The UK’s Cambridge University has decided to discontinue its study abroad program in the West Bank after students complained about mistreatment by Israeli authorities.
Students told the administration that they had been deported from Israel and harshly questioned by Israeli security while attempting to enter the country en-route to study in the Ramallah-based Birzeit University. As a result, Cambridge decided to remove the Palestinian territories from its list of optional locations in which to study Arabic.
According to a report in the Evening Standard on Monday, five students faced difficulties when landing at Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel-Aviv over the course of the 2016/17 academic year.
The Standard reported that one student, Cleodie Rickard, 21, was questioned for 6 hours and then deported; she is currently banned from entering Israel. “I did nothing wrong,” said Rickard. “But, once they realized I might be spending time in the West Bank, their whole approach to me just flipped.”
She claimed that the people questioning her cursed her and told her that this land [Israel] is “theirs.”
Other students from universities in the US, Australia and elsewhere – reported similar stories. The Standard claimed that the trouble stemmed from Israel’s refusal to grant student visas to those wishing to study in the Palestinian university, supposedly forcing the students to lie.
A Cambridge University spokesman said that while this is “regrettable,” the university has a duty to ensure that students can complete their year of studying abroad before they enter their final year.
The same Cambridge policy was enacted regarding study in Syria back in 2011, when the civil war in that country made it impossible for Cambridge students to attend classes at Damascus University.