Police Prevent Harvard Students From Touring Separation-fence Route

Border policemen yesterday removed a group of 55 Harvard University students from a spot along the route of the separation fence near the village of Walaje, south of Jerusalem.

The Border Police said that the students were removed because the bus that brought them to the site had used a road meant for security vehicles only.

"They came with a Palestinian bus and approached the fence with it," the statement continued. "This is a violation in every sense. However, the students were not detained for questioning, only distanced from the area."

The students' guide, Shireen al-Araj, a local anti-fence activist, was detained and questioned, but was released after several hours on bail of several thousand shekels.

"We were on our way to one of the houses that is slated for demolition because of the fence," Araj said. "At first we were on the bus, I showed them the area, and then we got off.

"Security guards from a private company that guards the bulldozers approached us and told us that we weren't allowed to be there because it's a closed military zone, even though the High Court of Justice has already determined that this specific place is not," she continued.

According to Araj, the security guards called the border policeman, who started to argue with the students.

"The students' supervisor tried to talk the commander into letting us pass, but he just yelled at him, sent four armed soldiers onto the bus, and ordered it out [of the village] to the checkpoint," she said. Two jeeps escorted the bus out of the village."

"I conduct such tours almost every day with different groups," Araj said. "Nothing like this has ever happened before."

The students, who attend Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, had come to Israel on an annual trip sponsored by a group called the Palestine Caucus, which is active on campus.

The tour's coordinator, who did not want to be identified, said, "The soldiers didn't really try to communicate with us; they just issued instructions. The students didn't know where they were being taken. They did not resist or violate any instruction."

News of the students' "arrest" appeared almost immediately on the website of the Harvard Crimson, the university's student paper, but the story was corrected once university officials made contact with the tour leaders.