There are several types of achievements. Some achievements seem relatively small but they are significant to someone whose life has been altered. In 2004-5 the army prohibited Palestinian students from entering Israel to study. In 2006, Sausa, who is a young, feminist woman from the village of Anata, as well as a brilliant doctoral candidate, was accepted to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem to complete her doctorate. She encountered the army's refusal to permit her entry to Israel, without any reason. We represented her case and discovered this was actually a general restriction on Palestinian students. We organized a campaign, petitioned the High Court of Justice, as well as a successful media campaign - coverage in Ha'aretz and the New York Times. Because Sausa is so impressive, everyone who read the story wanted to intervene. When we arrived at the High Court of Justice it was clear that something had changed. We made sure the articles were published a week prior to the date that the petition was scheduled for discussion. On the morning of the court gathering, all the universities in Israel except Bar Ilan University sent an urgent letter to the Minister of Defense demanding to revoke the collective restriction preventing Palestinian students from studying in Israel. They demanded all students be permitted to enter Israel subject to individual security checks. This was our initial demand - allow people to enter; if there are individual security issues, investigate them, but don't apply collective restrictions. The support was amazing, as a result of public and international pressure. The universities' donors read the articles and wanted to understand why Palestinian students weren't permitted to study at the universities. Many people in Israel and scholars - people who may not agree with us on many issues - agreed that education is important and that a brilliant doctoral candidate who is unable to study anywhere else - there are no doctoral candidates in the West Bank - should be allowed to enter [Israel]. Sausa is in her third year, and she has herself to thank because she's a very impressive young woman. Her life has changed, and she's on her way to becoming the first female chemistry professor in the West Bank, educating an entire generation of women to study. I look at Sausa and see how her life changed.These are achievements in the context of very difficult circumstances. Sometimes I'm concerned I don't talk enough about achievements and hopes, but if I elaborate excessively on achievements and hopes, in a way it would be understating the severity of restrictions imposed on freedom of movement, which are grave.
There has been an important achievement in terms of studies too, but it's more general. In our own modest way, we've changed policies, and perhaps perspectives too. For a long period we attempted to revoke the ban on Gazan students to study abroad. In July 2007, when Hamas took over the Gaza Strip, the borders were sealed almost completely. Initially, Israel permitted students to leave [the Strip] using a special transportation system. In 2008 that was terminated and the academic year 2008-9 was approaching. A collective ban was imposed on Palestinian students from Gaza to study abroad, even though they were accepted to the very best universities. The [State's] reply was that nobody was going to travel because it wasn't a humanitarian need. We did our best to think how to respond. We realized that even an appeal to the High Court of Justice wouldn't be adequate and decided to take on a more holistic approach.We organized a discussion at the Knesset's Education Committee, which provided us with very positive support. The committee chairman, Rabbi Michael Melchior addressed not only the damage to these students' human rights but also to the Israeli interest - how are we, people who experienced attempts to restrict our education, willing to inflict this upon another people and how will the world perceive us if we do. His quote ultimately led to an article published in the New York Times. We found out that Fulbright scholarships awarded to Gazans to study in the US would be discontinued. The US was withdrawing its funding because Israel wasn't permitting the students to leave for their studies. Using these prestigious students, we raised the more general problem and received media coverage. The message we sent to readers was that the seven Fulbright scholarship recipients were not the problem: the problem is hundreds of students unable to leave, as well as a million and a half ordinary people, civilians, whose lives are on hold because they cannot move, and this message was conveyed. The article was published on Friday morning, incorporating quotes from the Knesset's Education Committee. As well as amazing interviews with students from Gaza. Within three hours, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was in Stockholm at the time, heard the news. She asked, why were Gazan students' scholarships being terminated? How could Palestinian students be deprived of a future? This statement worked. Israel changed its policy and enabled some of the students who were accepted to study in Western countries to leave. The pressure also made Egypt revise its criteria and enable more students to leave using the Rafah Border Crossing.That didn't resolve the problem. Still, many students - approximately one thousand - were unable to leave the Gaza Strip to study, but the policy changed, enabling additional students to reach their studies, and we were able to put a crack in the consensus that residents of Gaza should be punished because of the Hamas government. Later, I traveled to Washington and spoke to people who claimed the article on the Fulbright Scholar Program was the very first time they realized innocent people were being penalized. They said perhaps the policy of shutting in a million and a half people in a giant jail should be reconsidered. While we didn't succeed in raising the blockade from Gaza or enabling all students to reach their schools, we did improve the lives of hundreds, and managed to crack the controversial consensus in both the US and Israel that regards residents of Gaza punishable and their rights dispensable because of Hamas.