BY general consent one of the most effective forms of building long-term understanding between nations are fellowships and scholarships awarded to bright young people to enable them to continue their studies in the donor country. Why, then, would Israel stop students from Gaza travelling to Britain and America to take up the offer of such further education? And why would the United States apparently accept the Israeli ban by transferring its offer from Palestinian students in Gaza to others living in the West Bank? Cannot the US exert its influence with Israel in such a deserving case?

Not all the facts are clear but what has been established is that the Gaza students cannot leave because the Israelis will not allow them to pass through check points into Israel from where they would travel to their destinations. It is often truly said that Gaza is a prison with more than one million inmates. The predictable explanation given by the Israeli authorities is “security” but it seems incredible that special arrangements cannot be made for a few young men, carefully selected and vetted for their academic and personal qualities.

This is a shortsighted policy - a fact recognised by Israel's parliamentary education committee whose chairman, Rabbi Michael Melchior, said this week that the ban “did not meet international standards or standards set by the morality of the Jewish people”. And he added: “The anger and frustration of students left behind in Gaza will not contribute to making them into peace-lovers.”