West Bank clampdown hits Palestinian campuses

September 21, 2001

Israel reacted to last week's attack on the United States with what Palestinians claim was an unprecedented clampdown on the West Bank, including its academic institutions.

Bir Zeit University was prevented from starting its academic year last Saturday due to a "total blockage" near the university, according to Albert Aghazarian, its director of public relations.

"Since the attacks, there has been a clampdown on the movements of Palestinians across the West Bank, the like of which has not been seen since 1967. The area (around the university) has been totally blocked since Monday."

Mr Aghazarian admitted that some Palestinians rejoiced after the terrorist attacks in New York last week. He said that Israel has to "end the occupation and return to the 1967 borders".

Due to the Jewish new year, Israeli officials were unavailable for comment. However, David Nordell, an analyst and consultant who has worked on economic and humanitarian projects with the Palestinians, said: "Claims (of a clampdown) are absurd demagoguery. Palestinian universities have always produced a relatively high number of participants in suicide and other terror attacks on Israeli civilians, and considering that Israel has clear intelligence information that bin Laden has been trying to recruit terror cells among Palestinians and Israeli Arabs, and the extensive support among the Palestinian public for last Tuesday's attack, it is only natural for Israel to implement extremely strict security measures on freedom of movement.

"If it turns out that all this fear of Palestinian students wanting to become martyrs is unfounded, then life will get back to normal."

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