Palestinian Fulbrights get Israeli reprieve

Last night, seven Palestinians received word that their Fulbright scholarships would not be given away to other students. On Thursday, the students, who call the Gaza Strip home, had been notified that their scholarships were being “redirected.” The reason? Since the June 2007 blockade began, Gazans have not been able to secure travel visas from ...

594813_080602_Fulbright_logo2.jpg
594813_080602_Fulbright_logo2.jpg

Last night, seven Palestinians received word that their Fulbright scholarships would not be given away to other students. On Thursday, the students, who call the Gaza Strip home, had been notified that their scholarships were being "redirected." The reason? Since the June 2007 blockade began, Gazans have not been able to secure travel visas from the Israeli government for any reason other than pressing humanitarian concern. And although the Fulbright program is now optimistic because the Israeli government has finally acknowledged the visa applications and agreed to an interview process to take place in Jerusalem, the Israelis still reserve the right to deny the visas.

The very day before the students had their scholarships taken away, the Israeli Knesset's Education Committee had petitioned the Israeli Defense Ministry to reconsider restrictions on visas for students. Michael Melchior, chair of the Committee had this to say:

We are a nation that for years was prevented from studying - how can we do the same thing to another people?"

Last night, seven Palestinians received word that their Fulbright scholarships would not be given away to other students. On Thursday, the students, who call the Gaza Strip home, had been notified that their scholarships were being “redirected.” The reason? Since the June 2007 blockade began, Gazans have not been able to secure travel visas from the Israeli government for any reason other than pressing humanitarian concern. And although the Fulbright program is now optimistic because the Israeli government has finally acknowledged the visa applications and agreed to an interview process to take place in Jerusalem, the Israelis still reserve the right to deny the visas.

The very day before the students had their scholarships taken away, the Israeli Knesset’s Education Committee had petitioned the Israeli Defense Ministry to reconsider restrictions on visas for students. Michael Melchior, chair of the Committee had this to say:

We are a nation that for years was prevented from studying – how can we do the same thing to another people?”

News of the reversal is good for Palestinians who wish to study in the United States, but there are reportedly around 670 students with similar scholarships for study in Europe and elsewhere whose fate is yet unknown. Today, the Israeli Supreme Court heard the petitions of two such students hoping to travel to Germany and Great Britain, and some of the justices have already made their positions clear:

Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein expressed discomfort with the ban on allowing students from Gaza to study abroad, telling the State Attorney that the ban seems ‘no less harmful to the Israeli interest, because we have to live with the Palestinians in the future, too.’

If the Fulbright program weren’t one of the crown jewels of American public diplomacy, Israel might never have come under real pressure to reexamine its restrictions on travel in and out of the Gaza Strip. But now that it has, the intellectual potentials of nearly 700 Palestinians hang in the balance.

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.