How apartheid Israel stifles Palestinian education and scientific research

"Doing science in Palestine is something like a miracle, if you manage to do science.”

Yousef Najajreh

David Kattenburg writes in Mondoweiss:

An educated citizenry and advanced scientific research capacity are key drivers of sovereign national development.

No one knows this better than “Start-Up” Israel. According to one recent estimate, Israel has the third most educated population in the world (behind Canada and Japan).

As for the five million Palestinians living under permanent belligerent Israeli rule and presumptive apartheid, Israel honors this truth in the breach — systematically impeding Palestinian access to education, and the ability of Palestinian scientists to carry out research.

It’s a policy with deep roots. In a recent Ha’aretz piece, Adam Raz, from the Akevot Institute for Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Research, cites a pair of recently declassified documents. “The Arab sector must be kept as low as possible, so that nothing will happen,” said police commissioner Yosef Nachmias, at a February 1960 meeting of Israeli security chiefs.

“As long as they’re half-educated, I’m not worried,” said Shin Bet chief Amos Manor. Traditional “Arab” social structures needed to be supported, Manor elaborated, in order to “[slow] the pace of progress and development.”  At the same time, Manor pointed out, “Revolutions are fomented not by the proletariat, but by a fattened intelligentsia.” With this in mind, he advised that “all the laws must be applied, even if they are not pleasant,” and that “illegal means should be considered [by the authorities] only when there is no choice, and even then – only on condition: that there are good results.”

Manor was likely referring to Israeli domestic laws that could be used to oppress Palestinian intellectuals. He may also have had international law in mind, that would need to be flaunted. As a UN member state, Israel was obliged to abide by provisions of the 1949 Universal Declaration of Human Rights guaranteeing the right to education.

“Everyone has the right to education,” Article 26 of the Universal Declaration states. “Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.”

Six years after Manor’s comments, Israel was among the first to initial the International Covenant on Economic Social & Cultural Rights, formally acceding to the Covenant in 1991. Following its 1967 conquest of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, however, Israel took the position that the Covenant did not apply there. They lie outside sovereign Israeli territory, Israel argued, all the while extending Covenant rights to Jewish settlers in the West Bank. (Israel takes the same position on the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights).

What are those Covenant rights? Article 13(1) of the Covenant states: “The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to education.” Article 13(2)(c) states: “Higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means…” And, Article 15(3) states: “The State Parties to the present Covenant undertake to respect the freedom indispensable for scientific research and creative activity.”

The UN committee responsible for administering the Covenant has taken Israel to task for its refusal to extend Covenant rights to Palestinians.

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