Palestinian terrorist prisoners continue academic studies,
despite prohibition by Israel's government
- After the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, the Government of Israel decided to prevent terrorist prisoners from receiving academic degrees while in prison
- Responding to a PMW report exposing that such studies are taking place, the Israeli Prison Service rejected the claim that terrorist prisoners are undertaking academic studies
- Despite the decision of the Israeli government and the response of the Prison Service, the PA announced that there are currently 1,000 terrorist prisoner students
by Maurice Hirsch, Adv.
In April 2017, Palestinian Media Watch exposed that the Palestinian Authority is actively undermining a decision the Israeli government adopted in response to the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, to prohibit Palestinian terrorist prisoners from receiving academic degrees while serving their sentences.
Despite the ban, the PA claimed 484 terrorist prisoners were studying for degrees in a program initiated by the PLO Commission of Prisoners' Affairs. The program is run in cooperation with Al-Quds Open University and the PA Ministry of Education.
Regardless of the substantial alleged number of terrorist prisoner students, the Israeli Prison Service rejected the claim and responded to PMW that in accordance with the decision of the government "security prisoners are not allowed to undertake academic studies."
Notwithstanding this response, Director of the PLO Commission of Prisoners' Affairs Issa Karake stated that "a thousand Palestinian prisoners who are in the prisons have joined the Palestinian universities." Karake added that "an academic revolution is taking place in the prisons." [Donia Al-Watan, independent Palestinian news agency, Feb. 22, 2018]
Karake explained that the commission's program for training the prisoners signed agreements with the Palestinian universities in order to enable the prisoner students to complete their studies. This is done through committees within the prisons that supervise the study process.
Karake's reference to the number of terrorist prisoner students follows previous reports on the growth in the number of participants. In August 2017, the number of prisoners studying in the program had risen from 484 to 700. [Wattan, independent Palestinian news agency, Aug. 12, 2017] In December 2017, during a ceremony to award a BA in Computer Science to a Palestinian terrorist serving a life sentence, Karake said that the number of terrorist prisoner students had risen to 840. [Official PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Dec. 4, 2017]
As regards the mechanism for the studies, Karake's statements reflect an article published in the Al-Quds Open University newspaper that described how the program bypasses the Israeli Prison Service (IPS):
- The PLO Commission of Prisoners' Affairs pays tuition
- Lawyers bring in study materials
- The university appoints terrorist prisoners with a master's or a doctoral degree to oversee the terrorist students, give tests, and grade them
- Lawyers bring out grades to be recorded at the university
[The Al-Quds Open University Message, December 2016]
Director-General of the study program in the PLO Commission of Prisoners' Affairs Muhammad Al-Batta explained the success of the program:
"It is not dependent on the whims of the Israeli Prison Service and its steps, but rather is being carried out in direct contact with the academic supervisory committees within the prisons through a lawyer on behalf of the Prisoners' Club (i.e., PA-funded organization)."
Additional evidence that indicates the existence of the terrorist prisoner student program appears in an interview with released prisoner Muhammad Abu Rizq, who served a 13-year sentence in an Israeli prison:
"We have succeeded in turning the prisons into a revolutionary academy that turns out fighters and academics - there has been a rise in the level of the guidance within the prisons, full praise to Allah, in addition to Al-Quds Open University that we honor and appreciate. There has been learning there and it still continues; a number of prisoners are in third and fourth semesters and are preparing for a fifth semester..."
[Official PA TV, Palestine This Morning, Jan. 22, 2018]
It should be noted that according to PA law, in addition to the salaries the terrorists receive from the PA while in prison and upon their release, released terrorist prisoners are also entitled to have their university tuition paid by the PLO Commission of Prisoners.
The continuous Palestinian reports on this subject, which include elaborate details of graduation and award ceremonies held in the presence of multiple PA and Fatah officials and interviews with released prisoners, would seem to suggest that the PA is indeed undermining the decision of Israel's government and that Palestinian terrorist prisoners are undertaking academic studies while serving their sentences in Israeli prisons.
