Summary: On May 28 2008, an Israel-based political NGO known as Gisha (funded by the New Israel Fund, European governments, and others) testified at a hearing it requested in the Knesset to publicize its report alleging that Israeli responses to rocket bombardments from Gaza violated the rights of Palestinian students. The press release, which erased the context of the attacks on Israelis, was featured in the press (including the New York Times and Los Angeles Times), and US Secretary of State Rice blamed Israel for this situation. The State Department announced that it was cancelling the Fulbright grants to Gaza, blaming Israel for not allowing the students to come to Jerusalem for interviews. The US government cancelled such interviews following a Palestinian attack on the US Fulbright delegation in Gaza in 2003. This was not reported in any of the discussion in the media or by Gisha. Furthermore, it later became clear that the Israeli government had not been asked or consulted regarding the request for entry permits for these Fulbright candidates, and when they were asked, the permits were granted. On June 6, the New York Times published a third news article on this topic, which highlighted the context of Hamas attacks from Gaza and the basis of the Israeli policy, which was erased from the Gisha reports and was largely missing in the earlier press coverage.

Relevant links:

1. Gisha Press release: Knesset Education Committee: Preventing Students in Gaza From Studying Abroad is Immoral and Unwise Lawmakers Hear from Gaza Student Seeking to Study Abroad; Urge Military to Change Policy May 28, 2008

2. Gisha Report: Held Back: Students Trapped in Gaza
Hundreds of young Palestinian men and women are trapped in the Gaza Strip and cannot leave to pursue academic studies abroad. The closure that Israel has imposed on Gaza prevents them from exercising their right to freedom of movement and to access education. May 28, 2008

3. U.S. Withdraws Fulbright Grants to Gaza, Ethan Bronner, New York Times, May. 30, 2008

4. Israel blocks Gaza students from studying abroad, Los Angeles Times, May. 31, 2005

5. Israel Revisits Limitations on Gaza Students, Washington Post, May. 31, 2008

6. State Department Daily Press Briefing, June 2, 2008. Sean McCormack, Spokesman.

Mr. McCormack: One additional fact you guys asked me this morning, when was the first time for these seven cases that we approached the Israeli Government, the answer to that is Friday – this past Friday.
Now – so clearly, on our part, there was a decision-making process on this particular issue that is not what we would have hoped it would have been. The Secretary heard about these cases, immediately and acted to have people reconsider the decision-making process here. We then went to the Israeli Government and said we want to work with you on these seven cases – very important to us.

7. Human Rights Watch: US: Challenge Israel´s Restrictions on Gaza Students. Human Rights Watch, June 3, 2008.
[Excerpt:] "´The United States should vigorously challenge Israel´s unlawful restrictions on Gaza rather than accommodate them,´ said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. ´Washington should ask Israel to ensure that the hundreds of other students trapped in Gaza can also pursue their studies abroad.´"

8. Gaza students appeal to Brown over travel ban. By Donald Macintyre, The Independent, 3 June 2008.

"Two Palestinian students who risk losing their places at British universities because Israel has not allowed them to leave Gaza yesterday appealed to the British Government for help." "Abir Abu Warda, 29, who risks losing her Ford Foundation-funded place at London Metropolitan University, said she hoped the Government would ´help us all to travel to the UK´."

9. State Dept. Reinstates Gaza Fulbright Grants, by Ethan Bronner, New York Times, June 2, 2008.

"Sari Bashi, who runs an Israeli organization called Gisha, which focuses on the free movement of Palestinians, said that while the group welcomed the decision to let out the seven Fulbright winners, ´Gisha calls on Israel to allow all Palestinian students accepted to universities abroad to exercise their right to leave Gaza and access education, in order to obtain the tools they need to build a better future in the region.´"

10. Israel ´surprised´ at Fulbright row, Ehud Zion Waldoks and Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post, Jun 1, 2008.

"Sari Bashi, executive director of Gisha – the Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, an NGO active on behalf of Palestinians´ rights was outraged that the situation had deteriorated to this point." "´If the US can´t convince Israel, its closest ally, to let seven students out of Gaza, what chance do the rest of them have?´ Bashi told the Post on Friday afternoon." "The {Knesset Education} committee met to discuss the new report by Gisha." "According to the report, and confirmed by representatives of the security establishment present at the committee meeting, no student has been allowed to leave Gaza to attend university overseas since January. According to the report, fewer than half of those who applied were granted permission to leave in 2007."

11. Israel to Loosen Limits on Gaza Scholars. Ethan Bronner, New York Times. June 6, 2008.

“Israel’s policy was caught between two aims: to weaken Hamas, the anti-Israel militia that took full control of Gaza one year ago, by imposing a siege on its territory, and to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe there. That means allowing the entry of 70 truckloads of crucial supplies every day and letting out hundreds of emergency medical cases, but almost nothing else.
But…because Israel hopes in the future to have a neighbor that is less poor and better educated, encouraging some study grants abroad is very much in Israel’s interest. The population of Gaza is about 1.5 million.”

12. Editorial – The Lesson of Gaza’s Fulbright Seven. New York Times

“The restoration of Palestinian students’ Fulbright fellowships was a welcome move, but the story should not end there.”

13. Camera:

14. Reuters: US says it erred in case of Gaza Strip students

15. The Myth of Occupied Gaza. David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey. Washington Post. May 10, 2008

16. Gisha´s Sari Bashi responds to Gerald Steinberg´s criticism., Jerusalem Post, July 10, 2008

17. Gaza Fulbright scholars appeal for US visas. By Diaa Hadid. The Associated Press. August 8, 2008

18. Israeli official: U.S. intervention in minor Palestinian issues could damage ties. By Barak Ravid. Ha´aretz. July 22, 2008

18. U.S. Tries to Help 3 Scholars Barred From Leaving Gaza. By Ethan Bronner, The New York Times, July 11, 2008