From the Associated Press:
Under Israeli pressure, U.S. officials have quietly cancelled a two-year-old scholarship program for students in the Gaza Strip, undercutting one of the few American outreach programs to people in the Hamas-ruled territory. The program now faces an uncertain future, just two years after being launched with great fanfare by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during a visit to the region.
The program offers about 30 scholarships to promising but financially challenged Palestinian high school seniors from Gaza and the West Bank to study in local Palestinian universities. . . .
In a statement, the American consulate in Jerusalem said it decided not to grant the scholarships over the summer after Israel said it would not permit the 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.”
The scholarship program, administered by the non-profit group Amideast, is one of the few contacts between the U.S. and Hamas-ruled Gaza.
Sari Bashi, director of Gisha, an Israeli advocacy group dedicated to increasing the free movement of Palestinians, said the case reflected U.S. unwillingness to confront a strong ally.
“It’s unfortunate and telling that the U.S. government cannot convince its closest ally in the region to allow its scholarship holders to travel from Gaza to Palestinian universities in the West Bank, for fear of clashing or making a diplomatic issue,” she said.
Hamas, meanwhile, has also jumped in. Last year, it barred seven high school students from travelling to the United States for a year of study under a U.S. program, citing worries over their supervision.
[Amal ] Ashour [who had her scholarship cancelled] said students like her are caught in the political battle and stand to lose the most.
“When I studied in America, I loved how you could travel from state to state without any borders. You live your life,” she said. “I can’t leave Gaza. Everyone — Hamas, Israel, everyone — is controlling us. We are just students. We don’t have anything to do with politics.”
Read the entire article here.