Adalah Asks for Investigation into Hebrew University Ban on Arab Student


On 26 February 2003, Adalah sent a letter to Prof. Hannah Rahamimoff, Dean of Students at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, asking her to open an investigation into a decision by the head of the university's security department to prevent Mr. Mohammed Kemari, an Arab student, from entering the university's library.

Mr. Kemari, a master's degree student in the Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning at The Technion - Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, went to Hebrew University on 6 February 2003 in order to obtain materials from the library required for his research. He was told by the security officer at the gate that, according to new regulations, only students and staff are allowed to enter the university.

Mr. Kemari then went to see the head of the Hebrew University security department, who also refused to allow him to enter the university. The department head told Mr. Kemari that there had been a bombing at the university, and that the perpetrators were, like Mr. Kemari, residents of East Jerusalem. "They were nice guys," the department head told him, "and you aren't any nicer than them."

On 9 February 2003, Mr. Kemari presented the head of the security department with a letter from the Technion, which attested to his status as a student, and in which the Technion accepted responsibility for all materials borrowed from the Hebrew University library by Mr. Kemari. He was again refused entry to the university. The secretary of the head of the security department called the library, and a staff member confirmed that Mr. Kemari was registered with the library and was entitled to borrow books. Nonetheless, the secretary refused to allow Mr. Kemari to use the library.

Subsequently, Mr. Kemari met again with the head of the security department, who told him to bring a certificate from the police. Mr. Kemari went to the police, obtained the requested certificate, and brought it to the head of the security department, who again refused to allow him to enter the university.

In the letter sent on 26 February 2003, Adalah Staff Attorney Abeer Baker wrote that Mr. Kemari had been harshly humiliated by Hebrew University security personnel, and that it was obvious that he had been denied entry to the university because of his nationality and the fact that he is a resident of East Jerusalem. Further, Adalah argued, the head of the security department was not authorized to ask Mr. Kemari to bring a certificate from the police.

Despite the fact that Mr. Kemari's purposes were clear and well-documented, Adalah wrote, he was still denied entry to the university. The head of the security department did not base his decision on specific orders barring Arabs or residents of East Jerusalem from the university campus. Rather, Adalah argued in the letter, his decision was based only on the improper, racist exercise of his discretion.

Adalah also argued that the decision to bar Mr. Kemari violated his right to freedom of movement and harmed his dignity, both of which are protected by the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty (1992). Further, the decision violated his right to equality, a right which is affirmed by Supreme Court case law. The decision by the head of the security department also constituted a violation of the Law of Prohibition of Discrimination in Products and Services and in Entry to Entertainment and Public Facilities (2000). Further, Mr. Kemari's right to education, recognized as a component of the right to freedom of speech, was also harmed by the security head's decision, Adalah wrote.

Additionally, Adalah stated that Mr. Kemari suffered psychological and material damages as a result of being forced to travel from Haifa to Jerusalem four times in his attempt to gain access to the university library. He also lost valuable study time required for the completion of his master's thesis, which was originally due at the end of February.

Adalah stressed that the racist and discriminatory decision to bar Mr. Kemari from Hebrew University, because of his nationality and place of residence, harms the reputation of the university both nationally and internationally. Adalah expressed concern that this decision was not an isolated incident, but rather part of a larger phenomenon that could repeat itself.

Adalah asked Prof. Rahamimoff to immediately open an investigation into this matter, in addition to allowing Mr. Kemari to enter the Hebrew University library, and issuing him a public apology. Further, Adalah requested that the university consider suspending and/or otherwise disciplining the head of the security department in order to send a clear message, both to the university and the community, that these kinds of racist, discriminatory actions will not be tolerated.