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PASSPORT TO SHAME


[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




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