Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Please Help This Young Man Get to America

The boy in the picture above, proudly displaying his diploma for learning English, had his visa revoked last week by the United States, while waiting in Amman for his plane to America.

Ahmed al-Mughari (in my post a few days ago I spelled it Ma'ari, following English press accounts) studied English in Gaza for two years as part of a program administered by AmidEast, "a private, nonprofit organization with a mission of strengthening mutual understanding and cooperation between Americans and the peoples of the Middle East and North Africa." Talented students from Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem, as well as Yemen, Kuwait, and Egypt, etc., are nominated when they are about 13 or 14 years old to participate. The students study about 150 hours of general English language, 40 hours academic writing, 30 hours, conversation, and 20 hours public speaking. Classes are on Fridays or during vacations, and are in addition to the students' regular schooling. Mind you, Friday is the only day off from class in the Muslim world, so this means that students give up their break from school to participate in their program, which is well-liked. Friday is, of course, the Muslim sabbath, and attending the program means, for some boys, missing their Sabbath meal with the family. But they do it because they are excited about learning English.

It is a year long program, but Ahmed was lucky and was allowed to spend a second year in the program.

When Ahmed finished his second year, he applied to AmidEast to study in America and to live with an American family. Details of the exchange program, called, YES (Youth Exchange and Study Program), can be found here.

The world pictures Gaza as a dysfunctional, overpopulated, hellhole, run by fanatical Muslim fundamentalists, with armed thugs and terrorists roaming the streets. Maybe this is too detailed a picture; most Israelis, if they think of Gaza at all, see it as a miserable place where terrorists who are trying to destroy Israel live.

That somebody like Ahmed could grow up in a place like Gaza seems incomprehensible to many Israelis. That Gaza could be home to doctors, lawyers, and university professors, seems as incomprehensible. Such is the power of prejudice and stereotypes.

Recently, I received a letter from Ahmed that I would like to share with you. I am not editing it in any way.

Dear sir

I'm very appreciated for you and your huge efforts in seeking to give me a last chance in order to come back to my program.

My name is AHMED AL MAGHARI. I'm 16 and I'm Palestinian as you know.

At first, I'm going to provide you some details about my program(YES program), YES it is abbreviation for ( Youth and Exchange Study). It's a global program for exchange students all over the world for bridging cultures and building understanding among the people in the world.

I succeed in this program believing in my self and believing a better education and a better place to live in, but unfortunately, they destroyed my only hope for a better future, however I still insist to travel in any way. In addition, this problem effected me in a very negative way, I felt that I disappointed all my friends and my family's hopes. Moreover, a lot of hard decisions that I took based on studying in America simply destroyed.

Any way, thanks a million for you and all the honest people like you and I hope that the problem will be solved in a quick way


So what can I say to Ahmed? How can I explain to him what the Shin Bet will not explain to him – why they told the US that he is a security threat. And why did he became a security threat only after the US had granted him a visa. And what is a security threat? Does he have a relative that is suspected of being Hamas? Is there fear that he will want to revenge a martyr? Is it difficult for the Shin Bet to trump up charges – even convincingly -- against anybody they want to?

If you an American citizen, I ask you to contact your representative in Congress, or senator, and bring Ahmed's case to their attention.

You may think that this is a lousy time to do something – Congress is or will be soon in recess; the world is paying attention to Russia's invasion of Georgia and the Olympics. If one young man can't travel to America, is this such a big deal?

For me, it is an enormous deal. To save this young man's belief in himself, and in the importance of education, is to save an entire world. Keeping Ahmed in Gaza is a vindictive, spiteful act that says more about Israel's desire to save face with the US than with anybody's security.

How ashamed we all should feel.


Eva SK said...

I feel grateful for your stand for this young man. I fear that Israeli do not see Palestinians as worthy of education, and stopping education is one way to control the people in buntustans. You know, I'm sure that the Israel Security decided that only 60 Palestinians may study in Israel Universities, with one who happens to have his name in position 61 mistically turning into "terrorist".

Bar Kochba said...

Do you think that during WWII any Brit cared for a second if German students could get an education in Allied universities? Unless you have forgotten, Israel is at war with the "Palestinians" and the Arabs. Educating your enemy is one of the most dangerous and self-defeating things.

“He who becomes compassionate to the cruel will ultimately become cruel to the compassionate.” (Tanhuma, Parashat Mezora,1; Yalkut Shimoni, I Samuel, Chapter 121.)

Kathy said...

