The Hebrew University of Jerusalem demands that Palestinian citizens of Israel who wish to visit its campuses present a character reference from the police as a condition for entrance. An email to this effect was received today by the Alternative Information Center (AIC), which was planning to host a publications stand at Hebrew University next week for the opening of the 2006-2007 academic year.
“We sent a list of AIC staff members who would be running the stand in order to arrange for their entry permits into campus,” said Yasser Akawi, Director of the AIC. “When they realized from the names that Palestinian citizens of Israel were involved, they replied with an email stating that “every participant planning to come to the university who is a minority member must bring an (official) character reference.” ‘Minority member’ is an oft-used racist term in Hebrew to refer to Palestinians.
Telephone conversations with members of Hebrew University’s security department seemingly confirmed the existence of such a directive, although repeated requests to receive a written copy of this discriminatory rule were ignored. Contact with the Student Union proved equally frustrating. Ostensibly representing all students at Hebrew University, of which approximately 10 percent are Palestinian citizens, a representative from the union expressed surprise that this racist and discriminatory directive was offensive to the AIC. “But you don’t need a reference,” exclaimed the representative to a Jewish AIC staff member calling for assistance in this matter.
An initial response from Hebrew University’s Media Relations Department noted that character references are required from Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, who are not citizens of Israel, but not from Palestinian citizens. A specific response to the aforementioned instance could not be received as department staff were leaving for the weekend.
Following intensive intervention by AIC staff, an attorney from the Palestinian legal organization Adalah and the AIC’s eventual cancellation of its planned publications stand, the sender of the aforementioned “minority member” email backpedaled, announcing that entry permits would be issued for all AIC staff members.
To counter the Palestinian and international movement to boycott Israeli universities, the Hebrew University issued a joint statement with Al-Quds University in May 2005. This statement against boycott notes that “our position is based upon the belief that it is through cooperation based on mutual respect, rather than through boycotts or discrimination, that our common goals can be achieved.” Designed to ensure the steady flow of international research funding, this statement does not necessarily reflect the daily reality at Hebrew University.