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No Palestinian Commencement

MAIL

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

To the Editors of The Crimson:

On June 7, 1600 Harvard-Radcliffe seniors will receive their hard-earned college diplomas. Like most American college students, we take for granted the inevitability of a diploma at the end of four years of study.

Some students are not so fortunate. Palestinian students of the West Bank and Gaza Strip have not been able to complete work toward their college degrees for the past two years. Since the beginning of the Palestinian uprising against Israeli military occupation in December 1987, Israeli authorities have periodically closed Palestinian colleges and universities, as well as primary and secondary schools.

While the schools and colleges have finally been reopened, all six universities remain closed. Professors and students have been harassed and imprisoned without formal charge or trial, and efforts to provide alternative home education have been squelched by the Israeli military.

Israeli authorities have justified their actions as a response to security concerns, claiming that educational institutions were centers of rebellion against the occupation. The closure of schools, however, has not inhibited organizing for the uprising, but rather has angered students who are deprived of their basic right to education. Furthmore, Shmuel Goren, a senior official of the Israeli occupation, has admitted that where the reopening of schools has been permitted there has been no increase in violence.

So long as college and university students cannot finish their studies, they are unable to serve much-needed functions in their society. Yet the most damaging effects have been to the youngest students who, deprived of education in their critical years, remain illiterate and may suffer irreversible impairment of their cognitive abilities. Certain educational specialists have projected that these children will ultimately be incapable of benefitting from higher education. The future social and economic integrity of Palestinian society is at stake.

This Jewish community prides itself on being a "people of the book." As Jews, we are alarmed and saddened to see Jewish Israelis deny books to others. As Palestinians, we see the future of our people crumbling under occupation and illiteracy. As Americans, we are disturbed to see our tax dollars used to support this policy.

This spring, the Progressive Jewish Alliance and Society of Arab Students joined together in a campaign to bring the issue before the Harvard community. Thus far, more than 500 students and 130 professors have signed a petition decrying the closure of universities and urging the Israeli government to reopen them. Letters to this effect will be sent to both the Israeli government and the U.S. Department of State.

The Israeli military is reportedly considering reopening the Palestinian universities in response to pressure from the European Community and the United States. We must continue to exert such pressure until the universities are reopened. As American students, we join in solidarity with Palestinian students who are being denied what we today celebrate--the tools and skills with which to enrich our lives and serve our societies. Sarinah V. Kalb '88-'90   Progressive Jewish Alliance   Rhoda A. Kanaaneh '92   Society of Arab Students

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