Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Gaza Fulbright Story

A story that has gotten far less press than it should have.

Seven Palestinians in Gaza received Fulbright grants this year. In May the US State department cancelled the grants because Israel closed the border between Gaza and Israel and the State department was afraid they couldn't get them out. After some noise got made, Condoleeza Rice stepped in and got the grants reinstated. Israel let in four of the seven so they could go to the American consulate to get visas but denied the other three for security concerns. For the other three, Rice got the state department to send a team and equipment into Gaza to help the remaining students who eventually got visas on July 30th.

Sounds like a happy ending. Alas that's not the end of the story.

A few days later, Fidaa Abed, one of the three, flew from Jordan to Washington and when he landed he learned that his visa was no longer valid. He was put back on a plane to Jordan. The other two hadn't left yet but their visas were also canceled. The decision to revoke the visas came after the US State Department received more information, probably from Israel.

More from the New York Times and the BBC.

40 comments:

  1. What's the connection to complexity theory?

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  2. Guess what happens when you want to leave Gaza to treat your cancer:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/aug/04/israelandthepalestinians.middleeast1

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  3. Israel incarnates how the victim of yesterday could turn into the oppressor of today.

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  4. To anonymous #1 - really no connection at all.

    To Lance and all the rest: keep your cynicism to yourself. It's a popular theme nowadays to share the sorrow of "poor" people around the world, but you have chosen the wrong subject.
    I suppose, that if they would send suicide killers and rain rockets into your cities day after day and year after year, you would speak differently about THEIR rights (not to mention academic rights).

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  5. See here for the Israeli side of the story.

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  6. Israeli troll (from comment #4): stop emberassing me and go to your room.

    Seriously, when your (our) country stops the lying, the killing, the crookery and the abuse, then you'll have a case.

    What bothers me the most about this story is that Israel didn't want any of the students to get out of Gaza in the first place. Since this is their stand, I am unable to trust anything that Israel (and the US, as a proxy) say about this affair. Israel wants to minimize its embarassment, and we know that Israel would lie to hide whatever it doesn't want the world to know.

    Israel has made a name for itself as a systematic liar. It is, at this point, impossible to defend many of Israel's actions, such as this one.

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  7. I am reminded of the following dialog from you know where.

    The Dude: Certain things have come to light. And, you know, has it ever occurred to you, that, instead of, uh, you know, running around, uh, uh, blaming me, you know, given the nature of all this new shit, you know, I-I-I-I... this could be a-a-a-a lot more, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, complex, I mean, it's not just, it might not be just such a simple... uh, you know?

    The Big Lebowski: What in God's holy name are you blathering about?

    The Dude: I'll tell you what I'm blathering about... I've got information man! New shit has come to light!

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  8. To israeli,

    I'm not sure if you are aware of this, but the palestinians, have weapons deployed against them with some frequency too, and situation for them might even be worse then that for the israelis. But I honestly don't expect someone who is so close to a conflict that has nothing to do with logic and reason to be logical and reasonable about it.

    This is just one of the stories that we do see. The stories that we don't see are those of the potentially great minds on both sides that are never given the opportunity to shine, so that we never know what we lost. Or those potentially great minds that are emotionally and mentally sucked into the conflict. Then there are the people that get as far as being academicians but due to not being able to let go of grudges close the door to potentially brilliant collaborations.

    We should take note when ever conflict or war gets in the way of scholarship, whether the reason is that the conflict prevents earnest scholars from pursuing knowledge, it claims those scholars as combatants, or the conflict harms scholars who were not directly involved, and when we see such things it should harden our resolve to seek an equitable peace so the knowledge and scholarship can flourish.

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  9. To Another Israeli:
    I wouldn't even bother to answer you, it's too low to go.
    Wash your mouth with a soap first.

    To others: because of such people as Another Israeli, our country suffers so much in these days.
    Such people prefer to sacrifice their own children for illusionary ideas of "forthcoming" peace.

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  10. There is not a single non-anonymous post so far on this topic.

    I will therefore state (non-anonymously) my opinion that IMHO the previous poster mainly had the right of it, who said that the proper course of action is to "resolve to seek an equitable peace so the knowledge and scholarship can flourish."

    Of course, this is rather easier to resolve than to accomplish.

