Skip to content

Israel Does not Allow Fulbright Grantees to Leave Gaza (UPDATED)

The State Department has taken Fulbright scholarships away from eight students in Gaza, because of Israeli travel restrictions imposed on the Hamas-ruled part of the Palestinian territory.

Sounds like a PR disaster for Israel and the US due to the lack of cooperation among bureaucratic. The New York Times talks about "longstanding tensions" between the US consulate in Jerusalem and the embassy in Tel Aviv and also says that the Israeli defense department and prime minister's office disagree whether a Fulbright grant is a "humanitarian necessity."

How shall there be any economic and political development in Gaza as well as some pro-American sentiment, if students are not allowed to leave the Gaza prison strip? The New York Times also points out:

Some Israeli lawmakers, who held a hearing on the issue of student movement out of Gaza on Wednesday, expressed anger that their government was failing to promote educational and civil development in a future Palestine given the hundreds of students who had been offered grants by the United States and other Western governments.
"This could be interpreted as collective punishment," complained Rabbi Michael Melchior, chairman of the Parliament's education committee, during the hearing. "This policy is not in keeping with international standards or with the moral standards of Jews, who have been subjected to the deprivation of higher education in the past. Even in war, there are rules."

Related posts in the Atlantic Review:

More Iraqi Fulbrighters Seek Asylum
Experiencing America: New Book by Fulbrighters
• Fulbright Workshop on Implementing a Digital Library for the Maghreb

UPDATE: Open Letter by Fulbrighters: Reinstate Fulbright Grants to Students in Gaza

The Petition Site: Help Palestinian Fulbright Grantees Get Exit Visas from Israel.

The BBC reports that the State Department has reinstated Fulbright grants. (HT: Omar)

Howard Zinn's "A People's History Of The United States" in German

Looking for a Christmas present? Here’s a hint: Atlantic Review editor Sonja Bonin has translated Howard Zinn's bestseller "A People's History of the United States" into German. Her translation was presented at the Frankfurt book fair this fall and selected second-best non-fiction book on the highly esteemed recommendation list (“Bestenliste”) by NDR, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Buchjournal and Börsenblatt in October.

Howard Zinn’s classic, which was first published in English in 1980 and has reached more than one million readers so far, has become an all-time favorite of both students and the intellectual left in the US. The octogenerian author, a historian, WWII-veteran and civil rights activist, has become quite famous in the US, but (unlike his friend and occasional co-author Noam Chomsky) is not well-known outside America yet. Zinn’s German publisher, Schwarzer Freitag in Berlin, is run by German Fulbright Alumnus Andreas Freitag.

You can order the book directly via the publishers or support the Atlantic Review by ordering it on Schwarzer Freitag has also published the DVD “You Can’t Be Neutral On A Moving Train”, a documentary about Howard Zinn with German subtitles. For more information on Howard Zinn, visit Wikipedia (German, English) or the following websites:;

If the complete edition puts too much of a burden on your financial or time budget (700 pages, € 28.80), consider buying one or more out of nine slim volumes that comprise two to three chapters each (circa 100-150 pages, € 7,80).

"Al Qaeda is better at communicating its message on the Internet than America"

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates calls for the US government to commit more money and effort to "soft power" tools, including communications, because the military alone cannot defend America's interests around the world. The NY Times quotes Gates as saying:

"We are miserable at communicating to the rest of the world what we are about as a society and a culture, about freedom and democracy, about our policies and our goals," he said. "It is just plain embarrassing that Al Qaeda is better at communicating its message on the Internet than America."

Fred Kaplan asked his readers for ideas on how to improve America's image in the world. He received 120 responses, "nearly all of them from foreigners or from Americans living abroad." Kaplan summarizes them in an interesting article in Slate Magazine:

A few common themes emerge from these suggestions: Government-sponsored PR has its limits, mainly because people see it for what it is; the important thing is to change policy, and part of that involves aligning America's approach to the world with the most attractive aspects of our culture (in the broadest sense of that word). One of those aspects is what the Bush administration constantly boasts about -- our openness and our freedom. But those boasts ring hollow when the rest of the world sees us as closed down and locked shut. The first step, then, is to reopen the doors to the world.

Kaplan describes several suggestions from readers. Very popular are calls for expansion in the Peace Corps, in Fulbright fellowships, and, in student-exchange programs.

One readers also pointed out that "globalization has stripped pop culture of nationality." Beyoncé, for instance, is very popular among young people, but they don't associate her with America." I found that interesting.

I wonder how much of the US image problem is bad policy and cannot be fixed with better public diplomacy. And how much could be fixed with better communication?

