Lebanon News

AUB to secure $1.2 million in scholarships for Palestinians

AUB students arrive at the campus in Beirut, Monday, Sept. 7, 2015. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: The American University of Beirut announced Thursday that it will secure $1.2 million in funds to ensure that Palestinian students affected by United States scholarship cuts complete their courses up to graduation.

According to an AUB statement, U.S. government representatives informed the university earlier this month that students from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip would no longer be eligible for comprehensive scholarships under the Tomorrow’s Leaders scholarship program, an initiative within the U.S. State Department’s U.S.-Middle East Partnership Initiative. The funding will cease as of Jan. 31.

U.S. representatives told AUB the suspension of funding was “an unintended consequence of the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act of 2018 passed by Congress on Oct. 3 last year.”

AUB currently has 82 students in the program, 16 of whom are from the West Bank and Gaza.

AUB stated that it was working with the U.S. Embassy in Beirut and officials in Washington to mitigate the impact of ATCA on the scholarship program.

Thirteen Palestinian students at the Lebanese American University have been receiving scholarships from the same program and will also be affected by the funding cuts, LAU President Joseph G. Jabbra said in an internal email obtained by The Daily Star.

The email said that the university was “committed to fully supporting the affected students in spring 2019. While the university is exploring other sources for funding for the students affected to continue their studies, LAU is unable to currently to make a firm commitment beyond that date.”

ATCA allows American citizens to sue foreign entities that receive U.S. assistance for past acts of terrorism. As a result, receiving U.S. aid of any kind could leave entities vulnerable to suits from Americans allegedly harmed in attacks carried out by Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority recently announced it will refuse all U.S. government aid as of Jan. 31.

In a copy of a Dec. 26 letter that circulated in international media outlets earlier this week, PA Premier Rami Hamdallah informed U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of the decision, citing ATCA as the reason.

A representative from the U.S. Embassy in Beirut was not available for comment.

U.S. President Donald Trump had already pledged to cut almost all humanitarian aid to the PA, but projects were being phased out gradually. And in 2018, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, overcame a nearly crippling funding crisis caused by the U.S. canceling its aid contribution.

The organization, who had counted on a $1.2 million annual budget, was left with a $446 million gap when the Donald Trump administration announced it was cutting funding.

UNRWA had managed to overcome the cuts after Gulf countries including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia donated $50 million each. The EU also donated to the organization.

By the end of 2018, UNRWA appealed for $350 million in humanitarian relief for Palestinians.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 25, 2019, on page 2.

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