    Without doubt (IMHO), complexity theory will help us, and therefore I think it does no harm to have this goal in the back of one's mind when reading the literature ... whether in complexity theory or in any other field.

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  11. For the record, I am neither a jew nor a muslim. Here is a quote from Wiki about Mohamed Atta:

    "He studied architecture at Cairo University, and went to Hamburg, Germany in 1992 to continue his studies."

    If you read his biography, you will realize that Atta's studies abroad gave him the opportunity and resources to execute 911 plot.

    I do not know about the specific students who were denied visa, but based on the behavior of Muslims (as I saw it in many documentaries and books that I read following 911), I am almost certain that their allegiance will remain with the Muslim brotherhood not the host country that provides them with the resources to uplift themselves. Is this true for all Muslims? Certainly not! But the pressures of tradition and social connections are almost impossible to resist.

    As to the relevance of the topic, it is education related.

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  12. Lance/Bill, please continue to post news stories that are not related to theoretical computer science, especially if they make Israel look bad! (But please do not post anything that makes any other country appear in a bad light, since that would not be fair -- oh, expect that it is ok to bash the [republican party in the] US.)

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  13. Poster 12 is right. Issues relating to scholarship have nothing to do with Theoretical Computer Science. Don't you know that most major breakthroughs in the field have were made laymen with out any sort of college education?

    A topic intimately related to theoretical computer science is theoretical computer scientists, and since it academic institutions and scholarships that spawned them, those issues are of great import for those how hope that there will continue to be new theoretical computer scientists and new theoretical computer science in the future.

    Also it's your personal bias that makes the story critical of Israel. It could be taken to be critical of the fulbright program for accepting such disreputable people, or the US government for doing so much to ignore Israeli intelligence and let bad people into the country. Or maybe it makes the Palestinians look bad for not having top young scholars that haven't been able to keep themselves out of that conflict. It's only critical of Israel if you suppose that those people are genuine scholars, and that Israel's actions are the in-proper ones. So maybe you should take some time to really consider where you stand on the issue, cause it sounds like you think that Israel is in the wrong, but would rather that all should be ignorant of that. And your pro-ignorance and pro-knowledge aspects are probably at conflict.

    Who ever the villians of the story are, it is worth noting, because it is scholarship going wrong.

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  14. "I do not know about the specific students"

    There are probably many thousands of similar cases around the world, where no one cares about. But in this case you should be very interested, because it is such a golden opportunity to blame Israel. It is just not acceptable that this people have build a prosperous country with democracy and freedom of speech. They should be ashamed of themselves making their neighbors look so bad in comparison.

    "resolve to seek an equitable peace so the knowledge and scholarship can flourish."

    Yes, Israel is nasty, because it outstanding success in scholarship makes others realize that they could do better.

    "complexity theory will help us"

    Yes, professor! Mr Michail described that rule of complexity theory in another posting: "You could have a nonsensical/weak psychological proof to convince most people of something that is actually true anyway, so no harm done."

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  15. Its interesting that no one simply takes the story at face value (which most likely is the case): The 3 dudes that got the Fullbright are indeed involved with terrorism. Israel had the info and then sent it to the USA.

    Supporting logic: (1) Israel obviously has no reason to stop normal Palestinians from *leaving2) Students everywhere are very often involved with political activism, including terrorism where it exists.

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  16. Here's a recent travelogue (Bernard Chazelle's) that might shed a bit more perspective to this discussion.

    http://www.cs.princeton.edu/~chazelle/politics/wb08-travel.html

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  17. Anonymous said...

    For the record, I am neither a jew nor a muslim.

    Yes, but you are certainly a bigot.

    Also, the preconditions of a visa to study in a foreign country does not include any requirement to switch ones loyalty to the host country at the cost of disowning ones own. Just check with any of the thousands of foreign graduate students in any university in the US or elsewhere.

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  18. All the elaborate comments and name-calling are missing on one simple point. The root of the problem is:

    USA does not have an embassy in Palestine. Why? If they put one up, they will be attacked and wiped out in no time.

    So, USA expects Israel to allow in their country people Israel considers security-risk, because USA can't keep an embassy in Palestine they KNOW would be a security-risk.

