Meet Fidaa Abed and Ahmed Ma'ari. Abed was headed to the University of California at San Diego for a graduate degree in computer science. Ahmed is a high school student. Both won Fullbrights to study in the US. Both had their Fullbrights cancelled, then reinstated, then US visas issued, then revoked.
Now, let me get this straight. At first they weren't a security threat; they were just kept in Gaza because of Israel's stranglehold on that territory. It's called "collective punishment" – if we hurt the Gazans enough, they will rise up and throw out Hamas. Gee, that's a smart strategy. Certainly has worked.
Then, it turns out that they were a security threat, or so Israel claimed. But the US didn't consider them a security threat, saying that the evidence provided by Israel was flimsy, so they were issued student visas. Then, when Mr. Ma'ari was at Dulles airport he found out that the visa had been revoked – at least for the time being. It seems that "new information" had been provided by Israel which made the Americans think twice. So now they are investigating the "new information."
What's a better explanation for the reversal of fortune? That Mr. Abed and Mr. Ma'ari are the victims of a face-saving ploy that Israel was desparate to pull off, and that America has agreed to, for the moment. You know the drill – the US decides to let some of the Fullbright students in (to make Condi happy), and decide to keep some of that out (to make Israel happy). That resolves the diplomatic mini-crisis. On the backs of the Palestinians.
I have always held academic freedom to be important, and as I have written before,I am not a fan of academic boycotts. Academic freedom is very important to me. But it's a two-way street. If Israel continues to curtail the academic freedom of Palestinian students and faculty, especially in Gaza, why should Israeli academic institutions complain that the academic boycott undermines their academic freedom? Is the academic freedom of Israelis dearer than that of Palestinians?
Apparently so, for Haaretz reports that
Gisha, an Israeli organization aimed at protecting Palestinian freedom of movement, says the problems the Palestinian students faced are not out of the ordinary.
"In addition to the particular students who did not receive visas for technical reasons or unexplained security reasons, there are hundreds of students in the Gaza Strip who were accepted by universities abroad and have valid visas," said Gisha executive director Sari Bashi. But, she added, "Israel issues a comprehensive ban on students from Gaza going abroad, as part of its policy of collective punishment toward Gaza residents, thereby impinging on the right to education of hundreds of talented young people who want to study, develop and create a better future in our region."
Some 1,100 university students wanted to leave Gaza to study abroad last September, of whom 480 went to Egypt and from there traveled elsewhere, according to Gisha. However, Israel has not operated such trips from Gaza to Egypt since January.
That Haaretz article, by the way , was written by Barak Ravid, whose job at Haaretz includes providing a shofar for unnamed government officials who are ticked off by even mild US pressure on Israel. After years of Israel telling American Jews to shut up and just send cash, they are now trying to say that to the Americans.