The following are longer excerpts of the reports mentioned above and the response of the Israeli Prison Service (in Hebrew):
Headline: "Karake: A thousand Palestinian prisoners have joined the Palestinian universities"
"With the participation of Director of [PLO] Commission of Prisoners and Released Prisoners' Affairs Issa Karake, Head of the Al-Quds Open University branch in Nablus Dr. Yusuf Dhiab, Acting Head of the An-Najah National University Dr. Maher Al-Natsheh, Deputy President for Academic Affairs at An-Najah University Dr. Muhammad Al-Amleh, the academic staff, the student council, the [Fatah] Shabiba [Student] Movement, the prisoners' families, and the staffs of the [PLO] Commission of Prisoners' [Affairs], a graduation ceremony was held for prisoner Haitham Jamal Ali Daoud, who was arrested in 2002, sentenced to 28 years, and completed a degree in journalism from An-Najah National University (PMW was unable to find details regarding Daoud's crimes -Ed.)...
During the ceremony Karake said: 'A thousand Palestinian prisoners who are in the prisons have joined the Palestinian universities,' and added that an academic revolution is taking place in the prisons that is defying all of the types of isolation and limitations and the difficult conditions that the prisoners are experiencing. He also thanked the [PA] Palestinian Council for Higher Education, the heads of the Palestinian universities, and [PA] Minister of Education [Sabri Saidam] for the cooperation and aid to the prisoners in completing their university studies in the prisons...
It should be noted that the program for training the prisoners in the Commission of Prisoners' Affairs signed agreements with the Palestinian universities in order to enable the prisoner students in the prisons to complete their studies, and this is through committees within the prisons that supervise the study process. This is in addition to an agreement that was signed with the [PA] Ministry of Education four years ago, which enables the prisoners within the prisons - to whom the conditions of the agreement apply - to complete their high school studies."
[Donia Al-Watan, independent Palestinian news agency, Feb. 22, 2018]
Headline: "Prisoner Majdi Al-Rimawi went up to the Al-Quds Open University stage to receive a diploma!"
"Despite being sentenced to life, prisoner Majdi Al-Rimawi (i.e., terrorist, participated in murder of Israeli Minister of Tourism Rehavam Zeevi) succeeded in completing the requirements of an Al-Quds Open University degree and was present in spirit through his picture that was placed on the stage during the graduating ceremony of the university's 20th class, the Entire Homeland Class.
Al-Rimawi was one of three prisoners who the university honored as pioneers of the student prisoners who succeeded in completing the requirements of a degree from within the prisons.
It should be noted that Al-Quds Open University, in partnership with the Ministry (sic., PLO Commission) of Prisoners' [Affairs] and the [PA] Ministry of Education and Higher Education, has adopted a special study program for prisoners, in which about 700 prisoners in four prisons - Ketziot, Rimonim, Eshel, and Gilboa - are participating at the moment."
[Wattan, independent Palestinian news agency, Aug. 12, 2017]
Majdi Al-Rimawi - serving a life sentence plus 80 years for his participation in the planning and carrying out of the murder of Israeli Minister of Tourism Rehavam Ze'evi in 2001.
Headline: "840 prisoners are registered at Al-Quds Open University - Karake and Shahin give the diploma to the family of prisoner Muhammad Zawahreh"
"The family of prisoner Muhammad Zawahreh (see note below), who has been serving a life sentence since 2002... received the BA diploma in computer sciences that he successfully achieved during his studies within the prison. This was in the framework of the education program for prisoners, which Al-Quds Open University is supervising in coordination with the [PLO] Commission of Prisoners' Affairs. The diploma was given to the family of prisoner Zawahreh by Head of [PLO] Commission of Prisoners' Affairs Issa Karake... Karake thanked [Al-Quds Open University President] Dr. Younes Amr and the Al-Quds Open University staff for the support they are giving to the prisoners so that they will complete their academic studies... He said that the academic diploma is a certificate of freedom on the path to liberation from the occupation's prison, and that there are 840 prisoners in prison who are registered for studies at the Al-Quds Open University."
[Official PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Dec. 4, 2017]
Muhammad Zawahreh - Palestinian serving a life sentence since 2002. PMW has been unable to confirm more details.
The following is the response of the Israeli Prison Service (in Hebrew):