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Report: Mideast conflict has harmed education in area

TORONTO (JTA) — The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has harmed university education and academic freedom in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel, a Canadian-authored study alleges.

The report, conducted by the Canadian Association of University Teachers, says Israel’s restrictions on travel in the West Bank and Gaza create an insurmountable hurdle for students and infringe upon scholarly pursuits there, frustrating hopes for a regional peace.

"Both Israeli and Palestinian academics are facing greater pressure from outside political influences and from within the academy itself," according to the report, which adds that there are "clear and consistent violations of internationally recognized academic rights" as set out in United Nations agreements.

The four-page report was co-published by the Canadian teachers’ group and Education International, the Belgian-based global federation representing more than 30 million teachers and education workers in 172 countries and territories.

The report found "strong polarization" of opinions within Israel over the political conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, which has "generated several prominent academic freedom controversies in recent years."

A summary of the study on the Canadian Association Web site states that "limits imposed on freedom of movement within the Palestinian territories make it difficult and in many cases impossible for Palestinian academics and students to attend conferences or study abroad, and have forced local universities to shut down early and to close entirely for extended periods."

It cites bans on the import of certain research equipment and materials needed to pursue scholarly activities, and says many academics face arbitrary arrest and detention by both Israeli and Palestinian authorities. But it also cites the violence between Palestinian factions for leaving university workers "caught in the cross-fire of the fighting between Hamas and Fatah."

The Canadian Association of University Teachers represents more than 67,000 academic and general staff at colleges and universities across Canada.

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