[News] How I Lost My Fulbright Scholarship

Anti-Imperialist News 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


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.

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