Birzeit University lies on the outskirts of the town of Birzeit, a few miles north of Ramallah. The University has a student body of over 5,000 students and over 700 faculty and staff. The overwhelming majority of the University community members reside in Ramallah and Jerusalem and their only means of reaching the University is through the Ramallah-Birzeit Road.
Since the spring of 2001, the Israeli occupation forces have been obstructing vehicular and pedestrian travel along this vital artery by various means. They have dug ditches in the road and erected barriers that have made vehicular travel physically impossible and pedestrian crossing difficult and dangerous.
The Israeli army has created a military checkpoint that arbitrarily stops individuals for hours at a time to check their identity card numbers. Many students have been stopped, beaten, humiliated, made to sit on dirt mounds, had their hands shackled and then were released. No reason is ever given by the Israeli soldiers for stopping individuals or for this ill treatment.
As such the ten minutes that it should take to travel between Ramallah and Birzeit, has stretched into hours, greatly disrupting the normal operation of the University and making the delivery of essential goods an arduous task.
The Israeli military have been continuously escalating their obstruction of travel along the road. Currently there are two barricades across the road. The distance between the first and the second is about two kilometers which has to be traversed by foot. Patients and invalids have to be carried on stretchers or wheel chairs as even ambulances are not allowed and cannot cross this blockade.
On May 29, 2002 and for the ninth time since March 2001, the Israeli military totally barred pedestrians from crossing the barricades, thus completely isolating the University and the residents of the thirty five surrounding villages in the northern part of Ramallah district from Ramallah city, which is the hub of the region.
All University operations have once again ceased; the lives of the population of the northern Ramallah district has come to a standstill. Within a short period of time, with access to health services and work denied, this critical situation will turn into a humanitarian disaster.
These escalating actions by the Israeli military serve no purpose whatsoever and are totally unjustifiable. They are a flagrant example of arbitrary collective punishment of tens of thousands of innocent civilians. Closures are clear violations of all international norms and conventions and are completely unacceptable from any point of view, be it humanitarian, political or economic.
Furthermore, Israeli claims that security requirements are the rationale for the closure of the Ramallah-Birzeit road are totally unfounded claims since this road connects directly between two Palestinian population centers.
Birzeit University has dedicated itself during the past three decades to the educational, cultural, social and economic advancement of the Palestinian people. The liberal atmosphere, respect for the individual, excellent academic standards and modern facilities have made the University a prominent force within Palestinian society.
Thousands of its graduates occupy leading positions in the public, private and non-governmental sectors in a variety of fields, which has enabled the liberal atmosphere of Birzeit to spread throughout the society. Further, Birzeit conducts various community development projects, research and training through a range of community institutes and centers that promote democracy, human rights, health, gender, the rule of law and environmental issues that positively effect governmental policy and raise community awareness.
It is thus essential that the University be allowed to resume its normal operations immediately so that it can continue to contribute to progress and prosperity which are necessary underpinnings to development, hope and a just and lasting peace. Moreover, the restoration of free travel along the Ramallah-Birzeit Road, without ditches, barriers, military checkpoints, or other impediments, would constitute an important concrete first step towards the reduction of current tensions.