PASSPORT TO SHAME | View Points | Ammon News


[6/24/2011 12:00:00 AM]

By Jafar M. Ramini

As an observer and commentator on Palestinian issues I have made it a rule not to react in haste or anger to any kind of news that I read, hear or debate over our many problems and struggles. And believe me I do the above on various forums on a daily basis. But, Saturday morning, June 19th was one of those mornings that I nearly broke that rule. Without the calming influence of my wife and my son and my grandchildren around me I would have hit the roof and written something that might have made me momentarily feel better, but would not have landed well in this forum.

What, you may ask, made a 68 year-old Palestinian grandfather lose his sense of calm and reach a zenith of rage? The answer is an article on Al Jazeera English, ‘Passport For All In Gaza?’ Note the question mark.

It appears that there is actually a ‘black list’ with 30,000 names on it in the Palestinian Authority’s books, denying those people their citizen’s right to a passport. Yes, you are reading it right; there is a black list in Ramallah. In their infinite wisdom, the Palestinian Authority has decided to remove a mere 141 names from this shameful black list. Yet, on 8th June this year, President Mahmoud Abbas awarded former Norwegian Ambassador Kair Willoch an honoury Palestinian passport. A magnanimous gesture. Empty, but magnanimous.

Abu Mazin, it would have been more honourable to cancel the black list altogether and afford every Palestinian, no matter their political affiliation or where they live, what is their birth-right, a Palestinian passport.

Recently an official of UNRWA reported on the siege of Gaza and the hardship therein ‘ It is hard to understand the logic of a man-made policy which deliberately impoverishes many and condemns hundreds of thousands of potentially productive people to a life of destitution’. Abu Mazin, have you read this? Have you understood the message therein?

This, of course, is always the case. When governments in the Arab world fall out with the Palestinian leadership it is we, the citizens who are punished and penalized. How? Through the control of our lives through passports, visas and work permits.

What on earth is going on? In all civilized nations on earth a passport is a right of every citizen. Not, it seems, in the Arab world and not, in particular, in Palestine. A passport in Palestine is not a right it is a GIFT to be bestowed on followers, hangers on and favourites. And it is a NOOSE to be tightened around our necks when political expediency is called for.

Who gave the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah or the Hamas Authority in Gaza the right to blackmail and humiliate Palestinians for political point scoring? Haven’t the Palestinians suffered enough at the hands of Israel, the Arab world and the international community? It would seem not. We have to add a taste of Palestinian injustice on Palestinians to the mix.

We the Palestinians have had an interesting journey with the symbol of citizenship that is the passport. After the Nakba of 1948 Jordan usurped the West Bank of Palestine, where I am from, and as a result we, the Palestinians who lived in the West Bank and Jordan, East of the river, were granted Jordanian passports. Though we were grateful for the privilege, because compared to our brothers and sisters who lived in refugee camps all over the Arab world with what is known as ‘travel documents’, the Jordanian passport was, indeed, a privilege. Other Palestinians who were given travel documents by Egypt, Syria and Lebanon needed a visa – I hope I am not being indelicate here – to go to the toilet! Let alone to travel from one country to another, trying to earn a living.

These passports and documents were used and are still being used as a noose around our necks, to pressure us and subjugate us to do whatever the issuing authority requires of us. For a Palestinian to travel and work in the Arab world they need a visa, a sponsor (Kafeel) and a work permit. The movement in and out of the host country requires an exit and re-entry permit. The renewal of these passports and documents is, to say the least, humiliating, lengthy, frustrating and costly.

Under a different heading I wrote in this very forum about the recent rapprochement between Hamas and Fatah and although I gave it a cautious welcome I wrote, in my normal calm and measured manner, let’s wait and see.

Well, we have waited and we are yet to see. Far from being united and strong we are fragmented and the call for unity has been ignored. Any reasonable person would have thought that the agreement between Fatah and Hamas was a first step towards Palestinian unity. It would seem not. How dare any Palestinian leader of any political persuasion deny a Palestinian citizen their right to a passport and yet claim to be working for Palestinian unity. You do so because you have no honour. What you have is shame.

You are planning to go the United Nations in September to call for an independent Palestinian state. Dare I ask you, oh wise men, what kind of Palestinian state do you have in mind?

What shape a Palestinian state?
How viable a Palestinian state?
What size a Palestinian state?
What is the description of a Palestinian citizen?
What are the rights of that Palestinian citizen?
Who is to be declared a Palestinian citizen and who is to represent the Palestinians in this perceived state of yours?

I, as a Palestinian, who does not hold a Palestinian passport hereby declare that I did not vote for you. I do not support you.
I do not want any part of any Palestinian state that is a Fatah/Hamas state or a Hamas/Fatah state. I, as a non-partisan Palestinian living in exile for the past 50 years disown you and I declare my allegiance to an inclusive, united, democratic, secular free Palestine. After all, it is our country. Not Hamas and Fatah country. We, the people of Palestine.

