Right to education/Birzeit twinning
This Association Notes:
That the right to education is a fundamental human right and basic to human freedom under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), which states that "Everyone has the right to education", and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), which recognizes that "Education is both a human right in itself and an indispensable means of realizing other human rights.”
That the right to an education is denied to millions across the globe as a result of economic hardship, political repression and social (including gender) discrimination.
That the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (hereafter 'the Fourth Geneva Convention'), to which the State of Israel and the United Kingdom are both signatories, compels occupying powers to guarantee the rights of the occupied population including, under Article 50, the right to a functioning educational infrastructure.
That the Palestinian population's right to an education has been radically curtailed as a result of the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian Territories: Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Israel's separation and isolation of Palestinian areas by the wall inside the West Bank (ruled to be illegal by the International Court of Justice), around 700 military roadblocks and checkpoints, frequent closures of cities, prolonged curfews, and extensive restrictions on the movement of all Palestinians, prevents thousands of students and teachers from reaching their schools and universities.
Over one third of the Palestinian population are students in full-time school or university education; and that in spite of the systematic attacks on educational institutions over 38 years of the Israeli occupation, Palestinian education and higher education remain resilient.
73 educational institutions have been partially or fully destroyed in the Gaza Strip since September 2000, including kindergartens, schools, and a teacher training college which was completely demolished on16 March 2004.
Over 700 children, 200 university students and 39 teachers have been killed by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) since September 2000 and that 117 Israeli minors have been killed during the same period, 81 of them within Israel proper.
Over 3,000 Palestinian children have been arrested by the IDF since September 2000 and that some 300 children are currently held in Israeli prisons and detention centers.
On April 3rd 2002 IDF forces invaded the Palestinian Ministry of Education destroying valuable computer equipment as well as the records kept pertaining to the one million Palestinian children the Ministry served; no justification in terms of military necessity was given.
That Palestinian university students and staff are faced with particular obstacles to participating in education.
Palestinians are not permitted to travel between the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in order to attend university, in violation of the right recognized under international law to travel freely within a territory.
That 8 out of the total 11 universities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have been shelled or broken into by the IDF since September 2000.
That Birzeit University, near Ramallah in the West Bank, is the only Palestinian University located outside of 'Area A'- those heavily populated areas of the Palestinian Territories over which the Palestinian Authority gained broad control under the Oslo II agreement of 1995 and that, with most students and staff living several miles away in Ramallah, this makes the Birzeit University particularly subject to arbitrary interference and obstruction from the IDF.
That over 50% of the student body at Birzeit University are women.
Birzeit University was sealed off by an Israeli Army roadblock for nearly 3 years between 2001-2003; and that today the road to Birzeit remains subject to frequent 'flying checkpoints', which block, harass and intimidate students and faculty trying to reach the University.
That Birzeit University has been closed down by Israeli military order 15 times in its history; and that all the Palestinian universities and the majority of schools, including kindergartens, were closed down by military order between the years 1987-1992, denying a whole generation their right to education.
That 2 presidents of Birzeit University Student Council were imprisoned in 2004 and 4 out of the total 11 members of the Student Council were imprisoned in the same year; and that there are currently some 107 students from Birzeit University held in Israeli prisons and detention centers, 10 of whom are held without charge or trial, including human rights worker and sociology student, Ziyad Hmeidan.
On November 18th 2004 four Birzeit students were arrested without charge, held for three days during which they reported being beaten, interrogated, and then deported to Gaza.
That the Birzeit Student Council (BSC) conduct elections under the banner "a model for Palestinian Democracy", representing their commitment to the free and open exchange of ideas.
Birzeit University's mission statement reads: " Birzeit University strives to promote excellence in higher education by providing quality academic teaching, training, research and relevant community programs within the context of sustainable development, emphasizing social conscience and democratic values in a free civil Palestinian society."
That Birzeit University has extensive experience in hosting international students through both its year long Palestine and Arabic Studies Programme and its two-week volunteer placements.
The right to education, as a fundamental human right, applies equally to both Israelis and Palestinians and that Israeli students also suffer as a result of the Israeli government’s policies of occupation and militarization.
Birzeit University coordinates and administers a ‘Right to Education’ campaign that seeks to promote the idea of education as a right and to draw attention to the affront on that right perpetrated by the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian Territories.
Birzeit Student Council are committed to fulfilling the objectives outlined in the present motion.
Students studying Arabic at Edinburgh University can undertake their compulsory Arabic abroad studies at Birzeit University, but that the situation at Birzeit University makes this extremely difficult.
Stirling University’s students’ association recently voted, in a referendum, to affiliate to the ‘Right to Education’ campaign and to Twin Stirling University with Birzeit University.
That nothing in the present motion entails EUSA or the University of Edinburgh supporting an academic or other boycott of any country or institution.
