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Home arrow Blog arrow May 2008 arrow May 25, 2008

May 25, 2008
WAWA Blog May 25, 2008: Thanks to all who listened to the RBN Show and critiqued me. And more bad PR for Israel: UPDATE May 30, 2008




May 30, 2008
U.S. Withdraws Fulbright Grants to Gaza
By ETHAN BRONNER

GAZA — The American State Department has withdrawn all Fulbright grants to Palestinian students in Gaza hoping to pursue advanced degrees at American institutions this fall because Israel has not granted them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.

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.

The committee asked the government and military to reconsider the policy and get back to it within two weeks. But even if the policy is changed, the seven Fulbright grantees in Gaza are out of luck for this year. Their letters urged them to reapply next year.

Israel’s policy appears to be in flux. At the parliamentary hearing on Wednesday, a Defense Ministry official recalled that the cabinet had declared Gaza “hostile territory” and decided that the safety of Israeli soldiers and civilians at or near the border should be risked only to facilitate the movement out of Gaza for humanitarian concerns, like medical treatment. Higher education, he said, was not a humanitarian concern.

But when a query about the canceled Fulbrights was made to the prime minister’s office on Thursday, senior officials expressed surprise. They said they did, in fact, consider study abroad to be a humanitarian necessity and that when cases were appealed to them, they would facilitate them.

They suggested that American officials never brought the Fulbright cases to their attention. The State Department and American officials in Israel refused to discuss the matter. But the failure to persuade the Israelis may have stemmed from longstanding tensions between the consulate in Jerusalem, which handles Palestinian affairs, and the embassy in Tel Aviv, which manages relations with the Israeli government.

The study grants notwithstanding, the Israeli officials argued that the policy of isolating Gaza was working, that Palestinians here were starting to lose faith in Hamas’s ability to rule because of the hardships of life.

Since Hamas, a radical Islamist group that opposes Israel’s existence, carried out what amounted to a coup d’état in Gaza against the more secular Fatah party a year ago, hundreds of rockets and mortar shells have been launched from here at Israeli civilians, truck and car bombs have gone off and numerous attempts to kidnap Israeli soldiers have taken place.

While Hamas says the attacks are in response to Israeli military incursions into Gaza, it also says it will never recognize Israel.

“We are using the rockets to shake the conscience of the world about Israeli aggression,” argued Ahmed Yusef, political adviser to the Hamas foreign minister in an interview in his office here. “All our rockets are a reaction to Israeli aggression.”

The Israeli closing of Gaza has added markedly to the difficulty of daily life here, with long lines for cooking gas and a sense across the population of being under siege. Israel does send in about 70 truckloads per day of wheat, dairy products and medical equipment as well as some fuel, and it permits some medical cases out.

But Israel’s stated goal is to support moderates among the Palestinians so that Hamas will lose power, and even some security-conscious Israeli hard-liners say that the policy of barring students with grants abroad is counterproductive.

“We correctly complain that the Palestinian Authority is not building civil society, but when we don’t help build civil society this plays into the hands of Hamas,” said Natan Sharansky, a former government official. “The Fulbright is administered independently, and people are chosen for it due to their talents.”

The State Department Web site describes the Fulbright, the American government’s flagship program in international educational exchange, as “an integral part of U.S. foreign relations.” It adds, “the Fulbright Program creates a context to provide a better understanding of U.S. views and values, promotes more effective binational cooperation and nurtures open-minded, thoughtful leaders, both in the U.S. and abroad, who can work together to address common concerns.”

Sari Bashi, who directs Gisha, an Israeli organization devoted to monitoring and increasing the free movement of Palestinians, said, “The fact that the U.S. cannot even get taxpayer-funded Fulbright students out of Gaza demonstrates the injustice and short-sightedness of a closure policy that arbitrarily traps 1.5 million people, including hundreds of Palestinian students accepted to universities abroad.” She said that their education was good not just for Palestinian society, but for Israel as well.

Some Israelis disagree strongly.

“We are fighting the regime in Gaza that does its utmost to kill our citizens and destroy our schools and our colleges,” said Yuval Steinitz, a lawmaker from the opposition Likud Party. “So I don’t think we should allow students from Gaza to go anywhere. Gaza is under siege, and rightly so, and it is up to the Gazans to change the regime or its behavior.”

Hadeel Abukwaik, a 23-year-old engineering software instructor in Gaza, had hoped to do graduate work in the United States this fall on the Fulbright that she thought was hers. She had stayed in Gaza this past winter when its metal border fence was destroyed and tens of thousands of Gazans poured into Egypt, including her sister, because the agency administering the Fulbright told her she would get the grant only if she stayed put. She lives alone in Gaza where she was sent to study because the cost is low; her parents, Palestinian refugees, live in Dubai.

“I stayed to get my scholarship,” she said. “Now I am desperate.”

She, like her six colleagues, was in disbelief. Mr. Abdullah, who called the consulate in Jerusalem for further explanation after receiving his letter, said to the official on the other end, “I still cannot believe that the American administration is not able to convince the Israelis to let seven Palestinians out of Gaza.”

Taghreed el-Khodary contributed reporting.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/30/world/middleeast/30gaza.html?ex=1212811200&en=1a304336737c18a9&ei=5070&emc=eta1






May 29, 2008
Tutu meets Hamas leader, raps Israel for barring entry
By Akiva Eldar

Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu criticized Israel's refusal to allow him entry to the country, in his role as head of the U.S. special committee to investigate the November 2006 incident in Beit Hanun where 19 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire.