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  19. Here's a recent travelogue (Bernard Chazelle's) that might shed a bit more perspective to this discussion

    Here's a quote from his essay, which tells you all you need to know:

    the Israeli version of Hamas, also known as Likud...

    Also, he begins by saying how he will visit both Palestine and Israel, but somehow he never tells us the stories about Israelis who were murdered by terrorists, children who have rockets raining down on their houses, etc. Amazing.

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  20. Anonymous said...

    All the elaborate comments and name-calling are missing on one simple point. The root of the problem is:

    USA does not have an embassy in Palestine.

    No country has its embassy in Palestine because it is an occupied territory, not an independent nation.

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  21. Anonymous said...
    Also, he begins by saying how he will visit both Palestine and Israel, but somehow he never tells us the stories about Israelis who were murdered by terrorists, children who have rockets raining down on their houses, etc. Amazing.


    It is because Israel is the occupying power -- one of the last outposts of settler colonialism of the kind seen in the 18-th and 19-th centuries, and the Palestinians are the oppressed fighting for their freedom against tremendous odds. In any case, much of the world (outside the two countries with "settler state" histories) sees this conflict very similarly as Bernard does.

    There is an interesting article on why the views of a majority (or at least a large minority) of Americans on Israel diverges from the rest of the world, in the latest issue of the magazine Foreign Affairs. Here's the link:
    http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20080701faessay87402/walter-russell-mead/the-new-israel-and-the-old.html

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  22. Another Israeli (from comment #6)2:39 PM, August 07, 2008

    Okay, this is getting seriously ridiculous. In the few political discussions that took place on this blog, people were moderate and were presenting both sides of the argument in a reasonable way.

    What's happening over here right now is absurd. I believe that there are one or two crazy pro-Israelis spamming the thread with comments. I am withdrawing from the discussion. Too bad -- previous threads on these issues in this blog were very reasonable.

    It's not hard to see that most previous comments were by the same one or two fascist Israelis.

    About Chazelle's article mentioned above -- I read it. It's very well written. I do think that Bernard is leaning slightly too much to the Palestinian side, especially in his rethoric. (For example see the comparison of Likud and Hamas quoted above; I doubt that even Chazelle himself takes this comparison seriously. He was merely being French). However, the artice is reasonable and a very interesting read.

    Here is the reply to #11: You are implying that Arab students are somewhat likely to be terrorists. The goal of the US is to check the students' background before they enter the US. The reason that the current case is outrageous is because the students probably did nothing wrong, but they are being damaged by Israeli and US messy politics. I was not convinced that they pose a security risk. This mainly looks like a pissing contest, which is going to cost these students their education.

    Also commenter #15 was trying to think of the issues logically, and his logical claim is that "Israel obviously has no reason to stop normal Palestinians from leaving". False, of course. Israel is trying to get back at the Palestinians for electing Hamas, as explained by the Gisha organization.

    Also, #15 made another extremely logical claim. That "Students everywhere are very often involved with political activism, including terrorism where it exists.". So, by phrasing the claims in a somewhat obfuscated way, he managed to logically "imply" that Palestinian students are very involved in terrorism. I don't have statistics, but I believe that is false. In any case, proof is needed.

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  23. Okay, this is getting seriously ridiculous. What's happening over here right now is absurd. I believe that there are one or two crazy pro-Palestinians spamming the thread with comments. I am withdrawing from the discussion.

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  24. I have no interest to enter the discussion, just to make an observation: The opinion of Israel (e.g. as reflected in this blog) is now much worse than it was before the Gaza withdrawal. Then it was much worse than before the Oslo accord (that comparison is of course not by this blog). What will Israeli voters and decision makers learn from this with respect to possible future concessions?

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  25. "If people do not believe that mathematics is simple, it is only because they do not realize how complicated life is."---John von Neumann

    In the messy nation-building process that is Iraq, it turns out that about 80% of the parties are "reconcilable" ... much to the dismay of the 20% who are "irreconcilable."

    However, when it comes to loud voices, it is commonly the case (as we have seen on this blog) that the "irreconcilables" have an advantage.

    But in the end, when both sides embrace the path of irreconciliation, that path leads to destruction.

    Isn't that right?

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  26. Eldar said...

    ... What will Israeli voters and decision makers learn from this with respect to possible ,future concessions?

