Palestinian Students Attempt to Reopen University

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July 14, 2003

By Paul D. Pierce
Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT)

Hebron--Students at the Palestinian Polytechnic University, wielding sledge hammers, attempted to reopen the institution today in defiance of a one-month extension of their campus' closure, imposed by the Israeli army on Saturday. Students object to the continued disruption of classes since their summer session was scheduled to begin yesterday.

Israeli authorities forced closure of both Polytechnic and Hebron University beginning in January, 2003. They claimed that several suicide bombers had been students at the Polytechnic University. So, six months ago, the Israeli army had removed the front gate, leading to the campus, and welded it across the main entrance to the university building to prevent access to the facility.

Today, after students regained access, administrators arrived and requested that students leave the area. Campus authorities had the custodian padlock the front entrance to the building shut. The administration feared that students might be injured or that the Israeli army would destroy equipment in the building.

Student leaders expressed frustration with the collective punishment imposed by Israeli authorities and demanded that they be able to continue their education. Five members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams observed the action in support of an open university this morning. CPTers were also on hand to counter any violence that might occur in response to the student's initiative.

Nearly 200 additional students arrived to support the action and listen to two hours of music and speeches demanding the renewal of classes. Palestinian flags flew and banners were displayed that said, "Don't violate our right to education" and "This is the beginning of a new life and new country." The festive gathering ended without any intervention by the Israeli military. Students say they will continue with a daily presence on campus to press for reopening of the university.

Currently, students at Palestinian universities located in Hebron are forced to attend classes in other locations due to the closures and are prevented from using libraries and laboratory facilities on their own campuses. The closure delays completion of courses and disrupted plans of students slated to graduate this year. Approximately, 2,500 students attend the Polytechnic University and about 2,000 were slated to attend classes during the summer term.

Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) wrote a letter to US President George Bush in June seeking his support for the re-opening of Hebron University as an important step on the Roadmap to Peace in the Middle East. Bush had made comments supporting Iranian student's right to demonstrate for free speech and open universities, and CPT hopes his concern extends to those students at the Palestinian Polytechnic University as well.

Christian Peacemaker Teams is an ecumenical initiative to support violence reduction efforts around the world. To learn more about CPT's peacemaking work, please visit our website at:
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Posted by: Mona Baker on Jul 18, 03 | 9:06 pm