When "Mahmoud" won a scholarship to get his Ph.D. from a US university, he was ambivalent. After all, he had always been politically opposed to the Americans because of their foreign policy even though he was impressed by their democracy. In fact, Mahmoud, a lecturer on media ethics who asked to use a pseudonym because of the sensitivity of the subject, is not a big fan of the Palestinian president, and US ally, Mahmoud Abbas. Despite Mahmoud's father having been a Fatah leader, he has generally voted for Hamas candidates in student council elections and did so as well in the decisive 2006 parliamentary elections, which Hamas swept, winning 74 of the 132 Palestinian Legislative Council seats.
After Mahmoud's paperwork was finalized and his documents arrived from the United States, all that remained was an interview at the US Consulate General in Jerusalem, but there was a problem: Jerusalem was beyond the wall, and the only way to reach the city was to get a permit from Israel. Mahmoud and his wife applied for permits, and she was immediately approved. His application was held up; the requirements for security clearance for Palestinian women are usually much lower than those for men. As the interview neared, Mahmoud still had no permit. He began thinking about a plan B. A work colleague from Jerusalem offered to drive him into the city using the settler road, where soldiers don’t usually check every car, but that worried Mahmoud.