The Education Committee at the Israeli Knesset discussed on Wednesday the Israeli rejection of barring university students from the Gaza Strip from leaving the coastal region to study in European or American universities. The Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, known as “Gisha”, presented its latest report on the siege against the 670 Gaza Strip university students who study abroad.

Gisha stated that hundreds of university students, trapped by the siege on Gaza, lost their seats in foreign university as the Israeli siege on Gaza barred them from leaving the area.

It is report, Gisha said that since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip nearly one year ago, Israel sealed the area and barred the residents from leaving the Gaza Strip. Thus, “it shut down the last chance for the students to travel aboard”.

The report also revealed that the Israeli siege on Gaza is causing the collapse of the Higher Education System in the Gaza Strip and that the Israeli authorities are even barring university lecturers and professors, and anyone who is not from the Gaza Strip, from entering the area.

Also, the siege barred lecturers and professors from leaving the Gaza Strip for research or further study abroad. Another aspect of the siege is separating education institutions in the Gaza Strip from other educational facilities in the West Bank.

The Israeli Councilor of the Ministry of Defense, Sagi Gressin, claimed that under the international law, Israel does not have to ensure that the Palestinians receive higher education.

Arab member of Knesset, Jamal Zahalka, said during the Knesset session that barring the students from receiving higher education is “a collective punishment and a violation of the basic principles of human rights”.

Zahalka slammed that statements of Gressin and added that “receiving higher education is a legitimate right all over the world, while Israel insists that this right does not include the Palestinians.

Obaida Abu Hashem, 18, a Gaza Strip student who managed to obtain a permit to enter Israel in order to file some paper work at the American Consulate in Tel Aviv, attended the Knesset session and said that dozens of students in Gaza want to receive higher education in international universities in order to graduate and come back to serve their county and people.

"I received a permit to leave Gaza today to attend a visa interview, and tonight I return to Gaza. I don't know if I'll be able to leave again, in order to reach my studies." said Obaida Abu Hashem as published by Gisha website.

Abu Hashem spoke to lawmakers at an urgent hearing in the Knesset Education Committee today, during which lawmakers called on the military to reverse a policy preventing hundreds of students in Gaza from reaching their studies abroad, Gisha stated.

Abu Hashim is trying to travel to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States to study Mechanical Engineering. He said that this field of study is not found in Gaza and that his only chance is to study abroad.

 "Preventing students in Gaza from studying is reminiscent of a painful point in Jewish history. We are a nation that for years was prevented from studying – how can we do the same thing to another people?" said Committee Chair Rabbi Michael Malchior. "Trapping hundreds of students in Gaza is immoral and unwise." Gisha added.

 At the hearing, Gisha-Legal Center for Freedom of Movement presented findings of a forthcoming report showing that the military's refusal to let students leave Gaza for study abroad is choking educational development and violating the rights of hundreds of students. Military officials present at the hearing said that exit from Gaza is permitted "for exceptional humanitarian and urgent medical cases only".

At the end of the session, the committee decided to address the Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, and the ministerial committee to review their decision barring Gaza Strip students from leaving the Gaza Strip to attend universities elsewhere.  

It also decided to send an urgent request to the Israeli Prime Minister, Minister of Defense, and members of the Security Cabinet at the Knesset to change their policy and requested a response within two weeks.