• After the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, the Israeli government 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 response of the prison service, the Palestinian Authority announced that there are currently 1,000 terrorist prisoner students.
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 P.A. claimed that 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 P.A. 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 “1,000 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 bachelor’s degree 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:

  • The PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs pays tuition;
  • Lawyers bring in study materials;
  • The university appoints terrorist prisoners with a master’s degree or 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]

The full report can be read on PMW website here.