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(Ismael Mohamad / United Press International)

Under Israeli pressure, US cancels Gaza scholarships, showing need for academic boycott of Israel

In another example of the Obama administration’s pandering to Israel and collusion with it to collectively punish Palestinians, the US has again canceled a scholarship program for students in Gaza. The Associated Press reports today:

Amal Ashour, 18, loves Shakespeare and American pop music. One of the brightest students in the Gaza Strip, she studied her senior year of high school in Minnesota through a U.S.-government funded program.

She had planned to study English literature this fall at a university in the West Bank through another U.S.-sponsored program, but just a month before school started, she was informed the scholarship was no longer available.

What happened?

Under Israeli pressure, US officials have quietly canceled a two-year-old scholarship program for students in the Gaza Strip, undercutting one of the few American outreach programs to people in the Hamas-ruled territory. The program now faces an uncertain future, just two years **after being launched with great fanfare(( by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during a visit to the region.

The program offers about 30 scholarships to promising but financially challenged Palestinian high school seniors from Gaza and the West Bank to study in local Palestinian universities.

Politically motivated

What justification could Israel possibly give?

Citing security reasons, Israel bans most Gazans from traveling to Israel or the West Bank. Exceptions are made for about 5,000 humanitarian cases each month.

Education is not considered a humanitarian concern. Israeli officials claim that West Bank universities are breeding grounds for militant groups like Hamas. Last month, Israel’s Supreme Court upheld this travel ban on students.

Israeli military spokesman Guy Inbar said the policy is part of Israel’s struggle against Hamas, an Iranian-backed group committed to Israel’s destruction.

Israeli army statements undermine own “security” propaganda

This sickening propaganda, to justify punishing Palestinian students, is undercut by statements from Israel’s own military leaders.

In Ynet, yesterday, the Israeli army’s outgoing Gaza division commander, Colonel Tal Hermoni, effectively praised Hamas for doing a good job preventing attacks on Israel:

Despite the complex security situation on the Gaza border, the brazenness of the Strip’s terror groups, the spike in Sinai terror and the rocket fire, Hermoni said that Hamas government is at least trying to assume some responsibility.

Hamas is taking action to prevent an escalation and is turning from a terror group to a sovereign movement that is assuming governmental responsibility. They have to worry about feeding and educating people, and every act of terror costs them dearly.

“But they day the decision is made, we’ll know how to bring it to its knees. There will be a (ground) operation in Gaza. The only question is when,” he said.

While Hamas – according to Israel’s Col. Hermoni – is trying to assume “governmental responsibility,” Israel seems set on continuing its punishing siege and preventing young Palestinians gaining an education.

Denying Palestinians the right to education

The move by the Obama administration to cancel the Gaza scholarships – under Israeli pressure – is only the latest move in Israel’s unrelenting war on Palestinians’ right to education.

That Israel has a complete veto on the entry and exit of Gaza students also demonstrates the extent to which Israel, the occupying power, controls Gaza.

This is not even the first time the US has canceled scholarships for Gaza students. The Bush administration did the same in 2008 but an international outcry forced the US to relent.

It is in this context, where Israel thwarts Palestinian education from the earliest age through university, that Palestinian civil society’s calls for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions must be seen.

Next time you hear someone oppose the academic boycott of Israeli institutions that are complicit in Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people on the grounds that it somehow limits “academic freedom,” ask that person what their position is on Israel’s ongoing blockade of Palestinian education. And more importantly, ask them what they are doing about it.

Comments

I am against all academic boycotts and artistic and cultural boycotts on either side. So much of the voice for change that I have seen firsthand comes from the arts and artists and academics that so very often voice change, coexistence and peace. There is never a need to ban productive artistic communication from academia or our students and scholars even if they be Palestinian or Israeli or American. Collective punishment of our left and intellectuals for our corrupt governments is not a good solution if changing these governments is a goal.

The problem of course is that Israeli academic institutions and state-sponsored cultural groups are complicit in perpetraing or covering up Israeli crimes and Israel explicitly funds and uses cultural groups to whitewash its apartheid actions. For more on why Palestinian campaigners believe academic and cultural boycott is right and what it is and isn’t, see the guidelines PACBI has published

To the person who talked of "two sides". When there is an occupying power with a vast armory and an occupied people with no military it is absurd to talk of "two sides" and is an indicator that you support the occupier. Boycotts are a non violent method to end injustice. In the case of Israel's crimes against the indigenous people it brutally occupies, the very least the world can do is to boycott Israel in every way possible. Decent people would want much more however, and Israel needs to be taken to the International Court of Justice- and that day is fast approaching.

Zionists often claim that Palestinian children are taught to hate... hate Zionistan... hate Jews... The fact is that Palestinian children are taught to hate, but not by their parents and school teachers. Palestinian children are taught to hate by Zionistan's government, soldiers, settlers, and terrorists.... the people who have total control over Palestinian children's lives, and use that power to denigrate and abuse those Palestinian children.

As a student and sometimes an academic myself, I don't need to see who agrees with a boycott on educators to strongly disagree with that. Giving people a chance to meet each other, to make up their own minds about things without censorship is what we need more of in this world. I participated in programs that were sponsored by Israeli academics and they were in no way pro-government, they were more left then this blog and full of very open minded people. Your title's blanket statement assumes that the Israeli government sponsors all academics. Some of the most interesting politically left documentaries that have won a host of awards by Palestinians and others from the region this year were nurtured and funded by Israeli academics. So just from my small firsthand experience, this assumption that justice through collective punishment of all Israeli academics is not progressive or fair.

Just as American academics shouldn't be punished for their countries bad policies neither should anyone else. Censorship is censorship and unfair no matter who is doing it.

Question: How many students from families that support Hamas have been selected by the very generous US of A?

Question: Is it not illogical, nay immoral, for people to be concerned about Uncle Sam's ability to dish out generous scholarships when its main business is dishing out weapons to the Zionist entity - at least 3 billion dollars worth per year.
Count the many dead from Hellfire missiles and the greater numbers of terrible injuries.

See http://dhalpin.infoaction.org....

Question re "against censorship period" and "two sides":
1. If a country, say Germany, militarily occupied another country, say France, and physically prevented France's athletes from competing in international events, would you still welcome Germany's team to those events? No, you wouldn't. Why is this different?
2. Let's get real -- the "conflict" is Israel's method of ethnic cleansing. Israel NEEDS the "conflict" to expropriate yet more of Palestine and to demonize the "Others". It created and sustains the Gaza debacle (see, e.g., http://mondoweiss.net/2010/12/...)
3. NOTHING that happens in Gaza OR the West Bank happens without Israeli interference. Again, let's stop pretending. Israel is NOT worried about Gazan "militants". Israel is worried about Palestinian accomplishment. This is deliberate culturecide, not "defense".
4. JUST IMAGINE ... if an Arab country militarily occupied (or kept under siege) Israel and prevented young Jewish scholars from studying...

I disagree with you not because I don't understand how bad Israel is. A boycott on a government is great. A boycott on individuals and artists is not. Even if it's a South Africa. And I believe it was the US government that blocked these students not Israeli academics.