[I post the following not so much as a critique of the situation in Israel as a precautionary concern for us here in the U.S.  I all too well recall the exclusion of various groups within the United States — the quotas limiting Jewish students and near total exclusion of Jewish faculty at Yale when I was an undergrad there in the mid-1950s — against which I editorialized.  I found the same anti-Semitism at Vassar College when I started teaching there in the mid-1960s.

Again I found that the City University of NY (CUNY) was excluding both minority students (African American and Latino) and blue collar ethnics (Irish, Italian, etc.) when I was living in Harlem as a graduate student at Columbia (I could get students by then into Yale who were excluded from CCNY!).  There I worked for J. Raymond Jones (the “Harlem Fox” and  powerful Democratic leader) to open up CUNY where I returned to do the bulk of my teaching variously at Hunter, CCNY and Brooklyn College.

I wonder now whether ‘Homeland Security’ will start the exclusion process all over again?  We have had a touch of exclusion at CUNY of the groups mentioned above as previously restricted and one hears of bars to students and faculty from overseas who are crudely labeled as ‘security risks’ — highly respected scholars who are denied entrance to the country to attend general academic conferences.  And watch the Minute Men


and FIRE


contingents at work to exclude respectively Latinos and Muslims.

The U.S. has an ugly history of attacks on selected disfavored groups.  We only placed our Japanese Americans in concentration camps during WW2 (with expropriation of their properties).  But one third of those nearly 3,000 lynched during the early 20th century were new immigrants and Jews, not African Americans.

Sadly, the exclusionary processes and violations of due process rights initiated in South Africa (preventive detention) and then emulated in Israel, have most recently been practiced by the Bush administration with its Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and domestic anti-Muslim gulag practices.

They said it could not happen here, but …?  Ed Kent]


By Joel Greenberg, Chicago Tribune, October 27, 2006

ANATA, West Bank — With her retiring manner, Sawsan Salameh seems an
unlikely person to challenge the Israeli security authorities.

But after she was refused entry to Israel to pursue a doctorate at the
Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Salameh, 29, went to court in a case
that has focused attention on a ban that bars new Palestinian students
from Israeli universities.

Salameh was accepted this year with a full scholarship for doctoral
studies in theoretical chemistry at the Hebrew University, whose science
campus is a 20-minute drive from her home in the village of Anata. But
because she lives in the West Bank, she cannot enter Israel without a
permit, like most Palestinians.

Her repeated applications for entry were turned down as part of the ban
on newly enrolled Palestinian students, which Israeli officials say has
been imposed for security reasons.

“I was surprised and angry,” Salameh said. “I thought my dream had ended
and that there was nothing I could do.”

A request directed to the authorities by Salameh’s adviser, professor
Raphael Levine of the Hebrew University, also failed to produce results.
An acquaintance put her in touch with an Israeli human-rights group,
Gisha, which works to ease army restrictions on Palestinians’ freedom of

Gisha joined Salameh in petitioning Israel’s Supreme Court to overturn
the entry ban, and the court recommended last week that the state
negotiate with her lawyers to allow her entry on a limited basis to
pursue her studies. But the state has yet to respond, and on Wednesday
it asked for a two-week extension.

The Gisha lawyers argued for a repeal of the sweeping ban on entry by
new Palestinian students and a return to the practice of examining
permit applications on an individual basis.

Gisha asserted that by denying Salameh entry, when there are no doctoral
programs at Palestinian universities in the West Bank, Israel is
violating its obligation under international law to allow normal
civilian life in areas it occupies.

“Israel should not be preventing Palestinian students from studying just
because they are Palestinians,” said Sari Bashi, director of Gisha and
one of the lawyers representing Salameh.

Israeli state representatives argued to the court that responsibility
for education in the West Bank lies with the Palestinian Authority, not

Lt. Adam Avidan, the spokesman for the Civil Administration, the Israeli
military government in the West Bank, said that students are not being
targeted by the ban but that they are part of an age group that has been
designated as a potential security risk. Profiling of possible attackers
has led to a general ban on entry by unmarried Palestinians ages 16 to 35.

Security situation

“The decision was taken because of the deterioration of the security
situation in recent years,” Avidan said, referring to Palestinian
suicide bombings and other deadly attacks during the uprising that broke
out in 2000. Some of the suicide bombers have been women.

But the state has not claimed in court that Salameh is a security risk,
and one of the justices, Elyakim Rubinstein, suggested that because the
potential number of Palestinian doctoral candidates seeking to study in
Israel is limited, exceptions could be made. The judge expressed concern
that the sweeping ban could hurt chances for Israeli-Palestinian

Bashi said that three other Palestinian students seeking to study in
Israel have approached Gisha and that the ban is having a chilling
effect on potential applicants and institutions.

Currently there are 14 Palestinians studying in Israeli universities and
they will continue to receive entry permits, Avidan said. Before the
outbreak of the uprising, significantly higher numbers of Palestinians
studied in Israel.

Levine, Salameh’s adviser, said that the new ban was targeting precisely
the Palestinians with whom Israel should be seeking contact.

“I would call it counterproductive,” he said in a telephone interview
from Los Angeles, where he is teaching at UCLA. “We should be doing the
opposite, looking for whoever we can to build a bridge to. It’s also not
in the spirit of what a university is, or the tradition of the Jewish
people, that puts such a high value on learning.”

Top officials of six Israeli universities have written to Defense
Minister Amir Peretz, asking him to cancel the student entry ban and to
examine each case individually. Similar appeals have been made by the
ministers of education and science.

Helping girls, women

Salameh is a science teacher and an elected member of the local council
in Anata, where she is establishing a center to provide study help for
girls and vocational training for women. She says her hope is that after
earning a doctorate she could teach at a Palestinian or even Israeli
university, a significant step at a time when there are few female
professors at Palestinian academic institutions.

Allowing Palestinian students to study in Israel could help counter the
negative effects of the conflict between the two sides, Salameh said.

“Academic communication could increase understanding and help the
political situation,” she said. “We only see Israeli soldiers, not
ordinary people and academics, and this would be good for both of us,
Palestinians and Israelis. It would be a chance to see the Israelis’
brighter side.”

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent  718-951-5324 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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