The United States has revoked the visas of three Fulbright scholars from Gaza who received them in the face of Israeli resistance.
Visas for the three Hamas Authority scholars, as well as a fourth who was planning to go to the US under a different program, were revoked last week after “additional information” was received, according to State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos.
One of the four students was already in Dulles Airport outside Washington, D.C. when the decision was reached, forcing him to board another plane back to Jordan without ever having left Dulles Airport.
The Visiting Fulbright Scholar Program is funded by the U.S. Government and awards grants to foreign scholars to come to the United States to lecture or conduct postdoctoral research. Nearly 800 scholars come annually for an academic year or term.
The three were part of an original group of seven who were blocked by the Israeli government from leaving Gaza to travel to Jerusalem for interviews with US officials in May. At the time Israel cited security concerns.
“We decided that we needed to take a closer and harder look at them,” said Gallegos, adding that the revocation “does not preclude the applicants from reapplying for visas in the future.”
The State Department spokesman would not discuss the nature of the information that had prompted US officials to revoke the PA scholars’ visas after having gone to so much trouble to issue them.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had reportedly been infuriated by Israel's refusal to allow the students to leave Gaza for their interviews, prompting American officials to travel to the Gaza security barrier to interview three of the students there. Four others were subsequently allowed by Israel to travel to Jerusalem
“We decided that we needed to take a closer and harder look at them."
for their interviews a month later after Rice personally appealed to officials in Jerusalem.
Because Gaza is not an independent country and is run by Hamas, which is defined as a terrorist entity by the U.S., there is no State Department or other American diplomatic presence there.
U.S. immigration law allows the government, under a prudential clause, to revoke a visa that has already been issued, based on information discovered after it is issued.
According to a source quoted by the Associated Press, the information that led to the revocation related to the same security problems cited by Israel as reasons to deny the students security clearance to leave Gaza.
Many PA residents from the region are granted such security clearance for medical and other purposes. The Erez Crossing is used daily by those who enter and leave Gaza with the assent of the Israeli government.