History of the Campaign
The Right to Education Campaign began in the 1970s when Birzeit University started providing legal assistance to its students and staff who faced arrest and imprisonment by the Israeli occupation forces. The campaign has since expanded to include the documentation of Israeli violations and the creation of an international campaign in support of the rights and academic freedom of Palestinian students, teachers and educational institutions.
Birzeit University has been closed by military order fifteen times, the longest closure lasting four-and-a-half years (1988-1992) during the first Intifada. In this period, Israeli military orders closed all Palestinian nurseries, schools, and universities, effectively making education illegal. Students and academics risked arrest for holding classes in defiance of the military oppression, the act of carrying a textbook became sufficient grounds for interrogation and detention. In the years following the Intifada, movement became tightly controlled, students with Gazan identity cards were increasingly denied access to the West Bank.
The Oslo Process, which Palestinians hoped would result in the broadening of peace and freedom, was manipulated by Israel to further entrench these unjust systems of governance. The occupation’s stranglehold on Palestinian life grew tighter, further limiting access to education. The collapse of the peace talks into violence in 2000 ushered in a new era of extremely repressive policies, leading to violations of a wide range of basic rights, including the right to education.
In 2002, the Right to Education Campaign at Birzeit University developed tactics of focused resistance against the military checkpoint erected to control the main road between the university and Ramallah, a city from which many students travel to attend class. The campaign facilitated many projects to draw the world’s attention to the absurdity of Israel’s anti-education policies. These included the production of a documentary film, photography exhibitions and the organization of regular protests. At the universities of Bethlehem and An Najah, new branches of the Right to Education Campaign were also founded, they too called for international action in defense of the basic rights of students and staff.With the assistance of the United Nations Association International Service (UNAIS), a UK-based NGO, the Campaigns worked together to encourage student empowerment and document the violations of education-related human rights.
The Right to Education Campaign continues to work with UNAIS to lobby the international community to take action against Israel’s consistent degradation of our human right to education. We remain the central vehicle of non-violent resistance for students and staff across the West Bank, and our voice will be heard.