[News] How I Lost My Fulbright Scholarship
news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Sep 4 11:19:48 EDT 2008
September 4, 2008
How I Lost My Fulbright Scholarship
Israel Hinders Academic Pursuits
By OSAMA DAWOUD
Not many people in the Gaza Strip spend their
time thinking about Utah's Great Salt Lake. I
have been dreaming of it for months. This year, I
was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to the
University of Utah to study in the department of
civil and environmental engineering. Palestinians
in Gaza suffer from critical water and
environmental contamination problems. I planned
to focus my Utah education on water resources and
environmental engineering so that I could return
home and help to alleviate these problems. But I
will not be attending this fall. On the basis of
secret evidence conveyed by the Israeli
government, my American visa was canceled.
I am a scientist dedicated to advancing the
well-being of the Palestinian people. Yet despite
playing by the educational rules and excelling in
the academic arena, I am being hurt by an Israeli
government that has bottled Palestinians up in
Gaza rather than allowing them to pursue
opportunities abroad. Hundreds of students in
Gaza have been accepted to foreign universities
but are nonetheless prevented from attending by Israel.
After Hamas won elections supported by the Bush
administration, Israel put financial restrictions
on Gaza and then imposed a devastating embargo in
June 2007. While Israel claims it no longer
occupies the Gaza Strip, this is belied by
Israel's control over our land exits, airspace
and seaport. Our economy has been pulverized by
the embargo and by Israeli military airstrikes.
We are encaged here 1.5 million people
collectively punished for the results of a
democratic election whose results Israel rejects.
My dream of a first-rate American education in a
Ph.D. program may well be over. Financially, I do
not have the means to pursue an education without
the help of a scholarship. Unemployment here is
45 percent. A Fulbright scholarship is an
extraordinary lifeline extended by the United States.
I have spent my life learning or teaching others.
I have been a model student and example of high
academic achievement for younger Palestinian
students. Such students, including two of my own
younger brothers, will surely grow doubts about
the worth of pursuing higher education when they
see Fulbright scholars being denied entry to the
United States on grounds obviously trumped up by the Israeli government.
The Great Salt Lake and unusual Utah environment
were particularly enticing to me. Having never
been to the Dead Sea, because Israeli travel
restrictions make the short trip practically
impossible, I looked forward to learning about a
salt lake thousands of miles away.
It's the water contamination in Gaza, however,
that draws me to Utah and the expertise of the
university's professors. Israel's settlers,
illegally occupying our land in the Gaza Strip,
used a disproportionate amount of water until
their departure in 2005. But most of the salinity
in our water supply is, in fact, a consequence of
Israel's confining a million refugees to this
narrow strip of land. Additionally, Israel's
cutting of our electrical supply leads to waste
water not being properly treated. Through a Ph.D.
at the University of Utah, I hoped to expand my
expertise and help solve Gaza's acute water
pollution. My individual loss, however, is part
and parcel of Israel's decision to keep Gaza impoverished and ill-educated.
My people long for their freedom, and our young
people champ at the bit when limited to a spit of
land 25 miles long and six miles wide. Education
and travel provide our students with tremendous
opportunities to learn and return to contribute
to the well-being of the Palestinian people. A
remarkable program is now faltering on account of Israeli policies.
Osama Dawoud, a Fulbright scholar accepted to the
University of Utah, currently lives in the Gaza Strip.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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