Palestinian students, professors report harm of Israeli restrictions on campus

Special Palestinian students, professors report harm of Israeli restrictions on campus
Birzeit University hosts between 10 to 15 visiting professors, and all of them face the problem of visa renewals. (Photo: Birzeit University)
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Updated 09 March 2022

Palestinian students, professors report harm of Israeli restrictions on campus

Palestinian students, professors report harm of Israeli restrictions on campus
  • Visiting lecturers offered tourist visas with a maximum limit of three months, says university VP
  • New restrictions expected to come into force in May

RAMALLAH: Palestinian academics are reporting their deep concerns on new Israeli restrictions for foreign workers and students that are hampering teaching at universities.

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

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

Israel will reportedly only permit Palestinian universities to hire lecturers from abroad if they teach in specific fields and there is a shortage of domestic academic staff. 

Lecturers hoping to teach in the West Bank must also have their doctorates verified by Israeli consulates in the applicant’s country of origin, with the authorities deciding how many lecturers will receive entry visas.

Israel will also not allow anymore than 150 international students in Palestinian universities and they will all be required 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 vocational subjects. All award bachelor’s and master’s degrees, while a few award Ph.Ds.

There are some 120,000 students in Palestinian universities in the West Bank, with 20,000 graduating annually.

“This means more policy of stressing and restricting the possibility of bringing visiting professors who may be Palestinians but do not bear a residency in Palestine. Instead of giving them work visas for a year, they give them tourist visas for a period ranging between one week and three months as a maximum, and they often refuse to renew it,” Ghassan Khatib, vice president of Birzeit University, told Arab News.

“There is no visiting professor who accepts to leave his job and teach at a Palestinian university without a guarantee of residency, at least for a semester of five months,” Khatib added.

Representatives from Palestinian universities said that they are handicapped because of these restrictions that limit the opportunity for academic exchange around the world.

Khatib said Palestinian universities lack teaching competencies because of the brain drain. When a new university major is established, it struggles to find local talents to teach, so it is forced to seek the assistance of international lecturers.

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

The new Israeli restrictions were issued late last month and will go into effect in May.

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

Primary visas will be valid for only one year, subject to extension. The maximum teaching period allowed 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 with diplomatic relations with Israel, except for Jordan, Egypt and the UAE. However, they also have diplomatic ties with Israel and their citizens can apply for a much shorter visit.

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

“We need to get 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,” said Khatib.

Like Israeli universities, Palestinian universities must have the right to bring in what they lack in qualified international academic staff, Khatib said.

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

Birzeit University launched an international campaign to pressure the Israeli authorities to lift its restrictions after suffering heavily from them during the 2018-2019 academic year.

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

Israel says it intercepted rocket fired from Gaza Strip

Updated 31 sec ago

Israel says it intercepted rocket fired from Gaza Strip

Israel says it intercepted rocket fired from Gaza Strip
TEL AVIV, Israel: Sirens sounded in southern Israel and a rocket was intercepted from Gaza on Wednesday, the Israeli army said, as tensions soared between Palestinians and the country’s new ultranationalist government.
The army said in a statement that sirens sounded in the city of Sderot and in the area surrounding the Gaza Strip late Wednesday afternoon. The rocket, it said, was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system.
Local residents reported hearing explosions. Israel’s rescue service said it received no reports of injuries except for a 50-year-old woman who slipped and fell while running to a shelter. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the rocket.
The action in Israel’s skies Wednesday came after a spike in Israeli-Palestinian violence in recent days and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited with a call for calm.
An Israeli military raid on a militant stronghold in the West Bank city of Jenin last week killed 10, most of them militants. The next day, a Palestinian shooting attack in an east Jerusalem Jewish settlement killed seven people. A separate east Jerusalem shooting over the weekend by a 13-year-old Palestinian wounded two Israelis.
Following the unrest, Israel approved a series of punitive steps against the Palestinians, further ratcheting up tensions just as Blinken began meetings with leaders.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s national security minister, said the rocket fire from Gaza won’t stop him from implementing his punitive policies against Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons. He called for an urgent Security Cabinet meeting to discuss a response.

