Berlanty Spotlights Israel's Denial of Right to Travel, Study

Article excerpt

Bethlehem University graduate Berlanty Azzam and Tania Hary, director of international relations at the Israeli Legal Center for Freedom of Movement (Gisha), discussed "The Denial of Palestinians' Rights to Travel and Study" at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace in Washington, DC on Nov. 15. (See November 2010 Washington Report, p. 43, for a description of Berlanty's encounter with Israeli security forces in October of 2009.) This was the second panel discussion on the subject co-hosted by the Foundation for Middle East Peace, Project Engage (an initiative of the Kairos Project), Churches for Middle East Peace, and Americans for Peace Now-Berlanty was not able to be present at the previous year's panel because Israel had not granted her permission to leave Gaza.

Moderating the discussion was Richard Stazinski, director of Project Engage. Berlanty, a Christian Palestinian from Gaza, told her story of how, following a job interview in Ramallah and with only months remaining until she graduated from Bethlehem University, Israeli security forces blindfolded and handcuffed her, then forcibly returned her to the Gaza Strip very late at night. Despite having travel permits and being enrolled in a university program-and, according to the Israeli judge, posing no security threat-she was repeatedly denied re-entry to the West Bank so she could finish her degree: "Even the judge in the high court said that I was no risk," she noted, "but my case was refused."

With the help of Bethlehem University, she eventually was able to finish her degree from Gaza. Since then, she has traveled with Tania Hary telling her story to American audiences and discussing the status of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank with members of congress. Soon, she will begin her MBA at Fontbonne University in St. …