Your readers may be interested to know that since publication of the commentary by Elia Zureik in the May 2002 Bulletin, the situation for Palestinian universities, indeed for all civilian life in the occupied Palestinian territories, has taken a turn for the worse. In his commentary, Professor Zureik noted the Israeli army has imposed tight control over the movement of Palestinians within the occupied territories, and pointed out the detrimental effect of these restrictions for the survival of Palestinian education.
The most recent development is the introduction of a "pass" system reminiscent of South Africa under apartheid. This scheme institutionalizes restrictions in place since September 2000. The West Bank is divided into eight zones with travel between them allowed only to those in possession of travel permits issued by the military administration.
It is abundantly clear that this system, once fully in place, will wreak havoc on the educational system in Palestine. It is well known that in the West Bank there is a heavy daily flow of people between towns and cities. The commuting population consists of school children and teachers, university students and faculty, merchants, government employees, and individuals in other occupations. Universities in particular draw their student bodies from all over the West Bank, and a large majority of the students and faculty are daily commuters.
The pass system is bound to create great hardship on roads which are already obstructed by multiple army checkpoints where people are held up for long periods. One can imagine what will happen to school and university schedules once soldiers start the time-consuming process of checking travel permits.
It is also expected granting of permits will not be automatic and would be denied to anyone with a "security" record with the Israeli army. In view of the thousands of students who have at one time or another spent time in Israeli jails for their opposition to the occupation, one can anticipate the pass system will deprive a large number of Palestinian students of a chance to pursue their education.
Anyone who cares about free access to education should be gravely concerned about this new development which aims at institutionalizing and "legalizing" the surveillance and control of a civilian population in pursuit of its normal activities.
Sociology, Birzeit University, West Bank, Palestine