The wrong lesson
It behooves the state to retract its decision to bar Palestinian prisoners from taking classes at the Open University as quickly as possible.
Since 2011, Palestinian prisoners have been barred from taking classes through the Open University. A government committee set up in 2009 decided that academic studies constitute "various privileges that are above and beyond what the law requires." The committee had been established as part of the state's efforts to pressure Hamas to free IDF soldier Gilad Shalit from captivity. But even though Shalit was returned, the prisoners are still being denied the opportunity to study.
In May 2012 several prisoners petitioned the Central District Court over the matter. The court realized the petition was liable to reveal the racist discrimination inherent in the decision to deny academic studies to Palestinian security prisoners, and it therefore blocked the single Jewish security prisoner who wanted to pursue such studies from doing so.
The prisoners appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court, which in late December ruled that no one has a constitutional right to academic studies. The court thus accepted the position of the state, even though its decision had been made ad hoc, as part of the effort to win Shalit's freedom.
But as Ophir Münz-Manor pointed out in Haaretz's Hebrew edition on January 4, Clause 38 of the state's response to the appeal reveals a bit more about this foolish campaign against security prisoners. This clause states that "one of the most popular courses among security prisoners at the Open University was a course on genocide. This speaks for itself."
What does the state mean exactly when it argues that "this speaks for itself"? It reflects the way it perceives the situation: From its perspective, all Palestinian prisoners are bloodthirsty terrorists, choosing a course on genocide reveals their desire to commit genocide, and the ban imposed on the prisoners is aimed at preventing mass murder.
The very fact that such an argument was made shows that the prohibition against academic studies is merely masquerading as a principled decision; in fact, it is part of the state's campaign of revenge. This is a position that undermines the fundamental values of democracy, and it behooves the state to retract it as quickly as possible.