Jafar M. Ramini
Salam Wa Laisa Estislam
Peace Not Capitulation

  • 1 ranman 6/25/2011 3:22:42 PM

    1--The Palestinians are very thankful and grateful to Jordan for granting citizenship with all its privileges to millions of Palestinians. No other country comes close. Do you know who else is even more thankful to Jordan? The Zionist Jews in Palestine. For every Palestinian who gave up his citizenship in Palestine is one less Palestinian they have to worry about.2-- Why don’t the Palestinians in the diaspora provide an alternative to the leadership inside Palestine? The entire ingredients to form a formidable and robust alternative are there. The only thing lacking is the willingness to sacrifice and invest time, sweat and money. There are millions of Palestinians who are busy doing everything else while neglecting their solemn duty to their home land. The way I see it. Most Palestinians in the diaspora, -giving the chance- will not leave whatever life they have now -Throughout the world- and move back to future Palestinian State, instead, they will settle for some financial compensation . Hence, the lack of passion and drive to mount a serious effort to challenge the corrupt PA and or lunch an all-out resistance to the occupation. Compare that, to hundreds of thousands of Jews who are willing to leave lucrative careers, profitable businesses and very well established comfortable lives in western countries; Willing to uproot their families and -in the process- suffer financially and emotionally just to come to place where they have never been before. If only Palestinians have that passion and drive, things might be different. After all, actions and not words that will eventually decide the outcome of this conflict.

  • 2 nehad ismail - London 6/25/2011 7:48:41 PM

    Ostaz Jaafar, cool down a bit. The Passports issued in Ramallah or Gaza has no value. To be a valubale document it must have the backing of an internationally recognized state. So I say to them you "know where to stuff your passports". People have managed without Palestinian Passports since 1948. The other point I want to make is both Hamas and Fatah abused their authority. Hamas is not interested in human rights or recovering the occupied territories. Its main focus is to dominate the people and turn them into Taliban Robots. As for Fatah, it is more interested in securing priveleges from Israel like VIP passes whilst the ordinary people are abused by Israeli soldiers at check points and at gaps in the apartheid wall. The Passport fiasco is only a symptom of a much deeper malaise. Thanks for highlighting the issue.

  • 3 Sophie 6/25/2011 9:10:22 PM

    For what it is worth, I was enraged by this piece of news too. Another incidence of abuse of power and the complete unworthiness of the current leadership to lead anyone at all.

  • 4 Alexandra 6/26/2011 11:29:20 PM

    As usual, Ranman hits the nail squarely on the head. Of course actions speak louder than words, which is why it must be so frustrating for Mr. Ramini to find that his call for a referendum amongst ALL Palestinians has been largely ignored. Action without thought, action without direction and action without a clear goal is worse than a waste of time, it creates the kind of chaos that is food and drink for the Israeli occupiers. Somebody has to start gathering like-minded souls together within the Arab World and canvas the Palestinian people on what they want. Only then can the way forward be achieved. As to these present so-called leaders, grasping, greedy power hunting predators is how they appear to me.

  • 5 Sanaa Kassim 6/27/2011 10:43:23 PM

    I agree with all the comments as they make sense and each one raises a different point from a different angle, but I like to comment on number 4 Alexandra. I think the point of the referendum was discussed before by various commentators. Questions arose about the mechanism? How to implement the referendum? is it by voting on line and at which website?. Is it to apply to people aborad or inside the occupied territories. How to publicise the excercise. As others mentioned before this needto be in Arabic and must have sufficient publicity. It is not as simple as we think. Referendum is like an election it needs lot of orgnization. The simplest method may be the on-line option, people visit the webpage and click their preference.Again you need a web-designer to do it and this agains costs money.

  • 6 nehad ismail - London 6/28/2011 11:09:24 PM

    Responding to Alexandra, I don't think Mr. Ramini's message has been ignored, but it may have not been seen by enough Palestinians in the diaspora or in Palestine itself. This requires a media campaign in some Internet based Arabic Newspapers that have special interests in Palestinian affairs. No just an article or two but a feature/advertisement that stays on the first page for weeks until enough people have seen it or responded to it.The idea may also be to advanced or too sophisticated to appeal to a mass audience. If an editor-in-chief is himself convinced of the idea, he might agree to feature it regularly for free.

  • 7 ranman 6/29/2011 6:31:22 AM

    Alexandra, My dear, let’s look at the BIG PICTURE.I don’t think Mr.Ramini call is being ignored. I like to believe that his effort and the efforts of many Arab patriots cross the Middle East have been answered in a way or another. What is taking place now in our Arab world is the direct and indirect result of all the hard work of countless people in the last few decades who worked tiredly to wake people up and to get them out of the rot of past decades. Liberating Palestine is not a small task that can be achieved by small group of people. The stealing of Palestine was the result of a conspiracy stitched by many countries and many groups. We are in essence fighting the whole of western world led by the U.S; if people don’t see that, they are willingly blind and naïve. Palestinians weather we like or not are an integral part of the Arab world; strong Arabs means strong Palestinians; week Arabs means weaker Palestinians. What we need now is a 10 feet tall charismatic, smart and well liked personality that can see above all the empty heads and be able to step into this bottomless void of leadership in the Arab world in general and in Palestinian in particular. Regarding the so called leaders we have now...I think all our leaders/dictators should only serve 2 terms; one term in office and one term in jail. On a side note, Mr.Ramini I hope the roof of your house is too high, otherwise, wear a helmet.

  • 8 Jafar M. Ramini 7/2/2011 2:49:53 PM

    Many thanks to you all for not only reading my articles but also taking the time to respond and offer advice. Yes I agree with most of what was said and I am at a loss as to how to kick start this vital project" the referendum."I am at the moment spending most of my days trying to help the peace flotilla on it's way on various forums. My next contribution is on hold for the time being, but it's coming. Ranman I am 6'2" tall and have withstood all their assaults,of various types, through the years. I am net easily intimidated and wont be cowed.

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