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The US allows in the Harvard student of Palestinian background it deported, but he will not be able to speak out freely like his classmates

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The Harvard student of Palestinian origin who the U.S. deported before he could start classes has been allowed back in, but it’s clear that a news blackout now surrounds the shocking episode.

Ismail Ajjawi, who lives in Lebanon, was turned back on August 23 after U.S. immigration officials at Boston’s Logan airport examined his social media accounts. Ajjawi told The Harvard Crimson that the officials found nothing in his own postings to object to, but they disapproved of what some of his friends had said.

Harvard obviously used its influence, and Ajjawi was admitted on Monday, in time for classes. But today’s New York Times article includes no statement from him, and no more details about the disturbing original deportation beyond the first report in The Crimson. It is a safe assumption that his attorney and other advisers suggested he stay below the radar.

The Times did include an intriguing paragraph:

Mr. Ajjawi has said that he wants to become a doctor and that he is nonpolitical. His lawyer, Albert Mokhiber, described him on Tuesday as a Palestinian refugee who had attended United Nations schools in the refugee camps of Lebanon.

Set aside the question of whether an exiled Palestinian raised in a refugee camp can ever truly be “apolitical.” It’s clear that Ismail Ajjawi will not have the same right to speak out freely as his Harvard classmates enjoy. He will have to be exceedingly cautious about joining student demonstrations in favor of Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS), for example. He will need to monitor his social media accounts — not just what he posts, but what his contacts have to say. He may have to speak guardedly to classmates, even though many of them will doubtlessly have questions about Israel, Palestine and the Mideast generally. 

In short, Ismail Ajjawi will not have the college experience that he deserves. And neither will his classmates. 

James North

James North is a Mondoweiss Editor-at-Large, and has reported from Africa, Latin America, and Asia for four decades. He lives in New York City.

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8 Responses

  1. philweiss on September 4, 2019, 12:35 pm

    Brilliant closing line. How many of us even think about that?

    • annie on September 4, 2019, 1:24 pm

      Any and every college student advocating for Palestinian rights on campuses across the country has to think about that, albeit not necessarily with the threat of deportation hanging over their head. but mechanisms are in place to punish all advocacy for Palestine, especially support for BDS.

    • JWalters on September 4, 2019, 5:31 pm

      Yes, Ismail Ajjawi’s experiences and viewpoint should be a rich resource for other students.

      I am so sick of a criminal, foreign country dictating to Americans what they can say.

      Their equation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism is such a blatant fraud that any ten-year old can see through it. Yet our Congress and press bow down to this foreign country because they are bribed and blackmailed. Into more conflict, more destruction, more death. They are – choosing my words carefully – despicable.

  2. RoHa on September 4, 2019, 7:49 pm

    Let this lad have the same freedoms that the others have, and what could happen?

    First, the others could find out that he is a normal, or possibly even likeable, human being, and not a rabid monster at all.
    Second, they might find out, from him, a bit about what is actually going on in the ME.

    Can’t risk either of those.

  3. lobewyper on September 4, 2019, 8:27 pm

    It is very troubling q that as great a university as Harvard would consent to this student’s restrictions on his freedom of expression. Truly, this is how fascism begins.

  4. Misterioso on September 5, 2019, 9:51 am

    Zionism is teetering and panic and fear are enveloping its ranks as the ugly truth surges. Have no doubt, Zionism’s days are numbered.

    • eljay on September 5, 2019, 10:33 am

      || Misterioso: … Have no doubt, Zionism’s days are numbered. ||

      The way Zionists tell it, the “Jewish State” will last a Thousand Years! (or maybe even forever), so the number is currently ~930 years (or maybe even forever).

  5. Citizen on September 5, 2019, 10:03 am

    Gee, what a surprise.

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