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U.S. Joins Israel in Blockading Higher Education Opportunities for Students in Gaza

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In this Oct. 11, 2012 photo, Palestinian student Amal Ashour, 18, poses for a portrait with schoolbooks at her family house in Gaza City.

As another international activist ship is on the high seas to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza, the United States government has joined with Israel to blockade higher education opportunities for students in Gaza and the West Bank. 

Rather than leveraging the large military and economic aid the United States gives the Israeli government each year, for the right of Palestinians to accept scholarships and to travel to universities in the West Bank and to universities in other countries, the United States has, with minimal publicity, cancelled 30 scholarships to high school seniors in Gaza and the West Bank. 

Two years after the scholarship program was begun in 2010 by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem stated that it would not grant the scholarships after Israel said it would not permit students to travel. "Because of the timing and risk of losing funding, available scholarships were awarded to other applicants," it said. "We hope to include Gazan students in future programs."

Israel bans most Gazans from traveling to Israel or the West Bank. Israeli officials claim that West Bank universities are breeding grounds for militant groups like Hamas. 

If the joint U.S.-Israeli government decisions to prevent students in Gaza from the opportunities for higher education weren't bad enough, last year, Hamas barred seven high school students from traveling to the United States for a year of study under a U.S. program, citing worries over their supervision. 

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One student in Gaza who had been able to accept a scholarship in the United States in years past said, "When I studied in the America, I loved how you could travel from state to state without any borders.  You live your life.  I can't leave Gaza.  Everyone--Hamas, Israel, everyone--is controlling us."

In September, 2012, Israel's Supreme Court upheld the travel ban on students.

Please contact the US Department of State 202-647-4000 and the Agency for International Development 202-712-4320  (ask for the Israel desk at both) if you feel the United States should end its blockade of scholarships for students from Gaza and the West Bank and end its $3 billion annual military payment to the Israeli government.

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www.voicesofconscience.com
Ann Wright is a 29-year US Army/Army Reserves veteran, a retired United States Army colonel and retired U.S. State Department official, known for her outspoken opposition to the Iraq War. She received the State Department Award for Heroism in 1997, after helping to evacuate several thousand (more...)
 

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