Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu
Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked
Minister of the Interior Aryeh Machluf Deri
Minister of Education Naftali Bennett
Chairman, Council for Higher Education of Israel
Ambassador David Melech Friedman
U.S. Ambassador to Israel
Prime Minister, Ministers, and Ambassador:
We write to you as members of the Organizing Collective of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, to express our opposition to the severe and unreasonable limitations imposed on foreign nationals who are faculty members at Birzeit University (BZU) and other Palestinian universities in the West Bank and Gaza. Our outrage and concern is in keeping with USACBI’s focus on the boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a response to the call of Palestinian civil society. Our call for Israel to abide by international law to both protect and facilitate the functioning of Palestinian civil institutions, including higher education, goes hand in hand with our commitment to equality, self-determination, human rights (including the right to education), and true democracy.
Since 2017, a number of foreign passport holders – many of whom are of Palestinian origin, but without Israeli issued residency documents – living and working in the West Bank have been denied entry into the country, or have had their visa renewal applications refused by the Israeli authorities. At Birzeit University (BZU) alone, over a dozen foreign passport-holding faculty members’ requests for visa renewals have been refused or significantly delayed, while some have been forced to leave the country.
Additionally, there is a range of measures coming to light that are at once seemingly arbitrary, while systematically serving to isolate Palestinian universities and make it impossible for faculty members to do their jobs. These measures include: changing documentation requirements without prior or official notification; lengthy processing periods that force applicants to overstay valid visas or leave the country; shortened and arbitrary duration of visas; restrictions on ports of entry/exit; and demands for financial bonds. These procedures imposed by the Israeli occupation authorities endanger scholars’ employment and the quality of their research. These measures also jeopardize academic and administrative work in these universities. In the long term, they imperil the right of Palestinians to education, isolate the Palestinian community from the rest of the world, and threaten severe harm to the educational and employment opportunities of the next generation of Palestinian students.
In spite of decades of violations of basic tenets of academic freedom, BZU remains an internationally recognized university. BZU has the right to provide a quality education, but this arbitrary and abusive practice of denying access to and the presence of international educators and academics has a serious negative impact on Palestinian educational development.
Israel is obligated by international law to protect and facilitate the functioning of Palestinian civil institutions, including higher education. Israeli authorities must put a halt to this destructive policy and instead adopt and implement a clearly documented and transparent policy enabling unimpeded access and presence to foreign nationals intending to educate students in the occupied Palestinian territories.
We therefore call upon you to ensure that these professors can renew their visas, and that the restrictions, whose sole purpose is to make it exceedingly difficult for foreign nationals to work in academic institutions in Palestine, be immediately abolished and we urge the publication of a clear and lawful procedure for issuing entry visas and work permits for international academics in the West Bank. As an alternative, there should be a clear policy and procedure for internationals academics on par with internationally recognized standards, especially since all Israeli Universities have a process by which they hire and retain foreigners. We join the call from Birzeit University, Al-Haq, and Adalah – the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel – and demand an immediate halt to this policy of targeting Palestinian institutions of higher learning.
We look forward to your response.
USACBI Organizing Collective