A U.S. State Department-funded University of California program which provides business training for residents of the Middle East specifically excluded Israeli Jews - until Jewish journalists protested.
The University of California has now altered the program's eligibility requirement that initially barred Israeli Jews. The turnaround in policy also may have saved the State Department, whose Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) finances the program, from having to provide an embarrassing explanation. MEPI also selects the participants.
The program was open to citizens of "Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Israel (limited to Israeli Arab citizens), Jordan..."
Jerusalem-based marketing specialist and businesswoman Miriam Schwab uncovered the bias last week when she checked into applying to the university's San Diego branch Beyster Institute program for Middle East Entrepreneur Training (MEET). She discovered that the program was open to citizens of "Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Israel (limited to Israeli Arab citizens), Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, West Bank/Gaza and Yemen."
The Beyster Institute, which manages the program, offers three 10-day seminars, each one with 20 eligible participants. The program includes professional coaching and offers opportunities to make new contacts and "to help promising leaders realize their aspirations to build successful [businesses]... The participation of women is highly encouraged."
The Canadian-born Schwab, who moved to Israel 10 years ago, said she was interested in the program because she employs two women in her Illuminea company in Jerusalem. "This program sounded really interesting until I got to the part about eligibility for application," she wrote on an e-mail list.
The MEET program ostensibly "does not discriminate on the basis of sex, race, color, age, religion, national origin, or handicap."
In response to an IsraelNationalNews.com question for confirmation of the restriction in Israel, program manager Mona Yousry verified, "It is only for Arab Israelis." A subsequent question as to why Israeli Jews are not eligible for the program elicited the following reply from the Institute's Director of Entrepreneurial Programs, Rob Fuller: "I’m sorry for the unfortunate misunderstanding about eligibility for the new MEET program. To be clear, for the programs for which we are now recruiting to be held in 2008, ALL Israeli citizens are eligible to participate. Sorry for any confusion we may have inadvertently caused."
Israeli Jews originally were excluded despite the program’s stated advantage as "an important cultural exchange." Fuller did not explain the initial "confusion" in barring Israeli Jews.
The programs are to be held in Jordan, Egypt and Morocco, all of which have relations with Israel.
Following the e-mail complaints to Beyster, the US Embassy of Yemen online document which announces the program was down for more than a day until the words "limited to Israeli Arab citizens" were deleted. [View the document announcing the program by clicking here. When prompted with "Do you want to open or save this file," click on "Open."]
The US official who made the online edit, however, reposted the story in "track changes" format so that the document displays in the left margin, at the time of this writing, the words: "Deleted: Limited to Israeli Arab citizens." (See pics below).