Volume 44, January 2008
On 24 January 2008, Adalah submitted a petition to the Tel Aviv District Court against the University of Tel Aviv, challenging age restrictions on entry to the university’s medical school that discriminate against Arab students. The petition seeks the cancellation of these restrictions, which limit entry to candidates over twenty years of age, with the exception of students who wish to study before performing military service, who are generally under twenty. Adalah further demanded that this condition, which was decided upon during the 2006-2007 academic year, be declared illegal. The petition was filed by Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher on behalf of Mr. Jubran Abd al-Fattah, the Chairman of the Arab Students’ Committee of Tel Aviv University, and Mr. Mamdouh Aghbariyeh, the Head of the National Union of Arab Students in Israel, and in Adalah’s own name.
The court’s decision allows the state to proceed with its plan to cut electricity sold to Gaza directly by Israel’s Electric Company from 7 February 2008. Gaza is already experiencing a 20% electricity deficit, which is forcing rolling blackouts in hospitals and other vital humanitarian institutions. The petitioners submitted extensive documentation showing that cuts in supplies of electricity and the industrial diesel needed to produce electricity will necessarily mean longer and more frequent power outages across Gaza, from which vital humanitarian institutions will not be spared.
The University of Tel Aviv has justified the introduction of the new restriction on two grounds: that the age restriction is necessary in order to recruit candidates who are sufficiently mature with the increase in age; and that there is a national need that obliges the university to guarantee places for students who wish to study before performing military service.
In the petition, Attorney Zaher argued that there is no logical basis for the university’s claims regarding the setting of an age restriction, emphasizing that, “If setting a minimum age was for the purpose of increasing maturity, then why does this restriction not apply across the board, to all prospective medical students of under twenty years of age?”
Adalah also argued that the intensive acceptance examination which is currently employed by the medical school (the “Mor” exam) is sufficient for determining the candidates who possess the personal abilities and appropriate professional motivations for studying medicine. The examination is composed of several stages, scientific, theoretical and personal, as well as a group element, and lasts for several hours, and was designed to test a candidate’s suitability and qualifications for the study of medicine.
Setting an age restriction for studying medicine is illegal, contended Adalah, and contradicts the Students’ Rights Law (2000), which proscribes the violation of the equal right to receive higher education. “Tel Aviv University has no logical explanation for exempting students who wish to study before performing military service from the age restriction, and if the acceptance of such students who are under twenty really did relate to national considerations, then why should not discriminating against Arab students not be considered a public interest of the first degree?”
Lawsuit 185/08 (Tel Aviv District Court), The Arab Students’ Committee of Tel Aviv University, et al. v. Tel Aviv University
The Petition (Hebrew)