Background Information: Help Palestinians Access Education!

Background Information: Help Palestinians Access Education!

"The people of Gaza share with everyone else the right to dignified lives, free of indiscriminate and prolonged suffering. They should not be subjected to this continuation of collective punishment brought on by the blockade."

Maxwell Gaylard, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory

Over 1.8 million Palestinian civilians are trapped in the Gaza Strip under an Israeli blockade. Their daily lives are marked by power shortages, mass unemployment, and poverty. 80 percent of Palestinians in Gaza now depend on humanitarian aid as a result.

The Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip prevents thousands of Palestinian students from pursuing higher education in the nearby West Bank – part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Palestinian students also face major obstacles if they want to study abroad.

Israel maintains strict restrictions on who is allowed to enter or exit the Gaza Strip. Under the Israeli blockade, students who want to continue their education outside the Gaza Strip can face obstacles. This is particularly true of Gaza students who want to pursue studies in the occupied West Bank. The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip are internationally recognized as the Occupied Palestinian Territories -- a 'single territorial entity.'

The blockade has prohibited most exports from the Gaza Strip, crippling the economy. The blockade also often prevents people from accessing jobs and medical care.

Despite having removed its settlements and military installations from inside Gaza, Israel continues to control all access points from Gaza to the West Bank. Israel does not allow Gaza residents to enter the West Bank without a permit. If a student wants to study for a degree that isn’t offered in Gaza, or the programs in Gaza don’t meet the individual’s needs, the student is expected to overcome a variety of obstacles to travel abroad or forgo academic aspirations altogether.

Even when there are no concrete security claims or suspicions raised against a Gaza student, they are considered a potential threat by Israel. Because of their Gaza residency, Gaza students are prevented from accessing the educational institutions in the occupied West Bank.

The Israeli authorities say the blockade is a response to attacks from Palestinian armed groups, in particular the indiscriminate rockets fired from Gaza into southern Israel. In fact, whatever the stated justification, the Israeli authorities are collectively punishing the entire population of Gaza, the majority of whom are children, rather than targeting those responsible for carrying out rocket or other attacks. Violations of international law by one party do not justify violations by the other party.

Israel, as the occupying power, has the responsibility for ensuring the welfare of the inhabitants of Gaza. While Israel has a duty to protect its citizens, the measures it takes must follow international humanitarian and human rights law. Collective punishment is prohibited under international law and constitutes a crime against humanity.

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