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.