Ethan Bronner reports for the NY Times about the newest outrage resulting from US supported Israeli control of Gaza. We all know of the continuing depredations being perpetrated against Palestinians on a daily basis, the death and injuries, the almost complete control of most aspects of daily life. This new insult arises seamlessly from this control and is ominous because the canceling of scholarly exchange goes to the heart of academic freedom further eroding the idea that Israel has any interest in fostering Palestinian civic society. Whether by intent or casual indifference, Israel is alienating those who would most likely be needed and most open to establishing a stable peace in the region. Such impeding of Palestinian intellectual activity (and development) not only impoverishes Palestinian society but adds to the hallowing-out of Israel’s moral and intellectual culture. This is, unfortunately, of a piece with the recent banning of Norman Finklestein, reported on here, and the increasingly hostile attitude towards alternative/dissident positions in Israel as exemplified by the harassment of Ilan Pappe’ and the late Tanya Rheinhart, among others. As Americans we need to ask ourselves what is ultimately more worthwhile, funding the Israeli military to oppress Palestinians or funding educational exchanges that almost necessarily foster greater understanding cross-culturally. The obvious contradiction of US funding being used to stop US funding, besides the dark humor of the self-erasing nature of US actions, should raise serious concerns about US policy in the region
Published: May 30, 2008
GAZA — The American State Department has withdrawn all Fulbright grants to Palestinian students in Gaza hoping to pursue advanced degrees at American institutions this fall because Israel has not granted them permission to leave.
Hadeel Abukwaik, standing, an engineering software instructor in Gaza, was in disbelief over losing her Fulbright grant.
Israel has isolated this coastal strip, which is run by the militant group Hamas. Given that policy, the United States Consulate in Jerusalem said the grant money had been “redirected” to students elsewhere out of concern that it would go to waste if the Palestinian students were forced to remain in Gaza.
A letter was sent by e-mail to the students on Thursday telling them of the cancellation. Abdulrahman Abdullah, 30, who had been hoping to study for an M.B.A. at one of several American universities on his Fulbright, was in shock when he read it.
“If we are talking about peace and mutual understanding, it means investing in people who will later contribute to Palestinian society,” he said. “I am against Hamas. Their acts and policies are wrong. Israel talks about a Palestinian state. But who will build that state if we can get no training?”
Some Israeli lawmakers, who held a hearing on the issue of student movement out of Gaza on Wednesday, expressed anger that their government was failing to promote educational and civil development in a future Palestine given the hundreds of students who had been offered grants by the United States and other Western governments.
“This could be interpreted as collective punishment,” complained Rabbi Michael Melchior, chairman of the Parliament’s education committee, during the hearing. “This policy is not in keeping with international standards or with the moral standards of Jews, who have been subjected to the deprivation of higher education in the past. Even in war, there are rules.” Rabbi Melchior is from the Meimad Party, allied with Labor.