As a Fulbrighter, I instantly agree with Kaplan's readers about the importance of personal exchanges. This is not controversial. Let's focus on the internet instead. Secretary Gates said that Al Qaeda is more successful on the internet than the United States. Does that mean beheading videos are more popular with the target audience than Chocolate Rain and Evolution of Dance?  Or are the West's internet videos the problem? Perhaps it's all Germany's fault: Do Heidi Klum videos cause terrorism?

I wish the hugely popular Where the Hell is Matt? video would improve the image of the American tourist.

US bloggers are more authentic than PR firms. They could counter Al Qaeada's internet propaganda. Why have blogs so far failed to change the minds of Al Qaeda sympathizers? What could bloggers do better? In addition to writing in Arabic. And what could the Atlantic Review do? Any ideas on how to reach out and win hearts and minds?

Newsweek: "American Meritocracy Catches on in Europe"

"Europeans are adopting American values, but slowly and selectively," writes Jacopo Barigazzi in Newsweek:
Nobody would argue that Europe has become an American-style meritocracy, but the concept is no longer as alien as it once was. When I was in high school, 20 years ago, teachers went on strike for a salary increase. I mentioned a strange, American conceptpay raises linked to performanceand was accused of being a right-winger. Now this alien term appears in the manifestos of all would-be prime ministers for the next Italian elections.
UPDATE: Fulbright grants are not based on merit anymore? ;-) "Rebecca, Mary and Kate Kirchman are citizens of the world. The sisters, originally from Portage, have each received Fulbright grants from the State Department in the last year." writes the Portage Daily Register.

More Iraqi Fulbrighters Seek Asylum

Molly Hennessy-Fiske has interviewed several Iraqi Fulbrighters, who want to stay in the United States, but are told to honor their Fulbright contract: "Before foreign Fulbright scholars arrive in the U.S. they sign a contract promising to return to their homes for at least two years before pursuing permanent U.S. jobs or residency."
Other exchange programs are less restrictive, but the Fulbright program's mission is that the grantees return to their home countries and apply the skills they learned in the US. The Institute for International Education (IIE), which is contracted by the Department of State to run the Fulbright program, cannot give advice to Fulbrighters on seeking asylum.
The IIE, however, runs another program called the Scholar Rescue Fund, which is financed by the federal government and some foundations. The Scholar Rescue Fund "has helped resettle 100 academics since 2002, and members of Congress want to set aside millions in Iraq war funding to aid more," but Fulbrighters are not eligible.
Continue reading "More Iraqi Fulbrighters Seek Asylum"

Boston College Sends the Most Fulbrighters to Germany

The Boston Globe:
Fulbright officials say Boston College will probably send more scholars to Germany this year than any other institution, and Resler thinks it might be the largest number of Fulbright scholars ever sent from one university to one country. The department typically sends more Fulbright scholars to Germany than any other American university, he said. This year, 1,354 Fulbright scholars were chosen from more than 6,400 applicants.
The TransatlanTicker (Blog zu Studium und Praktikum in Nordamerika) recommended this stories and writes about it in German.

Frustrated by Anti-Americanism, US Exchange Students Try to Change German Attitudes

"US students are having a hard time in Germany, as they find themselves having to justify Washington policy from day to day. A new pilot project in German schools is meant to help Americans deal with the endless drill" writes Jan Friedmann in Spiegel:
Despite his affinity for German culture, Janssen has hardly been welcomed with open arms. "I don't like having to play diplomat here," he complains. Many of the roughly 3,200 US students enrolled in foreign study programs in Germany share Janssen's experience. They are reluctant ambassadors, routinely taken to task by students and even complete strangers for the perceived offences of their government at home -- an affront that visiting students and academics from China, Russia and Arab countries rarely encounter.
Continue reading "Frustrated by Anti-Americanism, US Exchange Students Try to Change German Attitudes"

New Fulbright Chapter in Maine

Maine is the last state in New England to form a Fulbright alumni chapter, writes the Portland Press Herald.
Why took it so long? Must be one of those mysteries that Maine is famous for. ;-) Anyway, congratulations! Here is a quote from the above mentioned article:
Somewhere in Macedonia, people know a little bit more about performance reviews because of Beth Richardson. The Fulbright Program sent the business professor from Saint Joseph`s College to the Balkan nation to teach graduate students about ethical business practices and human resources management. These are vital tools as the country tries to modernize and gain acceptance into the European Union. But Richardson said she got as much as she gave to the educational exchange program, which the U.S. government funds to improve relations with the world. For several months last year, she lived in the capital of Skopje, woke to the Muslim call to prayer, walked among locals at the outdoor market. ``I want others to have the experience that I had,`` she said. ``It was pretty great.`` To promote her experience, Richardson recently helped to found a state chapter of the Fulbright alumni organization.
The US Fulbright Alumni website has some information about the Maine chapter's activities.