Thursday, May 29, 2008

And I'm Left Speechless

So, apparently the Fulbright Program, a government-sponsored institution that provides scholarships for students from around the World to come study in the United States (and vice versa on occasion) has decided to withdraw the grants that it had awarded to Palestinian students in Gaza, because Israel will not let them leave.

Does anyone else occasionally feel as though they've become a character in some post-war French absurdist play on which the curtain just won't close?

First off, the Israelis really won't let some of Palestine's best and brightest leave Gaza to come to the United States to study? It makes sense I suppose. After all, what possible good could come from allowing the intellectual roses that have managed to grow in soil poisoned by forty years of occupation, poverty and war to see a side of Western culture and society that doesn't involve precision-guided missiles and helicopter gunships? That would indeed be dangerous.

And even if Israel really is too short sighted to see that cropping the dreams of Gaza's future intellectual elite might not be in its own best interest, why on Earth would the United States withdraw the grants? Representatives of the Fulbright Program have expressed "concern that the grant money for the Palestinians would go to waste if they were forced to remain in Gaza."

So, what? We can't afford it? For some perspective, the President's 2009 budget request for all State Department educational and cultural exchange programs - increased from last year - amounts to $522.4 million, or about seventeen and a half hours in Iraq, give or take a few minutes. Would it really be that difficult to keep the portion of that money dedicated to Palestinian recipients available should Israel reverse its stance? Are we really so insensitive to the plight of the Palestinian people, particularly in Gaza, that we won't at least make a symbolic gesture in support of their socioeconomic development?

I feel as though there ought to be more to say, but this leaves me simply at a loss for words.


Clayton said...

Cut the US annual grant to Israel.

Matt Eckel said...

I take your point, but frankly in this instance, I almost wonder if a high-level phone call might not be more effective, framing it as a favor rather than as a matter of forcing Israel to cave to U.S. pressure (and thus lose face).

Gitanjali said...

Matt, I find your posts extremely informative.

Fullbright scholarships being revoked from Gaza students! This is indeed one of the more unique costs of conflict between Israel & Palestine.

My company, Strategic Foresight Group, a political think tank based in Bombay, India has recently come out with a report that measures the various costs of conflict in the Middle East - ranging from 1948 to potential conflicts in the future.

We have received much support from both regional (Arab League)and international (Swiss Govt.) policy makers but we would also like to have opinions form authors, academia and youth.

From this post and previous ones as well, I think that you would be able to offer a fresh perspective and I think that this material would be of interest to you.

Please visit our website

The report is titled 'Costs of Conflict in the Middle East'

Truly looking forward to your response. You have my e-mail.