Lebanese currency reaches record-low value

Lebanese currency reaches record-low value
Updated 40 min 43 sec ago

Lebanese currency reaches record-low value

Lebanese currency reaches record-low value
  • Official exchange rate changed from 1,505 LBP/USD to 15,000 LBP/USD, reaching over 60,000 LBP/USD on black market
  • Council of Maronite Bishops: Lebanon on the verge of complete collapse

BEIRUT: After being pegged at 1,505 pounds to the US dollar 25 years ago, the Lebanese pound’s official exchange rate changed to 15,000 pounds to the dollar as of Wednesday.
The previous exchange rate lasted from 1998 until 2019, when the financial crisis erupted and the Lebanese currency began to gradually collapse, losing about 97 percent of its value by 2023.
The Lebanese Ministry of Finance has started charging value-added tax based on the new rate, causing confusion in the markets, as all official and unofficial transactions changed. Meanwhile, the black-market exchange rate ranges between 59,000 and 61,000 Lebanese pounds to the dollar, in the absence of any solutions by the Central Bank or the government.
Almost all services and products are now priced in US dollars: foodstuffs, medicine, gasoline, the Internet, and private generator bills. Security services seem to have given up on pursuing illegal money changers, who are now operating using secret social media groups or personally making home visits to practice their illegal exchanges.
During its monthly meeting on Wednesday, the Council of Maronite Bishops warned against the dangerous manipulation of the exchange rate on the black market, which leads to extreme price hikes, preventing most of the Lebanese people from securing their needs.
The council urged Parliament to convene and elect a new Lebanese president to end the four-month presidential vacuum.
The council further warned that Lebanon is on the verge of a complete catastrophic collapse and blamed the MPs’ reluctance to elect a president for this worsening collapse.
Over the past two days, Lebanon’s parties have been intensifying their meetings to come to an agreement on a new presidential candidate, form a government and appoint a governor for the Central Bank.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri is yet to set a new date for the presidential election session after the Progressive Socialist Party’s MPs threatened to stop attending voting sessions if Hezbollah’s MPs and their allies insist on casting blank votes.
A spiritual summit was held that included the Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs, dedicated to discussing a way to resolve the presidential crisis.
Head of the Progressive Socialist Party Walid Jumblatt said after his meeting with Berri on Tuesday evening that he is trying to find common denominators with all the parties to finally elect a new president.
“The country is abandoned, the economic situation is deteriorating, and the judicial situation is collapsing as well,” he said.
Among the candidates being discussed is Army Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun, but agreeing to elect him requires amending the constitution.
So far, no presidential candidate has the support of 65 MPs. The Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces party oppose the candidacy of Suleiman Frangieh, an ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad. However, Hezbollah supports him.
MP Michel Moussa, a member of the Parliamentary Development and Liberation Bloc, said: “The election of a president is still hampered by the vertical division in Parliament, as none of the two opposing poles is able to rally votes for its candidate.”
Moussa noted: “Berri knew from the start that this would happen, and this is why he called for dialogue, but no one responded, although everyone is well aware that the only way to start solving Lebanon’s crises is to elect a new president and form a new government that would implement reforms according to a recovery plan.”

Spain's PM heads to Morocco to reap benefits of mended ties

Spain's PM heads to Morocco to reap benefits of mended ties
Updated 01 February 2023

Spain's PM heads to Morocco to reap benefits of mended ties

Spain's PM heads to Morocco to reap benefits of mended ties
  • The visit comes 10 months after Sánchez went to meet Moroccan King Mohammed VI and put an end to a diplomatic crisis
  • Sánchez is flying south again on Wednesday and will attend a forum of business leaders from both countries in Rabat

