How the “Most Moral Army in the World” Wages War on Students (Part 2)

The Israeli embassy in London has finally made its excuses for the “senseless outrage” of preventing Berlanty Azzam, a fourth-year student of Bethlehem University, from continuing her studies and robbing her of her degree. She was arrested at an Israeli checkpoint and deported to Gaza blindfolded and handcuffed, and dumped there in the dark late at night.

Re: Ms Berlanty Azzam (I.D. 801158791)

Ms Azzam is a Gaza resident who is staying in the West Bank illegally. Ms Azzam held a permit to stay in the West Bank for 4 days in 2005 and since the permit has expired has been residing in the West Bank illegally.

As you probably know, every Gaza resident who stays in the West Bank requires a permit, failing to do so is a breach of the law. As Ms Azzam has failed to provide a valid permit she was deported back to Gaza. If Ms Azzam wishes to complete her studies in Bethlehem University, she will need to submit her application to the relevant authorities (COGAT) in Gaza where they will be processed.

Sincerely yours,

Ms Ma’ayan, Israeli Public Affairs Department
Embassy of Israel
2 Palace Green
London W8 4QB
Tel: +44-(0)207-957-9541
Fax: +44-(0)207-957-9555
Email: li.vog.afm.nodnolnull@cilbuP

Berlanty was resident in the West Bank since 2005 and all that time resisted the temptation to return home to Gaza to see her folks. If her permit expired in 2005 why did the Israelis wait to ‘discover’ this fact just 2 months before she was due to graduate?

What the embassy tells me does not tally with what the University has been told. In an update issued today Bethlehem University management reports:

  • On Tuesday, 3 November 2009 the lawyers at Gisha were informed that the state of Israel claims that Berlanty has no right to be at Bethlehem University – to be in the West Bank. However, Berlanty did not need a permit to remain in the West Bank after entering, and no such kind of permit existed in 2005, so she couldn’t have requested one. Berlanty only needed the Israeli permit to cross through Israel from Gaza to the West Bank, which she received.
  • The Israeli High Court of Justice will hold another court hearing on Berlanty’s case next Thursday, 12 November 2009 at 9:00am to have the Israeli military to further explain why Berlanty was removed from Bethlehem to Gaza.
  • In their response to the court, the Israeli state admits that a “mistake” was made in removing Berlanty on the night of Wednesday, 28 October 2009. Orders were given by the legal adviser’s office not to do it. It was done anyway and still they refuse to return her to her studies at Bethlehem University.

The West Bank and the Gaza Strip are internationally recognized as one integral territory. The embassy’s explanation is at odds with the contention by Birzeit (another West Bank university) that similar action by Israel against a number of Birzeit students from Gaza was “in clear violation of the fundamental human right to education, the right to freedom of movement and the right to choose one’s place of residence within a single territory, in accordance with internationally accepted standards of human rights law”.

I’m not a lawyer, but it would be nice to hear a legal expert explain what authority Israel has for its bloody-minded and cruel conduct towards hard-working students.

  • Read Part 1.
  • Stuart Littlewood, after working on jet fighters in the RAF, became an industrial marketeer in oil, electronics and manufacturing, and with innovation and product development consultancies. He also served as a Cambridgeshire county councillor and a member of the Police Authority. He is an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society and has produced two photo-documentary books including Radio Free Palestine (with foreword by Jeff Halper). Now retired, he campaigns on various issues, especially the Palestinians' struggle for freedom. Read other articles by Stuart, or visit Stuart's website.

    One comment on this article so far ...

    Comments RSS feed

    1. Mary said on December 10th, 2009 at 6:00am #

      I weep tears of rage and tears of sorrow for Berlanty. The Israelis are vile, cruel, disgusting, inhumane…

      —– Original Message —–
      From: Brother Jack Curran
      To: ude.mehelhtebnull@sgnineppah_uB
      Sent: Wednesday, December 09, 2009 11:13 PM
      Subject: [BU Happenings] High Court says NO

      Dear Friends of Bethlehem University,

      A few days ago I wrote about “justice delayed” in the case of Berlanty Azzam, our 4th year student who was taken blindfolded and handcuffed on 28 October 2009 from Bethlehem to Gaza. Today, after hearing of the decision of the Israeli High Court, I write about “justice as an elusive reality.”

      A few hours ago, I received a phone call from Yadin Elam, the lawyer from the Israeli Human Rights Organization who has been working with and for Berlanty Azzam. Yadin called right after he spoke with Berlanty – to let me know the unfortunate news that the Israeli High Court decided not to allow Berlanty to return to Bethlehem University to complete the last few weeks of her bachelors degree program.

      A Press Release from Gisha (copied below) includes many of the details about the Court’s decision.

      “We are disappointed that the Israeli military and High Court have interfered with the Church’s educational mission at Bethlehem University by denying Berlanty to be brought back to Bethlehem to complete her studies,” said Brother Peter Bray, Vice Chancellor in hearing of this Court ruling. “We realize that Berlanty is one of the many people in Gaza who suffer so unjustly.”

      We thank you for your tremendous efforts to gather the international attention and support on behalf of Berlanty from members of Parliament, members of Congress, and other elected representative, to the Israeli Military COGAT officials, the Consulates of Israel in your countries, etc.

      Somehow, we all believed that this time, “it would be different” – that this time “justice would prevail.” So far, we are wrong.

      For further details and to arrange interviews: Keren Tamir, Gisha Spokesperson: +972-3-6244120, +972-52-8919190, gro.ahsignull@nerek or Sari Bashi, Gisha Director: +972-54-8172103.