Birzeit’s record is, historically, one of non-violent activism and outstanding pro-democracy work.
That in the recent student council elections a group affiliated to Hamas came second.
This Association Believes:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (above) are correct in ascribing access to education the status of a fundamental human right.
It is the responsibility of governments, civil society organizations and ordinary people to defend the universal right to education and to demand its realization and that this responsibility falls all-the-more acutely upon institutions of higher education.
That the obstruction and attacks on Palestinian education in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by the illegal Israeli occupation not only violate the human rights of individuals, but are an attack on the development of Palestinian society as a whole; they represent a massive curtailment of Palestinian rights that is in no way justified by military necessity.
That under the Fourth Geneva Convention, given the articles relating to the obligations of an occupying power and the rights of an occupied population, it is incumbent upon the occupying force to ensure the rights of the occupied population, including the right to education, are not adversely affected.
There is no legal or moral basis to the claim that the Palestinian Territories are not 'occupied' by the IDF in the sense intended by the Fourth Geneva Convention and therefore it is incumbent upon the State of Israel to guarantee the rights of the Palestinian population living under their control, including the right to education; this obligation not mitigated by claims of military necessity pursuant to the security or rights of those parts of the Israeli population transferred into the territories occupied, as it is stipulated explicitly under Article 48 that the occupying power must not transfer its any part of its civilian population into the territories occupied.
Given [the] above, IDF policy vis-à-vis the Palestinian education system constitutes a massive, systematic war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention to which both the State of Israel and the United Kingdom are signatories.
The prospects for a just and peaceful resolution to the conflict in Israel/Palestine would be greatly enhanced were academic freedom and the unimpeded access to places of education to exist for both Palestinians and Israelis.
That Birzeit Student Council, in virtue of both their hardships and their democratic practices, represents an ideal organization for EUSA to foster links with to inaugurate a broad right to education campaign.
That Birzeit University , given its predicament, experience in hosting international students and commitment to academic freedom, represents an ideal institution for the University of Edinburgh to foster links with.
That institutions like Birzeit University are central to the creation of a vibrant, peaceful and prosperous Palestinian civil society.
That the options available to Edinburgh University students studying abroad on compulsory course components are a core concern of this Association.
That by forging links with Birzeit we provide the support and the solidarity to allow the values of a free, democratic civil society as espoused by Birzeit’s mission statement – to flourish and that continued isolation for Birzeit does not serve the interests of Israelis or Palestinians.
A twinning would provide a forum for an open and frank exchange of views between members of the respective universities.
This Association Resolves:
To embrace its responsibility (above) to support, where possible, the right to education globally.
To seek to foster links with universities and their relevant student bodies whose capacity to provide an education to its students and enhance the academic, cultural and social life of its community is marginalized as a result of economic hardship and/or political repression.
To encourage and support interested societies that will undertake the fundraising and collection of money for the activities outlined in [below], and any other activities linked to the motion.
To host a "Right to Education" week in conjunction with interested societies that aims to raise awareness about the obstacles to education faced by students and would-be students around the globe.
To affiliate, at no cost, to the Right to Education Campaign at Birzeit University as a public show of solidarity and support to all Palestinian students and teachers who are struggling to live, work and study under occupation.
To commit to hosting the Birzeit students photo exhibition, ideally during the week outlined [above].
To screen films relating to the Right to Education campaign.
To raise awareness within this union and beyond, particularly within the National Union of Students, about the issues facing Palestinian education under military occupation.
To affiliate, at no cost, to Friends of Birzeit University, a registered British charity, and support its work for Birzeit University and Palestinian education.
To make space and facilities available for the Friends of Birzeit University in London to hold a Scottish recruitment and interview day for the Volunteer placement and the Palestine and Arabic Studies Programme.
To help facilitate, where feasible, Friends of Birzeit University’s fundraising and political lobbying.
To publicly condemn attacks on Palestinian education and to lobby the elected representatives of our own government to pressure the government of Israel to adhere to its legal obligations to end attacks on civilian infrastructure and to allow unimpeded access for all Palestinians to their places of study.
To twin EUSA with BSC with the aim of increasing awareness and mutual understanding between the respective student bodies and to provide support to students at Birzeit in their struggle to gain a university education
Encourage dialogue and other forms of interaction between students.
Take steps in coordination with BSC pursuant to [below].
To send a delegation to Birzeit and host a delegation from Birzeit.
To extend the rights afforded to Scottish students visiting EUSA venues to students matriculated at any Palestinian university.
To lobby the University of Edinburgh to adopt a formal, active and robust twinning arrangement with the Birzeit University, including but not limited to:
The adoption, where feasible, of exchanges of both students and staff between the two universities and a commitment by the University to seek funding for any such programme.
A commitment of support should either university have its capacity to educate its students and to advance learning within its society marginalized or threatened by political and/or military policy.
Passed at the November 2005 General Meeting