    What about (as Bernard says in a different essay) using the phrase "legal redress" rather than "concessions" ? Isreal has no concessions to offer -- it only has to abide by a UN Resolution requiring it to withdraw from the occupied territories -- and please no Clinton-esque waffling about the precise meaning of the word "the" -- we all know what it means.

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  27. Anon 26: You should not expect Israel to abide UN resolutions simply because they are UN resolutions. The UN can't offer Israel security guaranties, and the process in which these resolutions have been made is biased by the opinions and power of the various member states.

    In other words, while the UN uses legal terminology, it does not hold the moral validity that a real legal system holds.

    Regarding the case at hand: It is true that Israel puts harsh restrictions on the Palestinian's right to travel. It is also true that many Palestinian would abuse this right and harm Israel's security. IMHO the real idiots in this story are the Americans.

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  28. Anon 26: You should not expect Israel to abide UN resolutions simply because they are UN resolutions. The UN can't offer Israel security guaranties, and the process in which these resolutions have been made is biased by the opinions and power of the various member states.

    Of course, UN resolutions are biased by the opinions of the member states. That is the nature of democracy (however imperfect). What is it that makes Israel so exceptional that UN rsolutions should not apply to it ?

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  29. In a democracy you have an fair representation, independent courts where decisions could be overruled and a police force that makes sure that the rules are followed and the weak is protected. Without that all you have is a mockery of democracy. Even a superficial scrutiny of UN resolutions demonstrates that this is indeed the case now.

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  30. Anonymous said...
    In a democracy you have an fair representation, independent courts where decisions could be overruled and a police force that makes sure that the rules are followed and the weak is protected. Without that all you have is a mockery of democracy. Even a superficial scrutiny of UN resolutions demonstrates that this is indeed the case now.

    How covenient of course to forget that it is the same UN (at a time when it was distinctively less representative of the world's population) that authorized the partition of Palestine and led to the creation of Israel.

    In any case, if security was the main issue in preventing Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories, why is it that in every case of Israeli capture of some territory (Sinai, Golan, Gaza, West Bank), it was immediately followed by large scale government supported settlements in those territories ? Can one be blamed for inferring that Israel actual covets these territories (without their inhabitants of course).

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  31. Making no judgement whatsoever about whether the final outcome is the "right" result, the bottom line is that the story makes both U.S. and Israeli governments look foolish.

    What is the probability that EVERY one of the Fulbright invitees posed a security risk to the US or Israel? Given the low likelihood of this and the fact that Israel agreed to let the four go the initial Israeli government stand looks stupid.

    OTH, the US looks at least as stupid for changing its own stance on the visas. (One could ask the same probability question with NONE. Independent of what one might assess this probability to be the U.S. should have figured out their assessment appropriately to begin with.)

    It is regularly argued that one shouldn't blame a typical American for the stupidity of the actions of their government. It seems that one should take the same stance with respect to a typical Israeli or Palestinian and their government, too.

    The only reason why the Palestinian government doesn't look stupid in this story may be that it seems to have had no direct role in it.

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  32. "Here's a recent travelogue (Bernard Chazelle's)"

    Israel is the only war torn region where you can spend your holidays in luxurious hotels, take pictures without fear and relax at the beach. Back at home you tell how evil those people are and get a boost for your academic career out of it.

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  33. I disagree with much of what Chazelle wrote but I admire what he did and how dare anyone suggest that he did it just to "boost" his career???

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  34. On Professor Chazelle homepage he first gives you his political opinions on the front page. If you are interested in his research you have to click deeper. I have no problems to work with people who have different opinions than me. But a Professor should not push his radical opinions onto his students.
    For example the Professor gives his strong negative opinion of the democratic elected President Bush. This is very rude and many students will be intimidated by this. This has nothing to do with computer science. Students who want to become a part of the science community are forced to become a part of the socialist community too.

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  35. Anonymous said...

    On Professor Chazelle homepage he first gives you his political opinions on the front page. .... Students who want to become a part of the science community are forced to become a part of the socialist community too.

    Oh, just grow up. Anyway didn't you know that free thinking is a left-wing prerogative ? If you are right-wing minded you have lots of churches, mosques, synagogues etc. to choose from where you can question evolution as well as socialism to your heart's content -- just stay away from universities, would you ?