BARCELONA, Spain: Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez travels to Rabat on Wednesday along with 12 ministers before a meeting with Moroccan government officials. This visit comes as part of the European country’s strategy to improve historically complex relations with its neighbor across the Strait of Gibraltar.
It comes 10 months after Sánchez went to meet Moroccan King Mohammed VI and put an end to a diplomatic crisis that had erupted in 2021 regarding Morocco's disputed territory of Western Sahara. During that meeting, Sánchez declared “a new phase of bilateral relations” with Morocco, an important partner with the European Union in fighting extremism and aiding the bloc's irregular migration policies.
Sánchez is flying south again on Wednesday and will attend a forum of business leaders from both countries in Rabat. On Thursday, he will sit down with Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch, a billionaire businessman who won a 2021 election and is considered close to Mohammed VI.
Sánchez’s agenda doesn't include another meeting with the Moroccan king, with whom he shared the Iftar meal to break the day’s fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan last April in the highlight of their reconciliation.
Sánchez’s office said that the prime minister instead had a phone conversation with the monarch in which they agreed that the meeting would “contribute to consolidating this new era in the relations between Morocco and Spain.” It added that Sánchez accepted the invitation by the king to make another official visit to Rabat at an unspecified date.
Moroccans make up the single largest foreign community with 800,000 residents in Spain, and important economic ties unite the neighbors which are separated by just 13 kilometers (8 miles) of water at the nearest point.
But relations between Spain and Morocco were severely damaged in May 2021 after Spain allowed the leader of the Polisario Front, which has waged a low-intensity armed rebellion seeking the Western Sahara’s independence from Morocco, to receive medical treatment for COVID-19 in Spain.
Morocco responded by relaxing its border controls around Spain’s North African exclave of Ceuta and thousands of people crossed over into the city. Tensions remained high until Sánchez did an about-face on Spain’s long-standing position on Western Sahara by backing Rabat’s proposal to give it more autonomy as long as it remains unquestionably under Moroccan control. Madrid maintains that the people of Western Sahara must decide their future via a referendum.
Sánchez paid a high price for moving closer to Morocco.
His shift on Western Sahara angered Algeria, a backer of the Polisario Front and major natural gas supplier to Spain. It was also widely criticized in Spain, which held Western Sahara as a colony until 1975, and caused friction inside Spain’s governing left-wing coalition between Sánchez’s Socialists and its junior partner. Politicians from across Spain's spectrum considered Sánchez to have betrayed the Sahrawi people of Western Sahara for very little tangible gains in return.
Now, Sánchez is aiming to reap some benefits after last year’s return to diplomatic normalcy.
This will be first meeting since 2015 with such a large delegation of ministries represented. Sánchez is taking along his ministers in charge of the economy, energy, foreign affairs, security and policing, agriculture, commerce, transport and migration, among others.
Thursday's meeting between the governments is expected to produce several agreements between ministries and to favor business growth, including the opening of customs offices at the border crossings for Ceuta and its sister exclave, Melilla, which Morocco has never officially recognized as Spanish territories. Melilla’s customs office was closed by Morocco in 2018, while Ceuta has never had one.
Spain is the largest foreign investor in Morocco, accounting for a significant chunk of all foreign investments, making economic cooperation a top priority for the Moroccan government. Morocco is Spain’s third most important non-EU commercial partner after the United States and Britain.
Morocco, in similar fashion to Turkey and other countries in north Africa, has reaped economic benefits from the EU in exchange for curbing irregular immigration to Spain. That, however, has not stopped thousands of migrants and refugees, including young Moroccans looking for a better future in Europe, from attempting a dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean, or a perilous Atlantic journey to the Canary Islands.
The frontier policing methods of both Spain and Morocco have fallen under intense scrutiny following the death of at least 23 African men, many reportedly refugees from Sudan, when they stormed a border fence at Melilla in June.
Rights group Amnesty International held a protest outside the seat of Spain’s government in Madrid on Wednesday, with cutout silhouettes of the victims of the Melilla tragedy. The rights group raises the number of deaths to 37 and says that 77 more people are still missing from the incident.
“A summit today between Morocco and Spain pretends to ignore what happened just seven months ago,” Esteban Beltrán, head of Amnesty International in Spain, said. “We want to remember that (the victims) are with us, and we want to remember the suffering of their families who have no information or a real investigation of what happened.”

