Congressman Asks For Terrorist Screening of Gaza Fulbright Scholars - Cites ties between Hamas and Islamic University
June 20, 2008
MIM: For more on terrorism linked Fulbright scholars see:
Fulbright's Terror Ties vs. Hamas activist / FAU prof Mustafa Abu Sway and Dan Restrepo's lies
Congressman Asks Terrorist Screening of Gaza Fulbrights
Cites Ties Between Hamas and Islamic University
By ELI LAKE, Staff Reporter of the New York Sun
WASHINGTON — A Republican congressman is pressing the State Department to screen three Palestinian Arab recipients of Fulbright grants to determine their links to terrorism after learning of their affiliation with a Hamas-sponsored university.
The three winners of American taxpayer-funded Fulbright grants to study in America — Fidaa Abed, Osama Dawoud, and Zohair Abu Shaban — have studied or taught at the Islamic University of Gaza. An Israeli newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, reported in 2007 that Islamic U. was one location where a kidnapped Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, was kept after his abduction in 2006. The newspaper also said forces loyal to President Abbas had raided the university in 2007 and found stocks of rifles and rocket launchers.
"On its face, the State Department's decision to award Fulbright Scholarships to employees or affiliates of Islamic University of Gaza is a direct violation of new U.S. Law," Rep. Mark Kirk, a Republican from Illinois, wrote in a letter to the acting inspector general of the State Department, Harold Geisel, on June 10.
The letter also cites an Israeli press report that an officer in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard taught a course at the university in explosives-making, though one source cautioned that that claim may be propaganda from a rival Palestinian Arab faction.
During the weekend, Secretary of State Rice pressed Israel to allow the three Fulbright winners to leave Gaza, as Israel had allowed four other Gazan Fulbright winners to leave earlier this month. This week, Israeli officials had announced that two of Islamic University's Fulbright recipients would not be granted exit visas because their names were on an Israeli terror watch list.
The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times have taken up the cause of the Palestinian Arab Fulbright winners. But for Mr. Kirk the episode discloses a potential weakness in the Fulbright screening process.
In his letter to Mr. Geisel, the Republican lawmaker urged the acting inspector general to "investigate the Department's compliance mechanism so that U.S. taxpayer money never again ends up in the hands of those affiliated with institutions controlled by certified foreign terrorist organizations in violation of U.S. law." Specifically Mr. Kirk wants the Fulbright winners to be vetted through the U.S. Agency for International Development's Terrorist Screening Center, a new vetting process created to keep development aid out of the hands of terrorists.
"Since the appropriations committee on behalf of the U.S. taxpayer paid for the TSC system, can't we run these names? The answer from State is, we don't do that," Mr. Kirk said in an interview.
The Islamic University of Gaza is intertwined with Hamas. In his letter, Mr. Kirk quotes Jameela El Shanty, a professor at the school who told the Baltimore Sun in 2006: "Hamas built this institution. The university presents the philosophy of Hamas. If you want to know what Hamas is, you can know it from the university."
While America has supported a recent cease-fire announced this week between Hamas and Israel, the State Department since 1997 has considered Hamas a foreign terrorist organization.
In a response to questions from Mr. Kirk, the State Department responded that it does not have formal ties with the Islamic University of Gaza, or IUG. "The U.S. Consulate does not deal with the IUG as an institution because of its links to Hamas. However, we continue to accept applications from individual students and professors. These applications go through the same vetting process as all other USG funded grantees," the State Department wrote in response.
Mr. Kirk however said he was dumbfounded as to why the Fulbright applicants from the Islamic University of Gaza were not fully screened.
"I am an internationalist, I am for exchange programs," he said. "But look at it like this. The upside is three guys get a U.S. education. The downside is the taxpayers funded terrorists entering the United States for God knows what."
The State Department's work on Fulbright scholarships in Gaza in the past has been cause for tragedy. On October 15, 2003, a roadside bomb blew up a convoy of American contractors who were in Gaza to interview applicants for the Fulbright program.
The scholarship awarded to both Americans to study abroad and foreigners to study here was named for Senator William Fulbright, a Democrat from Arkansas. In 2007, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee released the minutes from the executive meetings of that panel in 1967 that Fulbright chaired. In one meeting before the Six-Day War, Fulbright proposed eliminating the tax-exempt status of the United Jewish Appeal because it had lobbied to support Israel in that war. "The trouble is they think they have control of the Senate and they can do as they please," Fulbright was quoted as telling the secretary of state, Dean Rusk.