If you study the history of cultural diplomacy, as I do, you will find that bringing foreign students to the U.S. is one of the most effective tools of cross-cultural understanding available. Yesterday the Israeli government denied visas to every Palestinian student from Gaza who had been awarded Fulbright scholarships to study in the U.S.
“We are fighting the regime in Gaza that does its utmost to kill our citizens and destroy our schools and our colleges,” said Yuval Steinitz, a lawmaker from the opposition Likud Party. “So I don’t think we should allow students from Gaza to go anywhere. Gaza is under siege, and rightly so, and it is up to the Gazans to change the regime or its behavior.”
Instead of fighting for the students to get their visas, the U.S. simply withdrew the Fulbright Scholarships. Hadeel Abukwaik (above), who was set to study engineering software in the fall, was informed by email. Here was a classic opportunity for the American government to show some support for the Palestinians–and we just take a pass.