Israeli Professors Slam Court Decision Keeping Security Prisoners From Studying

Claim the decision to deny these prisoners the opportunity for academic study is motivated 'by a rationale of ultranationalism and of vengeance, which contradicts the Open University's mission.'

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More than 90 faculty and staff members of Israel's Open University have issued a written condemnation of the Supreme Court's decision last month to uphold the discontinuation of the institution's study program for security prisoners.

Signatories to the declaration include the university's Vice President for Academic Affairs, Prof. Tamar Hermann, Prof. Bat-Zion Eraqi Klorman and Dr. Dafna Hirsch. "Prison walls must not be allowed to come between a prisoner and human dignity," the statements said, quoting former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak.

The authors of the protest document say the right of inmates who are classified as security prisoners to pursue academic studies was denied in the framework of efforts to secure the release of Gilad Shalit but was not restored after the former Israeli soldier's release from Hamas captivity. They say the implication is that the decision to deny these prisoners the opportunity for academic study is motivated "by a rationale of ultranationalism and of vengeance, which contradicts the Open University's mission of providing access to higher education to all interested parties, regardless of creed, race, gender or nationality."

The President of the Open University, Prof. Hagit Messer-Yaron, sent a harshly worded letter to the State Prosecutor, Moshe Lador, protesting the state's "inappropriate and infuriating" use of "Genocide, an academic course" taught in the university that is considered very popular among the security prisoners, in its response to the Supreme Court on the appeal of the ban. The response, which was written by the State Attorney's Office, noted the fact of the course's popularity among the security prisoners in the university's prison program, adding "this speaks for itself."

According to Messer-Yaron, "The course expresses a universal and ethical message, and we are proud that it is among the most popular among all students at our university," She said it provides them with information about genocide and the ability to analyze it as a historical phenomenon, while focusing on a range of genocides that occurred throughout the world in the 20th century.

Three Palestinian security prisoners filed a request on Wednesday asking the Supreme Court to revisit the issue, with an expanded panel of justices.

In late December the court rejected the prisoners' appeal of the decision to eliminate the university prison program, and ruled that it was permissible for the state to bar security prisoners, as a group, from academic studies during their incarceration.

Palestinian prisoners at the Megiddo Prison.Credit: Itzik Ben-Malki

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