Gaza Fulbrights ReInstated–New York Times and AP Commentary
Posted by uscsjp on June 9, 2008
The Lesson of the Fulbright Seven
“Seven highly qualified and carefully vetted Palestinian students from the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip will come to the United States for advanced study after all.
After reporting in The Times by Ethan Bronner drew high-level American attention, top State Department officials intervened to restore the students’ Fulbright fellowships that lower-level functionaries had notified them would be withdrawn. Israel has agreed to facilitate special exit permits.
It is a welcome victory — for the students; for Israel, which should want to see more of Gaza’s young people follow a path of hope and education rather than hopelessness and martyrdom; and for the United States, whose image in the Middle East badly needs burnishing.
It should not be the end of the story. There are hundreds of other foreign fellowship winners still trapped in Gaza by the same Israeli policy that nearly blocked the Fulbright Seven. On Thursday, an Israeli official told The Times that the government would allow a very limited number of additional students to leave Gaza to study abroad. That is a clear step in the right direction, but not enough. Gaza is home to roughly 1.5 million Palestinians. Some 600 foreign scholarship winners have been barred from leaving.
The ban on student departures is part of the wider Israeli economic blockade imposed on the civilian population of Gaza in response to Hamas rule and a steady rain of rocket attacks. This also needs to be re-examined.
Israel has a right and a duty to defend itself and to fight back against Hamas terrorism. But punishing students, and any other forms of collective punishment, will only sow more anger and hate.”
–The New York Times
Hundreds of students still stranded in Gaza
“GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — They squander their days watching TV and surfing the Web instead of studying, but it’s not for lack of discipline: Gaza students accepted at foreign universities are stuck at home because Israel and Egypt won’t let them leave the blockaded territory.
The students’ plight made headlines last week when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice interceded with Israel on behalf of seven students with prestigious Fulbright scholarships awarded by the U.S. government. But hundreds without such powerful allies will likely lose their shot at a good education, given Gaza’s sparse offerings.
The blockade, imposed after Hamas’ violent takeover of Gaza a year ago, is meant to bring down the Islamic militants and inspire Gazans to opt for a more moderate leadership.
But critics say the closure, backed by the international community, is accomplishing the opposite.
Hamas has become more entrenched and Gazans are growing more angry at the West as isolation worsens the strip’s poverty, say the critics, who include both Israelis and Palestinians. They add that Gaza is also being robbed of future leaders — the trapped students — because they can’t get the necessary training.
‘I feel that I’m lost,’ said Ahmed Nasrallah, who studied computer programming in London, but has been stuck in Gaza since a summer visit home last year. ‘I am a victim of a battle that I am not part of’…”