Jerusalem checkpoint
A Palestinian man passes through a gate at the Qalandiyah checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem on March 29, 2010. Photo by AP
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The Shin Bet security service is trying to recruit Palestinian medical students as a condition for granting them entry permits to Jerusalem, according to two medical students at Al-Quds University pursuing internships in Palestinian university hospitals in the city.

The two students told Haaretz that a "Captain Biran" who said he was the Shin Bet agent responsible for monitoring the university told them to report on other students and their activities as a condition for renewing their entry permits. After both refused, they were effectively prevented from choosing a residency specialty and continuing their medical training.

The Shin Bet said in response that the two students' entry permits had not been renewed for security reasons. The agency did not refer to the students' allegations that agents tried to blackmail them in exchange for renewing their permits.

A. and T., both 23, are fifth-year medical students at Al-Quds University in the village of Abu Dis near East Jerusalem. The medical faculty is affiliated with some of the oldest and largest hospitals in Jerusalem - including Augusta Victoria Hospital and Al-Makassed Islamic Charitable Society Hospital.

Between 170 and 200 students of medicine, nursing and physiotherapy need entry permits to enter Jerusalem. Al-Makassed files requests to Civil Administration authorities stationed in the settlement of Beit El, and after the Shin Bet grants permission, Administration officials issue permits valid for between three and six months.

After beginning their medical internships in September 2008, A. and T. were granted entry permits. Until June 2009, T. pursued his residency in various Jerusalem hospitals and passed through checkpoints daily. But after his pilgrimage to Mecca, T.'s entry permit was not renewed, and the Civil Administration told him to meet with a Shin Bet coordinator. In late June, he said, he had his first meeting with Biran.

Biran asked T. if he was willing to "help" him by monitoring fellow students and activities at the Al-Quds campus. T. said he had no time because of his heavy workload.

The student said Biran threatened that the Shin Bet could "interfere with your ability to finish your studies," but that if he acceded to its request, the agency would "even grant you entry to Hadassah," the prestigious medical center within the borders of pre-1967 Jerusalem.

A. first met Biran in March of this year. On February 28, his entry permit to Jerusalem was confiscated at Zeitim checkpoint outside East Jerusalem. Soon he too was sent to meet with Biran at the checkpoint.

A. was told that his entry permit had been seized because "some illegal things were found in your bag." A. said Biran told him, "If you want to get your permit back, talk to me. If not, go." The student said he was instructed to report to the Shin Bet about students traveling abroad. A. too turned the agent down.

M., a student from the Nablus area, is also in her fifth year of medical studies at Al-Quds. Her entry permit to Jerusalem was also confiscated at Zeitim checkpoint in September 2009, shortly after she had returned from a visit to the United States.

The Shin Bet told Haaretz in response that "the three individuals are welcome to make contact, once a year, with military officials responsible for granting entry permits to Israel to request that their files be reviewed again. Those requests will be examined by the relevant security authorities."

The three students have been in contact with the Tel Aviv-based advocacy group Physicians for Human Rights, with which they are considering how to proceed.