Longer odds for Palestine

January 14, 2010

Bahram Bekhradnia's account of his experiences as an observer of Palestinian universities,"Battered but unbowed" (31 December), concludes by acknowledging the "extraordinary determination" of those involved in the Palestinian academy to make the system work against the odds. He and other readers will want to note that the odds have considerably lengthened with the recent deportation of fourth-year Bethlehem University student Berlanty Azzam.

Only a few months away from completing her bachelors degree in business administration, Azzam was on her way to a job interview in the West Bank on 28 October 2009 when she was held at an Israeli checkpoint for six hours without explanation before being handcuffed, blindfolded and deported to Gaza by the Israeli military.

Like an estimated 25,000 other Palestinians in the West Bank, the identity card she is always obliged to carry states that she was born in Gaza. She had chosen to study, perfectly legally, in the West Bank because Bethlehem offered the course she wanted to take.

Regardless of all the petitions filed in Israeli courts, the appeals on compassionate and humanitarian grounds and the fact that she has not been accused of being a security threat and has committed no crime, this 21-year-old is not being allowed to finish her degree.

Forced deportation according to place of birth marks a drastic shift in the odds against all those involved in Palestinian universities.

Allan Owens, University of Chester.

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