After seven years of attempts to leave Gaza and study abroad, a Palestinian student has finally been granted permission by Israeli authorities to begin a course at the University of Nottingham this year.
31 year old Wissam Abu’ajwa of Gaza city is now set to begin a Masters in Environmental Sciences, after missing his place last year on the same course. In 2007, having received a full scholarship, he was unable to begin the Nottingham Masters degree after essentially every border crossing the Gaza strip was closed.
Mr Abu’ajwa applied on several occasions to leave Gaza and continue his study at institutions in Israel and Germany where he had been offered places. All requests to leave the blockaded area were refused by Israeli authorities. It is understood that Tony Blair, currently in the position of ‘quartet representative for the middle east,’ along with human rights groups and Nottingham Vice Chancellor Sir Colin Campbell, applied pressure on Israeli authorities to allow Mr Abu’ajwa to come to Nottingham this September.
Gisha, an Israeli human rights organisation, has stated that over a thousand Palestinian students applied to study abroad during the 2007-08 academic year. Of these applicants, Gisha reports that 480 were given permission to pursue their chosen education.
In an interview with Gisha, Mr Abu’ajwa relays how relevant his Environmental Sciences course is to aspects of the current Palestinian situation. Highlighting the extreme difficulties the region is facing he says, ‘the infrastructure here is on the verge of collapse.’
He envisages establishing a research institute in the Gaza strip in the hope of improving the heavily polluted environment, benefiting local communities and the region at large.
The absence of an indiscriminate Israeli education policy for Palestinians rests on concerns regarding Hamas, the LA Times reports. As an Israeli official states, it is believed that an education abroad can be used by Hamas as a method of sending loyalists to the West Bank.
Speaking to The Independent, director of Gisha, Sari Bashi, said: ‘A few lucky students are being plucked out of Gaza with tweezers, while Israel continues to close the borders as part of a policy of collective punishment that is trapping 1.5 million people, including hundreds of talented students.’
By Camille Herreman