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MWA Launches 'No Gaza Student Left Behind' Campaign
Students of Gaza need your support! Can they count on you to intervene on their behalf in guaranteeing their right to free passage between Israeli and Egyptian borders to secure exit visas needed to fulfill their aspirations for a brighter future?
By: Aishah Schwartz
"As a returning Gaza Freedom March (Dec. 2009-Jan. 2010) delegate, I can speak first hand as to the intelligence and aspirations of students in Gaza. I met them; spoke with them; and carried back in my heart the memory of their smiling faces and bright, hopeful, soul-searching eyes. Let us join together in ensuring that their hopes and dreams are not in vain," stated MWA Director, Aishah Schwartz.
Sign the 'No Gaza Student Left Behind' petition today (http://www.petitiononline.com/
To endorse the 'No Gaza Student Left Behind' campaign contact MWA: http://biz.prlog.org/
AN OPEN LETTER TO U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:
NO GAZA STUDENT LEFT BEHIND!
June 15, 2010
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500
Re: Supporting Students in Gaza Seeking Exit Visas in Pursuit of Higher Education
Dear President Obama,
The ongoing saga of Gaza scholarship-
In a spring 2008 report, Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Unit Director, Khalil Shaheen, indicated that nearly 700 students had been unable to pass through either Egyptian or Israeli borders to secure exit visas needed to pursue the dream of a brighter future through educational opportunities offered abroad.
Just over a year ago in an address you made at Egypt's Cairo University you stated, "Islam is a part of America. And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations -- to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity."
President Obama, you also stated in your January 2009 inaugural speech that without the privilege of having obtained a University education you would not be where you are today.
Now, as a result of the tragic events of May 31, 2010 when the humanitarian mission of the Freedom Flotilla from Turkey was deterred by Israeli gunfire, resulting in 9 fatalities, including one American, we have begun, at long last, to see an ease on the restrictions imposed by the Israeli blockade of Gaza, to include Egypt's opening of the Rafah border crossing to those with special needs, etc.
In a June 14 report European Union (EU) envoy Tony Blair recommended that the flow of humanitarian relief and people with special needs being allowed to pass through Israeli and Egyptian border crossings should be facilitated by the opening of at least one large-scale commercial traffic border.
Additionally, and also on June 14, the otherwise neutral humanitarian agency, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), explicitly stated for the first time that the blockade on Gaza was in violation of international law.
In its five-page report an ICRC spokeswoman stated, "The whole of Gaza's civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility. The closure therefore constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel's obligations under international humanitarian law," including The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, ratified by Israel, banning collective punishment of a civilian population.
But it is not enough. If standing up for the rights of students in Gaza to pursue a higher education cannot be counted as humanitarian relief, then what is?
The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights both explicitly confirm the right of all people to freely travel to and from their own state; and guarantees the right of every individual to an education.
Sporadic intervention on behalf of a select few, as was the case in 2008 for a group of Fullbright scholarship hopefuls, is no longer acceptable; the students of Gaza have collectively and unnecessarily suffered long enough.
We call on you Mr. President to intervene on behalf of the students of Gaza, now, while the opportunity is ripe for inclusion of this issue on the current agenda of negotiations where lifting of the embargo on Gaza is concerned.
Students holding legitimate scholarship and university enrollment documentation have a right to guaranteed passage through open border crossings from both Israel and Egypt to secure exit visas to their future; and the future of Palestine.
In delivering your May 2010 University of Michigan commencement speech you stated, "When we don't pay close attention to the decisions made by our leaders; when we fail to educate ourselves about the major issues of the day; when we choose not to make our voices and opinions heard, that's when democracy breaks down. That's when power is abused. That's when the most extreme voices in our society fill the void that we leave. That's when powerful interests and their lobbyists are most able to buy access and influence in the corridors of Washington - because none of us are there to speak up and stop them."
So, Mr. President, we the people speak to you now.
It has been a year-and-a-half since your inauguration speech and a year since you addressed the global Muslim community in Cairo, Egypt. And I am sure you are well aware that within that period, as recent reports indicate, there is a sense of disappointment affecting us all.
While the list of options for lifting the embargo on Gaza continues to be ironed out, and humanitarian relief efforts between borders broadens, we hope you will embrace the opportunity to renew the faith placed in you by Muslims world-wide when you were elected as President of the United States.
The students of Gaza need your support. Can they count on you to intervene on their behalf in guaranteeing their right to free passage between Israeli and Egyptian borders to secure the exit visas needed to fulfill their aspirations for a brighter future?
In borrowing from the U.S. education policy otherwise known as, "No Child Left Behind", and in furtherance of the ideals you have previously so eloquently expressed in support of higher education, we implore you today to ensure that, "NO GAZA STUDENT IS LEFT BEHIND."
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Obama Michigan Graduation Speech - Full Text & Video (May 2010)
Remarks by the President on a new Beginning - Cairo University (June 2009)
Inaugural Address of President Barack Obama (January 2009)
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Established in 2006, MWA is an internationally-