In a telephone interview with Haaretz after he met with Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza, Tutu said he was disappointed that he was not allowed to visit Sderot and meet the victims of the Qassam rocket attacks there.
 

The former archbishop of Capetown, South Africa - who won the Nobel in 1984 for his struggle against apartheid - was appointed to head the special committee by the UN human Rights Council in Geneva.

However, Israel has announced that it will not cooperate with the committee.

Committee representatives have asked the Israeli delegation to the UN in Geneva a number of times to make arrangements for a visit, but have never received replies. Tutu then decided to settle for a visit in Beit Hanun. He arrived in Gaza on Tuesday after traveling through Egypt, and entered the Gaza Strip via the Rafah Crossing.

Tutu, 77, expressed his astonishment at Israel's behavior, as he has been invited a number of times to speak in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on behalf of the Peres Center for Peace, where he is a member of the International Board of Governors, along with other Nobel Prize winners.

Tutu told Haaretz that he made it clear to Haniyeh and other Hamas members he spoke to that there is no difference between firing Qassam rockets on Israeli citizens and Israeli attacks on Gazans.

"We also say that the people of Sderot suffer from the Qassam rockets. We care about them too," said Tutu.

He said he expects the Israelis, as those who remember the Holocaust, like the South Africans, to be sensitive to the suffering of the Palestinians. Tutu added that he did not remember the last time he was so deeply shocked as when he met with the families of the victims of the Israeli shelling of Beit Hanun.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/988172.html




From Jewish Peace News

Professor Norman Finkelstein got detained and then deported from Tel-Aviv airport Friday, May 23.

According to Dorothy Naor of New Profile:

The Hebrew title is "The Shabak (the General Security Service) denied entry to a professor who opposes the occupation"

Judith Norman writes:

Israel has long had a policy of denying entry to people who might engage in activism in support of Palestinian rights. One activist with the International Solidarity Movement (a frequent target of these deportations) wrote of her experience:



"This tactic on the part of the Israeli government attempts to criminalize activists that do not agree with their policies in order to eliminate outside witnesses who bring international attention to the daily atrocities created by the violent military occupation of Palestine."    

(See:
 http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article3675.shtml

 <http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article3675.shtml>



Hopefully, by spreading news of Finkelstein's deportation, this policy can back-fire, and the Israeli government will receive more negative publicity than Finkelstein could have ever generated.  

For additional material go to:

Ynet:
http://www.ynetnews.com/Ext/Comp/ArticleLayout/CdaArticlePrintPreview/1,2506,L-3547270,00.html

-Racheli Gai.



Ha'aretz Update Saturday, May 24, 2008

Last update - 21:01 24/05/2008
Israel denies entry to high-profile critic Norman Finkelstein

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/986558.html

By  Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent

The Shin Bet security service detained and deported an American Jewish professor who is a prominent critic of the Israeli occupation when he landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Friday.

Professor Norman Finkelstein was interrogated for several hours and held in an airport cell before being put on a plane back to Amsterdam, his point of departure. Finkelstein said he was told he could not return to Israel for 10 years.

The Shin Bet said Finkelstein "is not permitted to enter Israel because of suspicions involving hostile elements in Lebanon," and because he "did not give a full accounting to interrogators with regard to these suspicions."

However, in e-mail and phone interviews with Haaretz while in detention at the airport, Finkelstein said, "I did my best to provide absolutely candid and comprehensive answers to all the questions put to me. I am confident that I have nothing to hide. Apart from my political views, and the supporting scholarship, there isn't much more to say for myself: alas, no suicide missions or secret rendezvous with terrorist organizations. I've always supported a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. I'm not an enemy of Israel."

Finkelstein visited Lebanon a few months ago and met with Hezbollah operatives there, and subsequently published articles.

Finkelstein, 55, has accused Israel of exploiting the Holocaust for political ends. He recently left DePaul University following pressure by Jewish organizations and individuals, including Professor Alan
 Dershowitz.

He also said in the interview that he was "en route to Palestine to see one of my oldest and dearest friends, Musa Abu-Hashhash."

Finkelstein said he was asked whether he had met with Al Qaida operatives, whether he had been sent to Israel by Hezbollah and how he intended to finance his stay in Israel.

"I was kept in a holding cell at the airport for approximately 24 hours. It wasn't a Belgian bed-and-breakfast, but it wasn't Auschwitz either. I had several unpleasant moments with the guards at the airport and in the holding cell, but since martyrdom is not my cup of tea, I'll spare you the details," Finkelstein said.

He said he eventually used a cellphone belonging to another detainee and called another friend he was scheduled to see in Israel, the journalist Allan Nairn, who called attorney Michael Sfard. Sfard met with Finkelstein and told him he could appeal the ban; however, Finkelstein said he has been to Israel at least 15 times and declined to appeal.

Sfard on Saturday said banning Finkelstein from entering the country "recalls the behavior of the Soviet bloc countries."

 
Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman

Jewish Peace News blog: http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com

Jewish Peace News sends its news clippings only to subscribers. To subscribe, go to
 http://www.jewishpeacenews.net

 

From the RBN website:

SATURDAY, MAY 24, 2008
MP3 Files: Hour 1, Hour 2
Playlist Files: PLS M3U

http://www.republicbroadcasting.org/


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