In the latest example of its repression of academic freedom in the occupied Palestinian territories, Israel today denied entry to Dr. Salim Vally, director of the Centre for Education Rights and Transformation at the University of Johannesburg.
Vally, renowned in South Africa as an academic, educator and human rights activist, and member of the Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC), had been invited to give several lectures in the occupied West Bank by German foundation Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, according to a PSC release.
Vally – who was turned back at the Allenby Bridge crossing between Jordan and the occupied West Bank after being detained and interrogated for five hours, humiliated and body-searched by Israeli forces – will now give his lectures via video link from Amman.
“The most painful thing about the whole episode,” Vally said, “was to witness the manner in which Palestinians returning to their homes – many older than my parents – were mistreated, harassed and humiliated by teenagers young enough to be their grandchildren.”
“Even if I had wanted to, I could not prevent memories of the apartheid days overwhelming me with a vengeance,” Vally added.
Vally’s exclusion may have been in retaliation for his outspoken advocacy of Palestinian human rights.
Other academics denied entry
Vally is not the first South African academic to be denied entry to Palestine by Israeli occupiers. In May 2011, Israel denied entry to Na’eem Jeenah, director of the Afro Middle East Centre (AMEC) in Johannesburg.
While Israel routinely denies entry to Palestinians and others such as Palestinian-American teacher Nour Joudah who was barred from returning after a 10-day visit to Jordan, these practices rarely attract international attention, except when someone of international note is caught up.
But that scrutiny has not changed the basic fact that Israel continues to severely restrict academic and other contacts between Palestinians and the outside world while complaining that it is being unjustly targeted by academic and cultural boycott.
In 2011, the University of Johannesburg’s Senate voted to end a cooperation agreement with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University in response to a campaign by supporters of the boycott.
Last year the South African government advised its citizens to avoid unnecessary travel to Israel due to its mistreatment of Palestinians.
Vally was traveling to see Palestinians rather than to visit “Israel;” however no one can visit any part of historic Palestine without passing through the occupation.
The Palestine Solidarity Committee condemned Israel’s denial of entry to Vally calling it a reminder of “how Israel continually denies Palestinians freedom of movement, the right to education, the right to dignity and the right to return to their homes.”
Palestine Solidarity Committee statement
12 March 2013
Well-known South African educationist and human rights activist, Dr Salim Vally, was today detained, interrogated and denied entry into Palestine by Israeli security forces when he attempted to enter the country from Jordan.
Dr Vally, director of the Centre for Education Rights and Transformation at the University of Johannesburg, was invited by the German foundation, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), to deliver a series of lectures in the West Bank focusing on the right to education and curriculum development.
He left Amman, Jordan, this morning on his way to Palestine but was stopped at the border and detained for five hours by Israeli border security. During this period he was interrogated, body-searched and humiliated before being ejected back to Jordan.
“The most painful thing about the whole episode,” said Vally, “was to witness the manner in which Palestinians returning to their homes – many older than my parents – were mistreated, harassed and humiliated by teenagers young enough to be their grandchildren. Even if I had wanted to, I could not prevent memories of the apartheid days overwhelming me with a vengeance.”
Salim said arrangements were being for him to deliver his lectures via video-conferencing from Amman over the next few days. ‘The Israelis do not realise that the spirit of Palestinian solidarity cannot be broken, just as the spirit of Palestinian resistance cannot be broken. Whether they deport us or imprison us, we will persevere. Palestinians call it sumud or steadfastness. It has sustained Palestinian resistance for six decades and it will see Palestinians being liberated from occupation, colonialism, apartheid and Zionist racist brutality. As we in South Africa know very well, no matter what obstacles the oppressors place in the way of the oppressed, they will make us more resolute and strengthen our commitment to make Israel a pariah state like apartheid South Africa was, through a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS).’ Instead of demoralising him, Salim said, the experience only reminded him of infinitely worse plight that many Palestinians have to endure on a daily basis.
Salim is due to remain in Jordan for the period of his lecture tour, addressing Palestinian audiences from his Jordanian hotel room, and will return home to South Africa next week.
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign condemns the deportation of Salim Vally but recognises that this simply reminds us of how Israel continually denies Palestinians freedom of movement, the right to education, the right to dignity and the right to return to their homes.