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Congressman Wants Israel to Reopen West Bank Schools

June 14, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Like food, education should not be used as a military weapon, Rep. Howard Nielson said Thursday as he pushed for a congressional resolution pressuring Israel to reopen schools in the West Bank and Gaza.

Nielson, at a news conference opening a conference of The Palestinian Academic Freedom Network, said he has introduced a resolution that urges Israel to take immediate steps to reopen all six universities in the West Bank and Gaza, which have been closed for more than two years.

Israel captured the territories from Jordan and Egypt in the 1967 Middle East war and has maintained military control there.

Israeli military authorities closed all Palestinian institutions of higher education when the intifadah, or Palestinian uprising, began in December 1987.

Israeli authorities, arguing that the schools served as the focal point of the stone-throwing campaign against Israeli soldiers, also sometimes have closed all primary and secondary schools in the West Bank, including those run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

″I think it’s important that we continue to send the message to the Israeli government that education should not be used as a political tool,″ Nielson said. ″Education ought to transcend politics. It’s as fundamental a basic human need as food. I understand the security concerns of the Israeli government, but I still find it unacceptable that school closings be used as a weapon against the intifadah.″

Although Israel has reopened West Bank primary and secondary schools, Michel Shehadeh of the Palestinian Network said 40,000 high school graduates are now languishing because they are not allowed to study at a university.

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