Bir-Zeit University Press Release (June 2, 2002)

Education Denied

On May 29, 2002 the Israeli Occupation Forces once again implemented the illegal policy of closure on the Ramallah-Birzeit Road prohibiting thousands of students, faculty and staff from reaching Birzeit University. Since March of 2001, the Israeli occupation forces have systematically attempted to totally disrupt the educational process at Birzeit University by digging up trenches, erecting dirt hills, and placing military checkpoints that have partially or totally blocked pedestrian and vehicular traffic on the Ramallah-Birzeit Road. Israeli soldiers at the "Surda Military Checkpoint" on the Road have contravened all forms of human rights by arbitrarily shooting tear gas, sound bombs, rubber bullets and live ammunition at University community members and the inhabitants of the 35 villages and towns surrounding Birzeit, including children, the elderly and the disabled, attempting to cross the checkpoint.

The Ramallah-Birzeit Road connects between the Palestinian city of Ramallah and its surrounding Palestinian villages and towns. As such, the closure of this Road does not serve any "security" purpose as is claimed by the Israeli government. The only purpose for the checkpoint and closure of this road is to deny access to the University, destroy the economic and social infrastructure of Palestinian society, humiliate the Palestinian civilian population, deny them access to humanitarian relief, and impede their ability to survive.

By closing the road to Birzeit University the Israeli government is attempting to incapacitate Palestinian society by halting the educational and developmental process. Birzeit University is facing major delays in completing the second semester, entailing the inability of hundreds of students to graduate. Furthermore, as a direct result of the Israeli closures and ongoing Israeli occupation the University is facing major financial difficulties and is being isolated from the local, regional and international academic world.

The Israel's arbitrary and extreme use of violence against the Palestinian civilian population, the denial of access to food, social and health services, work and schools, the deliberate attempts to disrupt the Palestinian cultural, educational, and social institutions and organizations, including the continuous forced closure of Birzeit University, are all violations of international law including the Fourth Geneva Convention. These violations show a total disregard for Palestinian rights and for the legitimacy of the international community and international law, declarations and resolutions.

The University demands an immediate end to the repressive illegal policy of closure. We call on the international community to express, in the strongest terms, their condemnation of the massive Israeli human rights violations against the Palestinian predominantly civilian population and to support Palestinians' rights to education, development, and life.

Fact Sheet:

Effects of Occupation and Israeli violent aggression on Birzeit University September 2001 - May 2, 2002

