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.
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.
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.