Arab League summit scheduled for Algeria in November

RAMALLAH: Palestinian scholars are expressing deep concern over new Israeli restrictions for foreign workers and students that are hampering teaching at universities.

Israeli authorities have limited the number of foreign professors and students who can reside in the West Bank and teach at its universities, Palestinian academic sources told Arab News.

Israeli sources said on March 8 that Israel would follow a strict approach to hiring foreign professors to teach at Palestinian universities in the West Bank and accepting foreign students.

Israel would only allow Palestinian universities to hire professors from abroad if they teach in specific fields and if there is a shortage of domestic academic staff.

Lecturers wishing to teach in the West Bank must also have their PhDs verified by Israeli consulates in the candidate’s home country, with authorities deciding how many lecturers will receive entry visas.

Israel will also not allow more than 150 international students into Palestinian universities and they will all have to pass an interview with the Israeli representative office in their home country.

Eight universities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem teach various academic and professional subjects. All award bachelor’s and master’s degrees, while a few award doctorates.

There are approximately 120,000 students in Palestinian universities in the West Bank, 20,000 of whom graduate each year.

“It means more policy to emphasize and restrict the possibility of bringing visiting professors who may be Palestinian but do not have residency in Palestine. Instead of giving them work visas for a year, they give them tourist visas for a period ranging from a week to a maximum of three months, and they often refuse to renew them,” said Ghassan Khatib, vice president from Birzeit University, to Arab News. .

“No visiting professor agrees to quit their job and teach at a Palestinian university without a guarantee of residency, at least for a five-month semester,” Khatib added.

Representatives of Palestinian universities said they were handicapped by these restrictions, which limit opportunities for academic exchanges around the world.

Khatib said Palestinian universities lack teaching skills due to brain drain. When a new university major is created, it struggles to find local talent to teach, so it is forced to seek the help of international lecturers.

He cited the example of former Birzeit University president Khalil Al-Hindi, who led the university for five years but had to travel abroad to renew his visa once every three month.

The new Israeli restrictions were published late last month and will take effect in May.

The new rules state that the documents of applying students and teachers must include an official invitation from the Palestinian Authority.

Primary visas will only be valid for one year, subject to extension. The maximum authorized teaching period for lecturers is five non-consecutive years. The maximum period for a student is four years until graduation.

The new Israeli procedures only apply to citizens of countries that have diplomatic relations with Israel, with the exception of Jordan, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. However, they also have diplomatic relations with Israel and their citizens can request a much shorter visit.

Birzeit University hosts between 10 and 15 visiting professors, and all of them face the problem of visa renewals, which forces some of them to leave the university.

“We need more teachers, but we can’t. When Birzeit University obtained a license to specialize in nursing seven years ago, the start of the specialization was delayed for several months due to the university’s inability to recruit teaching staff,” Khatib said.

Like Israeli universities, Palestinian universities must be allowed to supply what they lack in qualified international academic staff, Khatib said.

Suhad Bishara, legal director of the office that represents Birzeit University on this issue with the Israeli authorities, told Arab News: “Israeli restrictions limit the opportunities for Palestinian universities to benefit from various international academic experiences. These restrictions are in conflict with international law and should be lifted permanently, and allow Palestinian universities to bring in as many professors and scholars as they wish to teach in these universities.

Birzeit University has launched an international campaign to pressure Israeli authorities to lift its restrictions after suffering a lot during the 2018-2019 academic year.

Some Palestinian scholars have told Arab News that the new procedures violate the rights of Palestinians and their institutions to work according to their choice and needs to develop economic, trade and academic relations with other countries.

Comments are closed.