1. Scores of students and staff arrested. Some were detained only temporarily. Others are still being held. 2. University dormitories and building raided. 3. Beating of University personnel and using one staff member as a human shield. 4. Electronic Forms of communication disabled 5. Students stranded without food or money in the town of Birzeit. 6. The occupation by the Israeli army of staff and faculty member's houses.
September 30 - October 8, 2001 Classes suspended due to outbreak of violence. Classe reconvened on October 9.
October 12, 2001 Bombing of the Palestinian Police station in Ramallah in the middle of the day creates caos on campus as thousands of students, staff and faculty are stranded in Birzeit for several hours. Classes suspended until October 28.
March 7, 2001 Israel Occupation Army digs up two trenches on the Ramallah- Birzeit road. Birzeit University and 33 other villages with a population of about 65,000 are completely cut off from the outside world. In addition to the trenches, the Israeli army broke water pipes and cut off the telephone lines, prohibiting any kind of communication between the residents and with the outside world.
March 10, 2001 Birzeit University decided to suspend its operations Saturday, to protest the siege that has been imposed on the University and its neighboring villages since March 7.
March 12, 2001 Over 1000 people, amongst them politicians, officials, academics, staff and students of Birzeit University hold a peaceful march on the Ramallah- Birzeit road and fill in the trenches that were dug up. Israeli soldiers fire tear gas, sound bombs and shoot at the marchers to try to disperse them. One man was killed and scores were injured and transported to hospitals. Israeli army sent in bulldozers to reopen the trenches.
March 19, 2001 After a month's delay, the second semester starts. However, major conjestion on the Surda checkpoint (erected on the Ramallah- Birzeit road) and travel restrictions greatly affects students and staff access to the Univesrity.
April, May and June 2001 Continued travel restrictions greatly impede the progress of the semester with the road being partially or totally closed off at various times. Many study days are lost. At times, the BZU Community and residents of the surrounding villages are forced to walk through the valley, at other times individuals are stranded on one side or the other, either unable to get home or to get to work or school. On May 19, June 5, June 6 classes were suspended due to total closures of the road.
June 9, 2001 A peaceful demonstration is held to open the Ramallah- Birzeit road. The Israeli occupation forces fire tear-gas canisters and rubber coated steel bullets at over one thousand unarmed Palestinian students, faculty, staff and supporters of Birzeit University. A young female protestor was shot in the leg. Also, in response to the peaceful march Israel soldiers erect two additonal checkpoints on the road. Bashar Hijjeh, a senior student and former head of the student council at Birzeit University is arrested in his house in Burqa near Nablus.
June 12, 2001 Classes are resumed.
June 13, 2001 Hundreds of Birzeit University students and staff stranded in Birzeit with no means of returning to their homes as a result of the Israeli occupation forces closing off the Ramallah-Birzeit Road to pedestrian crossing. Those who attempt to cross on foot, are shot at by the Israeli forces using rubber-coated steel bullets, sound bombs and tear-gas canisters and are forced to traverse the rocky valley, randomly being shot at by the occupation forces.
June 28, 2001 Three Birzeit University students are arrested at the checkpoint on the Ramallah-Birzeit Road, making 11 the number of students arrested since the beginning of the Intifada on September 28, 2000.
8 August 2001 The Israeli occupation forces have in recent days driven up to the Birzeit University campus harassing and intimidating the staff and students.
September 17, 2001 Birzeit University students, staff and faculty, alongside hundreds of commuters coming from Ramallah to Birzeit are stranded at the Israeli occupation checkpoint on the Ramallah-Birzeit road. Only after the University administration persuaded the Israeli army to allow the people to pass did the Israelis open the roadblock, and then only for individuals holding a BZU ID.
September 18, 2001 An Israeli soldier released a sound bomb at close range at staff members of Birzeit University. The bomb hit and broke the leg of the University's Senior Information Officer, Dalia Habash, who was forced to wear a full leg cast for over three months.
October 2, 2001 Around 2000 students, staff and faculty from Birzeit University along with other officials from various Palestine Authority Ministries and non-governmental organization and inhabitants from the surrounding villages, hold a peaceful march toward the Israeli checkpoint on the Ramallah-Birzeit Road demanding the removal of the checkpoint and the opening of the road leading to the University and the 35 surrounding villages.
16 October 2001 For the first time in over five months, Birzeit University staff, faculty and students are able to travel between Ramallah and Birzeit without being stopped, humiliated, or harassed by Israeli soldiers manning the checkpoint that was erected along the road last May.
17 October 2001 Less than 48 hours after evacuating the Surda checkpoint on the Ramallah-Birzeit Road, the Israeli occupation forces re-instated the checkpoint. The checkpoint remained totally closed for over three weeks during which the Israeli army had occupied part of Ramallah.
November 8, 2001 The Israeli occupation forces withdraw from Ramallah on November 7, thus ending the three-week siege that prohibited all access to the University. Birzeit University resumes classes.
January 11, 2002 Birzeit University student seriously assaulted by three Israeli soldiers at the Surda Checkpoint outside Ramallah.
January 19, 2002 American Professor at Birzeit Faces threat of deportation after being detained in Ben Gurion Airport
February 19, 2002 Two Birzeit University students are arrested on their way from the University to Ramallah. The students are handcuffed, blindfolded, beaten and stamped on by the Israeli occupation forces, and then put in the military vehicles to be transported.
February 21, 2002 Again, the Israeli occupation forces dig up the road at the Surda checkpoint on the Ramallah-Birzeit Road, creating a trench across the road half a meter deep and a meter wide, and making vehicular traffic completely impossible.
March 5, 2002 BZU Starts Spring Semester Despite Road Difficulties
March 13, 2002 Birzeit University closed due to latest Israeli incursion of Ramallah
March 18, 2002 Birzeit University Resumes Operations
March 29 - April 21, 2002

Total Occupation of Ramallah entails a curfew on all Ramallah residents, massive destruction of Ramallah roads, buildings and utilities, mass arrests, killing and beating of Palestinians. Effects on Birzeit University include:

  1. Scores of students and staff arrested. Some were detained only temporarily. Others are still being held.
  2. University dormitories and building raided.
  3. Beating of University personnel and using one staff member as a human shield.
  4. Electronic Forms of communication disabled
  5. Students stranded without food or money in the town of Birzeit.
  6. The occupation by the Israeli army of staff and faculty member's houses.
April 23, 2001 The University resumes operations. Only a handful of staff and faculty reach the University.
May 7, 2002 We hope to resume classes. For most universities around the world, the spring semester is coming to an end. We are only getting started.