Sir, – I was disappointed by the factual inaccuracies and combative tone of "An NGO black hole in the Foreign Ministry" (July 8) in which Gerald Steinberg erroneously claimed that "human rights warfare" by Gisha led to the cancellation of Fulbright scholarships for seven students from Gaza.

The United States decided to cancel Fulbright scholarships awarded to Gaza residents after it was unable to obtain Israeli permission to allow the students to leave Gaza. That decision was made weeks before Gisha requested and received a hearing in the Knesset Education Committee regarding Israel’s ban on allowing Palestinian students to leave Gaza in order to reach their studies abroad. Following the hearing, the Knesset Education Committee published a news release criticizing the ban, which Committee Chair MK Michael Melchior called not only unjust but also unwise.

Similar and sweeping criticism of the ban, which Gisha brought to the attention of the Israeli Supreme Court and the public, was also expressed by Israeli and world leaders, leading to a promise by the military that a few dozen students, including the Fulbright recipients, would be allowed to reach their studies. That promise is far from sufficient, as hundreds of students remain trapped in Gaza, and Gisha is continuing its efforts on their behalf.

Gisha’s calling attention to the violation of the rights of Gaza residents to study has led Israeli and foreign decision-makers to question a policy that not only violates the human rights of young people in Gaza but also undermines Israel’s interest in allowing its neighbors to build an educated society. We have done so using parliamentary hearings, court petitions and robust public discussion.
Prof. Steinberg fails to understand that promoting human rights through these democratic processes is not a threat to be countered via "warfare" by the Foreign Ministry, but rather the backbone of a healthy civil society.

SARI BASHI, Executive Director
Gisha – Legal Center for
Freedom of Movement
Tel Aviv