SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: July 14, 2021

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):Birzeit University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Palestine (OPT)

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On July 14, 2021, the Israeli Army detained around thirty Palestinian students, mostly from Birzeit University, after the students visited a family whose home was destroyed by the Israeli Army.

On July 8, Israeli forces demolished the home of Palestinian American Montaser Shalabi. In May 2021, Shalabi was indicted by an Israeli military court on charges relating to a drive-by-shooting attack which led to the death of an Israeli student, Yehuda Guetta, in Jerusalem. An Israeli court ordered the demolition of the home, a measure authorities claim is a deterrent to future attacks.

On July 14, students visited the destroyed Shalabi home as an expression of solidarity with the family. As the students were leaving the Turmus ‘Aya village where the home was located, their vehicles were stopped by Israeli forces. According to Birzeit University, around thirty students were detained, blindfolded, and taken to an unknown location where they were held for several hours. Several of the students were released in the days following.

Israeli forces stated that the students detained were involved in a Hamas student faction at BU, and that some of those arrested were directly involved in “terrorist activities.” Birzeit University condemned the arrests on Twitter, stating that such actions were “part of a systematic policy by the Israeli Occupation that contravenes all international laws and norms that guarantee students’ right to movement.”

As of August 5, according to Birzeit University’s lawyer, 14 students remain detained and have yet to be brought before military court hearings. 

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrest and detention of students, apparently in connection with the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and association — conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. State authorities have an obligation to refrain from retaliating against the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and association. Such actions undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.