Wissam Abuajwa risks losing a place at Nottingham University because Israel will not allow him to leave Gaza. He has a place, a scholarship (from the London-based charity Karim Rida Said Foundation, and a British visa to study for an MSc in Environment and Research Engineering at the University of Nottingham's School of Chemical and Environment Engineering, beginning in September.
However, his place could at risk because the Israeli authorities have prevented him from leaving Gaza to travel to the UK. Abuajwa's situation is, unfortunately far from unique. Abir Abu Warda, 29, has a Ford Foundation-funded place at London Metropolitan University, which is at risk for the same reason. In the US, seven students from Gaza who had previously been told that they would lose their Fulbright scholarships because of the travel ban have now had them reinstated by the State department. The US now claim to be working "closely" with Israel to secure exit permits (which you can interpret however you want).
Abuajwa and Warda's case were both considered by Israel's Supreme Court on Monday after a petition brought by Gisha, an Israeli human rights organisation. The case was adjourned for two weeks. Nevertheless, one of the presiding judges, Elyakim Rubinstein, expressed concern about the travel ban's impact on Israeli interests, suggesting that preventing access to education could "harm chances for some kind of co-existence".Abuajwa and Warda have appealed to the British Government to follow the US' example and put pressure on Israel in support of their case. Warda said she hoped the Government would "help us all to travel to the UK".
They have written to Tony Blair, now "the international Middle East envoy." In response, a spokesman for the former Prime Minister claimed that Blair "strongly believes Palestinians should be able to pursue their education" and would pass the letter on to the Government.
A University of Nottingham spokesperson said: "At the moment it is out of our hands. Mr Abuajwa has got a place here at the university and we very much hope he can come here in September. We are liaising with the British Council to see what can be done."