Dear Magnes Zionist,

My dear friends here in Philadelphia who run Bubbes and Zaydes for Peace turned me on to your blog, and I have been meaning to write you for a long time. I just want to say, "Thank you," for your prophetic voice, even if it is in the wilderness. Some of us are listening...

Jerry Haber said...

To Eva and Kathy,

Thanks. Eva, the numbers are a bit different, but the point is the same -- the Shin Bet giveth and the Shin Bet taketh.

Hi, another Bar Kochba, welcome to the blog.

How long has this "war" been going on? Forty years? Sixty years? Since the time of Ishmael? OK, so if it's war, then those who attack should be treated like soldiers, right, with the full rights of soldiers if they are captured, right?

Oh, so it isn't a war...you think that those attackers are simply criminal thugs, right? In other words, they have the benefit of due process, the right to trials, to habeas corpus, etc....

Oh, so it is a war and it isn't a war. Those naughty attackers, when captured, don't have the rights of criminals or of prisoners of wars...

Well, my friend, whatever the Torah says about it, much of the civilized world says that Gazans are still in occupation, and a small part say that they are under siege. But in any event, it is impermissible under a slew of international conventions, some of which Israel is signed, to impose collective punishment on a population.

Now, I am not going to get into the halakhic aspects of collective punishment -- primarily because the poskim first decide on what they want ,and then they argue accordingly. Anyway, as the Hatam Sofer explained, a great posek know what the halakha is; the reasoning behind it is pilpul.

But thank you for quoting one of my favor maamaei hazal -- whoever take undue mercy on the cruel (e.g., the settlers), will end up by being cruel to the merciful (the decent Arab civilians that you delight in tormenting, bi-rshut ha-Torah.)

And a shavua tov to you

Bar Kochba said...

I don't want to deal with what Western morality says because it is irrelevant. The world hates Am Yisrael and their opinion is not relevant. The only thing that matters is the Torah.

Since 2005, Gaza has been free from "Occupation". Israel pulled out its 7000 settlers, leaving the area judenrein for the Pseudostinians. Instead of building a free society, the Arabs destroyed the green houses left by the people of Gush Katif. They have been bombing Sderot without respite.

The people of Gaza voted in Hamas, an organization dedicated to destroying Israel. Since the majority of them democratically elected a terrorist group bent on genocide (that means you and me, buddy), they must all suffer the consequences. (By the way, when Israel used targeted assassionations, that was immoral. When Israel uses collective punishment, that also is immoral. I'm thinking that what's really immoral is Jews defending themselves.)

Jerry Haber said...

"The only thing that matters is Torah." Fine with me. But Torah is not in Heaven it is with us. Which means that "Torah morality" is what humans understand it to be. OK, if "humans" is too broad, substitute "rabbis" and sensible humans. And the assumption of Torah -- and virtually all of tradition -- is that people can figure out what is right and wrong -- with, of course, the help of the prophets and the rabbis.

What you can "Western morality" is based a lot on what the Torah says. And if you know the Rambam, you know that he appeals to what Aristotle calls "the middle way" to understand the Torah commandment of going in God's way. You (and others) pose a false dichotomy between Torah morality and Western morality. You do that because you are a creature of your times, when fundamentalists like yourself, are threatened by those who claim that the Torah represents a primitive morality.

The Christian claim that what God wills is moral because God wills it (Divine Command of Morality) is absent in Judaism until the fifteenth century, when the Baal Akedas Yitzkah, probably under Christian influence (he liked Christian preachers), read the Akeidah in that light.But that view is contrary to traditional Judaism.

I have no problem identifying my morality with Torah morality, provided that Torah morality implies among other things, stuff we can figure out on our own, broad moral principles. Since Torah is divine, and our intellect is divine, our intellect can often figures out what God wants of us.

I will leave it at that, for now.

The problem really is that the Torah can be read by a mafia moralist as a purely tribal morality. Naval bi-reshut ha-Torah, you know what I mean?

As for whether Gaza is free of Occupation, this is a hakirah best left for the experts. It is either Occupation or Siege. Effectively, the Gazans have little or no control over their lives.

What happened in Gaza is that Ariel Sharon thought it to expensive for the army to let the Jewish squatters stay. So he moved the prison guards and the squatters outside of the prison. Big deal. It's still a prison, it just costs less to run. Israel still have total control over borders and airspace. Sure, the prisoners dig tunnels -- that's what prisoners do. So Israel is still responsible for the prisoners.

Meyrick Kirby said...

Bar Kochba, since you have such a low opinion of students of Nazi Germany, do you think Sophie Scholl got what she deserved?