Tanker breaks down in Suez Canal, but traffic not disrupted

Tanker breaks down in Suez Canal, but traffic not disrupted
Updated 22 min 9 sec ago

Tanker breaks down in Suez Canal, but traffic not disrupted

Tanker breaks down in Suez Canal, but traffic not disrupted
  • The Bahamas-flagged Grace Emilia suffered a malfunction of its rudder and tugboats pulled it to the side of the canal to allow other vessels to pass

CAIRO: A tanker transporting liquefied natural gas broke down in the Suez Canal on Wednesday but traffic in the global waterway was unaffected, a canal spokesperson said.
The Bahamas-flagged Grace Emilia suffered a malfunction of its rudder and tugboats pulled it to the side of the canal to allow other vessels to pass, said George Safwat, a spokesperson for Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority.
He told The Associated Press that the north-bound tanker stopped working in the southern part of the canal, where a two-lane waterway enables ships to transit.
Canal services provider Leth Agencies reported the incident in a Twitter post, saying vessels “can pass in both directions.”
Safwat, the spokesperson, said 68 vessels transited the canal on Wednesday. He said the canal tugs were towing the Grace Emilia to Little Bitter Lake to repair the malfunction.
Built in 2021, the Grace Emilia is 297 meters (975 feet) long and 46 meters (151 feet) wide. Its cargo tank capacity is 174,000 cubic meters.
According to VesselFinder, a vessel tracking service provider, the Grace Emilia sails between the port of Dabhol in India and Cove Point in Maryland.
Last month, a cargo ship carrying corn went aground in the canal before it was refloated to allow the resumption of traffic.
In March 2021, the Panama-flagged Ever Given, a colossal container ship, crashed into a bank on a single-lane stretch of the canal, blocking the waterway for six days.
Opened in 1869, the Suez Canal provides a crucial link for oil, natural gas and cargo. About 10 percent of world trade flows through the canal, a pivotal source of foreign currency to Egypt.

Iran says Iraq-based Kurd groups ‘involved’ in drone attack

Iran says Iraq-based Kurd groups ‘involved’ in drone attack
Updated 01 February 2023

Iran says Iraq-based Kurd groups ‘involved’ in drone attack

Iran says Iraq-based Kurd groups ‘involved’ in drone attack
  • Iranian authorities earlier reported “unsuccessful” drone attack

TEHRAN: Iran has accused Iraq-based Kurdish groups of being “involved” in a drone attack last week against a defense ministry site in the central province of Isfahan, Iranian media reported Wednesday.
“Parts of the drones that attacked the workshop complex of the defense ministry in Isfahan, along with explosive materials, were transferred to Iran with the participation and guidance of the Kurdish anti-revolutionary groups based in Iraq’s Kurdistan region,” Nour news agency said.
Iranian authorities reported an “unsuccessful” drone attack late Saturday that targeted a defense ministry “workshop complex” in Isfahan province, home to the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility.
An anti-aircraft system destroyed one drone and two others exploded, the defense ministry said, adding that there were no casualties and only minor damage to the site.
Nour charged that Kurdish groups brought the drone parts and explosive materials into Iran from “one of the hardly accessible routes in the northwest” upon “the order of a foreign security service.”
The news agency, considered close to the Islamic republic’s Supreme National Security Council, did not specify which country’s security service it accused of being behind the attack. It said the drone parts were delivered to the “service’s liaison in a border city.”
“The parts and materials have been assembled and used for sabotage in an advanced workshop by trained forces,” Nour said.
Some Western media have blamed the attack on Iran’s arch foe Israel.
Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region hosts camps and rear-bases operated by several Iranian Kurdish rebel groups, which Iran has accused of serving Western or Israeli interests in the past.
In November, Iran launched cross-border missile and drone strikes against several of the groups in Iraq, accusing them of stoking the nationwide protests triggered by the death in custody in September of Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini.