Ninety-three security prisoners completed their bachelor’s degree in prison this year, despite the ban on academic studies in security prisons that has been in effect since 2011, Reshet Bet radio reported on Monday. According to the report, 1,026 terrorist prisoners are currently studying for a bachelor’s degree, and in each prison there are several dozen students who are studying for academic degrees.
In 1994, security prisoners were given the opportunity to study in correspondence courses at the Open University while in prison, like criminal prisoners who had been allowed to study in this program since 1978.
In 2011, it was decided to deny this gesture to security prisoners, in an attempt to put pressure on Hamas to release Gilad Shalit (spoiler alert: Hamas endured this hardship successfully). After Shalit had been released and more than a thousand murderers were put back on the street, the ban was not lifted.
In 2015, the Supreme Court rejected a petition to allow security prisoners to attend the Open University, despite the fact that normal criminal prisoners continued to pursue academic excellence unperturbed. A seven-judge panel unanimously ruled that the Prison Service Commissioner’s decision to deny terrorists the right to higher education was reasonable, among other things because said decision relied on intelligence that suggested the funding for these studies came from terrorist organizations.
In order to succeed in promoting the studies despite the ban, the participating universities: al-Quds Open University, Fatah’s Abu Dis University, and the Islamic University in Gaza, authorize prisoners with bachelor’s and master’s degrees to teach other prisoners inside the prison.
For example, one of the lecturers sanctioned by Abu Dis University is convicted murderer Marwan Barghouti.
The contraband textbooks and exams are smuggled in by visiting lawyers.
Last week, the Palestinian Authority celebrated the graduation of the 93 terrorists in an event that was attended by the head of the Palestinian Authority Prisoner Affairs Commission chairman Qadri Abu Bakr, PA Governor of Al-Khalil (Hebron), Jibrin al-Bakri, and representatives of the Palestinian Ministry of Education.
The PLO’s Prisoners Authority finances the major course of higher education for the security prisoners. It also manages the high school matriculation program, where security inmates with a high school diploma teach those who want to complete their matriculation. Here, too, the exam forms are smuggled in by the terrorists’ attorneys, who also retrieve the completed tests.
According to the PA, last year 65% of attending terrorists graduated, a figure close to the average in Arab universities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
The Israel Prison Service responded with a statement claiming “there are no academic studies for security prisoners in Israeli prisons. The report is based on interested foreign sources and is not connected to reality. These are fake titles and a fake report.”
Not so fast, Warden: according to Attorney Maurice Hirsch, head of the legal department of Palestinian Media Watch, “the numerous details – such as the number of higher education prisoners required to set up the study committee, the number of prisoners who study in each of the prisons, the method of inserting and removing study materials and grades, the involvement of Al Quds Open University, and, above all, the fact that there was a ceremony in the presence of the head of the prisoner affairs commission serve as a thousand witnesses to the existence of the program.”
According to a document issued by PMW in 2017, almost 500 terrorists in Israeli prisons were studying for a college degree then, in defiance of Israeli law and the High Court ruling.
The most senior inmate awarded a college degree in 2017 was the terrorist Majed al-Rimawi, who participated in the 2001 assassination of Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi H’yd.
According to PMW, Al Quds launched the academic track for terrorists in March 2016. The program is funded by the PLO Prisoner Affairs Fund, which is funded by the Palestinian National Fund (PNF), and which has been declared a terrorist organization by Israel.