blockade to the normal course of Palestinian education suggest interference is deliberate and purposive.

We believe that academic freedom and the right to education are fundamental and universal, and include not only the right to study, research and publish without censure or interference, but also the right to such social and political conditions as enable the enjoyment of those rights.

We therefore condemn in the strongest possible terms Israel’s ongoing interference with Palestinian academic freedom as a violation of human rights and international law. We call on the responsible authorities to cease imposing impossible conditions on our colleagues who seek to work at Palestinian institutions and instead to facilitate their entry and their residence in accord with fundamental principles of academic freedom. 

We also request that US representatives (whether diplomats, members of Congress or international organizations) advocate vigorously for the rights of Palestinian scholars and the autonomy of Palestinian universities, urge other scholarly organizations to speak forcefully about the threat to the Palestinian academy, and alert academic institutions throughout the world that Palestinian colleagues need our moral and substantive support on an ongoing basis.

Yours sincerely, 

California Scholars for Academic Freedom


Sondra Hale, Anthropology and Gender Studies, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA); email: sonhale@UCLA.edu; phone: 310-836-5121

David Lloyd, Distinguished Professor of English, University of California, Riverside; email: dclloyd@ucr.edu; Phone: 951-827-1459

Stephen Roddy, Professor of Modern & Classical Languages, University of San Francisco

**CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM (cs4af) is a group of over 200 scholars

who defend academic freedom, the right of shared governance, and the First Amendment rights of faculty and students in the academy and beyond. California Scholars for Academic Freedom investigates legislative and administrative infringements on freedom of speech and assembly, and it raises the consciousness of politicians, university regents and administrators, faculty, students and the public at large through open letters, press releases, petitions, statements, and articles. Our vigilance extends to violations of academic freedom anywhere in the United States and abroad, for we recognize that violations of academic freedom anywhere are threats to academic freedom everywhere.

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