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Jerusalem's Hebrew University is preventing a Technion student from entering the campus to borrow books from the library, citing "security reasons," despite a certificate of integrity from the police - which the student obtained at the university's request. The student and several university lecturers say he's being denied entry only because he's Arab.

Mohammed Kimri, born and raised in East Jerusalem, is a master's degree student in architecture and urban construction at the Technion. He began studying there in 1996 and understood as a research student that he was entitled to use the services of two other university libraries, and on February 6, he went to the Hebrew University at Mount Scopus and tried to clarify with the security officer at the gate what the rules are regarding entry to the campus.

No explanations

Since the bombing at the Mount Scopus cafeteria in July 2002, which turned out to have been perpetrated by a university employee, very strict regulations have been put in place concerning entry by, and checks on, people who are not students or faculty.

Kimri says he hasn't been able to obtain a clear explanation of what the regulations are and what conditions he is required to meet. He returned on February 9 with, at his own initiative, with written confirmation for the security officer. It attested to his being a student at the Technion, along with a guarantee from the Technion library that they would undertake to cover the cost if there was any damage to books borrowed by Kimri.

The security officer's secretary advised him at that point that he would not be permitted onto the campus because he does not have a reader's card. A friend of Kimri's took out a card for him (and paid for it). A library staff member confirmed in a telephone conversation that he was registered, but then the secretary informed him that "only students may enter."

He insisted on speaking with the security officer, who told him: "I had a bombing here. If Swedish people had done it, I would not admit Swedes. The guys from Silwan were nice guys, and you aren't any nicer than they were."

Nonetheless, after some discussion, the security officer told him to bring a certificate from the police. Kimri came back with one that same day. Certificate notwithstanding, he was refused entry to the campus.

Orit Soliziano of the Hebrew University spokesman's office said in response that the university' s requirements for entry to the campus have nothing to do with any particular sector of the public, Arab or Jewish, students or ordinary citizens.

The regulations for admitting visitors to the university, she said, are continually updated and will soon appear on the university's Internet site "after their promulgation has been examined and officially adopted."

She said "the only existing distinction is that between someone who has a legitimate reason to enter the university and someone who does not ... There is nothing preventing Arabs from entering the campus."

She says the certificate from the police was insufficient to enable Kimri's entry "for security reasons which cannot be discussed further." She also said it's not correct that he has the right as a bona fide student (at the Technion) to use another library.

Broken promise

Dr. Amiel Vardi of the Classics Department says it's only natural and right that students and instructors from other universities use the Hebrew University library, and vice versa. "High school students also come here to use the library," he said.

Vardi is one of the faculty members who heard about Kimri's case and became involved in trying to change the decision. Vardi and his colleagues are not persuaded that the covert security arguments merely disguise Kimri's exclusion from campus just because he's Arab.

"Why isn't he arrested and interrogated, if there's information against him? The student will undergo a body search and a search of whatever he's carrying, and will pass through a metal detector, like everyone else."

Vardi and the other faculty involved believe Kimri's non-admittance to the campus contradicts an explicit promise they received in the past from the university administration that screening at the gate would not be turned into a means of discriminating against Arabs just for being Arabs.