The New York Times reports that the State Department has canceled the Fulbright Scholarships that were awarded Palestinians living in Gaza, because the Israelis won’t let them out.
How on earth is this possible? In the articles the Israelis blame the US, saying we never asked them to let the Gazans out, while the US blames the Israelis, saying the Israelis refused to discuss the issue. However, via Democracy Arsenal, “Given that 100 Gazan businesspeople were just permitted to go to Bethlehem for an investment conference the U.S. strongly supported, it seems that had the U.S. made this a priority, the Fulbright students would be able to leave Gaza.”
In the end this just boggles the mind. How on earth are we supposed to win hearts and minds when we treat the best and brightest of Palestinian society in such a heartless way. Basically, the US just made enemies for life, in not among the Fulbright recipients themselves but then among their friends and families.
“If we are talking about peace and mutual understanding, it means investing in people who will later contribute to Palestinian society,” he said. “I am against Hamas. Their acts and policies are wrong. Israel talks about a Palestinian state. But who will build that state if we can get no training?”
These people have all managed to go through the vetting process put in place by the US State Department to get a Fulbright. They would have been going to the top American Universities if we had only found a way to get them out of Gaza. Yet, somehow, we got 100 businessmen out when we wanted to. This is just an incredibly dumb move that will hurt the Palestinian students, hurt American interests and hurt Israel. Nobody wins. The mere fact that we let this happens proves that we have a long way to go in actually trying to win hearts and minds in the Middle East.
Today, after George Bush’s cheap shot at Barack Obama while speaking before the Israeli Knesset John McCain said:
All I can say is: If Senator Obama wants to sit down across the table from the leader of a country that calls Israel a stinking corpse, and comes to New York and says they’re gonna, quote, “wipe Israel off the map,” what is it that he wants to talk about? What is it that he wants to talk about with him?
And the belief that somehow communications and positions and willingness to sit down and have serious negotiations need to be done in a face to face fashion as Senator Obama wants to do, which then enhances the prestige of a nation that’s a sponsor of terrorists and is directly responsible for the deaths of brave young Americans, I think is an unacceptable position, and shows that Senator Obama does not have the knowledge, the experience, the background to make the kind of judgments that are necessary to preserve this nation’s security.
Two years ago, just after Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary elections, I interviewed McCain for the British network Sky News’s “World News Tonight” program. Here is the crucial part of our exchange:
I asked: “Do you think that American diplomats should be operating the way they have in the past, working with the Palestinian government if Hamas is now in charge?”
McCain answered: “They’re the government; sooner or later we are going to have to deal with them, one way or another, and I understand why this administration and previous administrations had such antipathy towards Hamas because of their dedication to violence and the things that they not only espouse but practice, so . . . but it’s a new reality in the Middle East. I think the lesson is people want security and a decent life and decent future, that they want democracy. Fatah was not giving them that.”
Certainly doesn’t look good for John McCain.