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  36. Because I am the only non-anonymous poster on this topic, I might as well be also the only poster who provides links to the peer-reviewed literature that relates conflict resolution to complexity theory (see below).

    This material may be found at the outstanding (IMHO) web site Conflict and Politics in Northern Ireland (CAIN): Theoretical Explanations of the Conflict

    It is notable that: (1) the Irish conflict achieved a peaceful resolution when "irreconcilables" on both sides either fell silent, or were reconciled in the end, and (2) it was never decided who was "right," and (3) it proved to be inessential to make that determination.

    I speak as someone of Irish ancestry, who has relatives living in Israel ... it hardly matters on which side of the fence ... and who has a son serving in Iraq.

    It is the experience of our entire family, that nation-building and peace-making are indeed more difficult challenges than war-fighting.

    If it should happen in the future, that the conflict(s) in the Middle East are resolved with a degree of justice comparable to the resolution of the Irish Troubles, then (IMHO) that would be the most fortunate outcome for which we can reasonably hope.

    ----- links -------

    Violent Conflict in Northern Ireland: Complex Life at the Edge of Chaos; Chaos, Complexity, and Conflict Resolution Theories

    Malcom Sutton's (nonpartisan) Violent Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland ... a sobering list of names and circumstances of death.

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  37. John Sidles comments are noble. Unfortunately, our understanding of radical Islam is completely wrong. IRA was fighting the British Government; true innocents died but they were almost never the direct target. Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, a military base.

    In contrast, Muslims attacked World Trade Center, twice, the second time they succeeded. They tried to attack L.A. airport, have blown up numerous planes and other civilian targets. It may be that the majority of Muslims are not radical, but even if 10% of the 1.5 billion Muslims are radical, we are all in trouble. Furthermore, the radicals are so extreme that the moderate Muslims support them out of fear or out of respect for Koran that states that in the end all people on earth will be Muslims.

    It is not about the so-called "occupation" of Palestine, it is about the deep-seated hatred of the rest of humanity by radical Muslims. Some examples to support this statement:

    Lebanon was given its freedom in 1940s by French. It was a majority Christian nation at the time. In return, Christians were brutally slaughtered and driven out of
    their own country.

    USA helped Afghanistan against the Russian occupation. In return, radical Muslims in Afghanistan gave shelter to Osama Bin Laden and helped him perpetrate 911.

    Mohamed Atta was given visa, scholarship, resources, etc. to study in the West. He used the opportunity and the resources to execute the 911 plot.

    USA has poured millions of dollars and technology in Pakistan over the last five decades. Does any one seriously believe Pakistan is America's ally?

    USA has given a lifeline to Saudi Arabia via its oil addiction. The leaders in Saudi Arabia also have a personal friendship with American politicians. Does any one seriously believe that the people in Saudi Arabia wish us well?

    USA has "liberated" Iraqis from the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein. As soon as the US troops leave Iraq, Iraqis will join hands with Iran to plot against America.

    Even if Israel gives all the land to Palestine and "move" elsewhere, Muslims will come after them wherever they are.

    There have been dozens of convictions of Muslim students and professors in USA, plotting against their host country.

    Radical Islamists WILL bite the hand that feeds them and then blow up the rest of the body.

    Till the world truly understands the nature of evil that radical Islam is, we will not solve this problem. Unfortunately, we are so naive that we have been approaching it as "conflict resolution" or "nation building" or "give peace a chance" or "plant the seeds of democracy" or "invite Saudi King to the ranch in Texas and placate him."

    If you want to know more about what I have said, do a google search and also check the following websites.

    http://www.militantislammonitor.org/

    http://www.americancongressfortruth.org/

    No, I am not a crazy Israeli. I am an American who has studied this topic in depth after 911. I would post non-anonymously, but then my days would be numbered.

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  38. What the hell? I come to this site to read about math, a subject I enjoy even if I'm not very good at it. But, lo and behold, someone decided that we needed yet another discourse on Mideast politics. Please, I can read this tripe on any of a hundred "news" sites or get the same point of view from thousands of clueless bloggers.

    More talky on math, less talky on the "other" crap, please.

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  39. commented #39, go to hell.

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