Tag Archives: passport

Israel & Italy block travel for Palestinians

I’m making plans to visit Italy in mid- June to attend the International Making Cities Livable Conference in Rome.  I’m excited.  I’ve never been to Italy.

Two colleagues from Gaza, an engineer and an architect, worked with me earlier this year to research and write a paper for the conference.  We submitted it, and we’re very pleased that it was accepted. We’ve been invited to present our paper to this group of academics, planners, urbanists and architects.

As an American, I can travel to Italy without first securing a Visa, so I’m busy looking for the cheap flights, cheap accommodations in Rome, and a cheap rail pass while traveling in Italy. There are many bargains.

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My colleagues from Gaza must apply for a Visa from the Italian officials, and for permission to exit the Gaza Strip from the Israeli officials. A double whammy. Here’s what Italy wants:

  • Entry visa application form
  •  recent passport-size photograph
  •  valid travel document whose expiry date is three months longer than that of the visa requested
  •  return ticket (or booking) or evidence that the applicant has their own means of transport
  •  proof that the applicant has sufficient means of subsistence as required by the Directive of the Ministry of the Interior dated 1st March 2000
  •  supporting documentation in relation to the applicant’s social and professional status
  •  health insurance covering a minimum of €30,000 for emergency hospitalisation and repatriation expenses, valid throughout the Schengen area
  •  proof of accommodation (hotel booking, Declaration of hospitality, declaration whereby accommodation costs shall be borne by the person inviting)

My colleagues have complied with these onerous requirements. One was rejected by Israel, the other was rejected by Italy.

I’m traveling to Italy with a heavy heart, angry that this bureaucratic red-tape and BULLSHIT are preventing my colleagues from joining me. This presentation will not be the same without them.

I’m trying to think of ways to use my privileged status as an American to highlight this unfairness and injustice.  Any ideas?

 

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Filed under Gaza, Israel, Occupation, Politics, Uncategorized

Which passport do you have?

I’m really, really, REALLY beginning to appreciate the freedom and flexibility that comes with my American passport.

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I’ve never thought about it much before, but after speaking with several different men from Arab and African countries, I’m feeling a bit of the weight they must carry with the lack of freedom to move about and travel whenever, wherever they want. Even when they have the financial resources and are multi-lingual, their passports are a stumbling block.  (Look at the passport rankings to see what I’m talking about.)

Don’t kid yourself. Our movement on this planet is not by plane, train or ship—-rather it’s by unearned privilege!  With my American passport in hand, I can book a ticket on the TransSiberian Railroad and travel more than 5,000 miles from Moscow through Siberia, across Mongolia and into Beijing, as a friend and I did in 2009. No questions asked.

The reverse is not true. Many people in the world (most in fact) cannot visit the USA or anywhere else unless they jump through many, many hoops and are fortunate not to stumble along the way.

Is that how the wealthy, “developed” Western countries maintain control, by restricting travel of the population from the “other” parts of the world?

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the U.N. General Assemby in 1948, addresses the right of travel but doesn’t seem to be worth the paper it’s printed on.

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Article 13.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

 

Article 14.
(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Ask the 1.8 million Palestinians imprisoned in the Gaza Strip about what they think of their right to leave and return to their country.

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Mural on Palestine Stadium entrance in Gaza

Ask the Palestinian beach soccer team, or Mohammed Naim Shahada (27), or Mohammed Tamraz (26), or Najah Yassin (53), or Fida Argelawi (32) or Samir Mustafa (55) —- all stuck in Gaza. As described in this Haaretz article in June 2015:

Samir Mustafa arrived [in the Gaza Strip] from the United States for a funeral in January, and has not been able to leave since. Mustafa immigrated to the United States 35 years ago and has U.S. citizenship. He lives in Maryland with his wife and their five children. In January this year he traveled to Gaza through the Rafah crossing to attend a family member’s funeral, and has not been able to leave. Mustafa worked in a spare parts warehouse, but was notified a month and a half ago that he has been fired for failure to show up for work.

“When I asked for assistance from the U.S. consulate they told me that I violated a travel warning that prohibits entry to Gaza since 2003, as if they’d forgotten that I’m from Gaza and I came to see my family,” said Mustafa. “Lately they’ve been telling me I’m on a waiting list, but I don’t know how much time I’ll have to wait. My wife and children have been living off the little savings we have, but it’s running out. I worked my whole life, in Israel as well, now I’ve spent six months walking around doing nothing in Gaza. I don’t understand why they don’t let me leave here and return to my wife and children.” According to Israeli authorities, since Mustafa did not enter Gaza through the Erez crossing, he is not allowed to leave from it, and therefore his only option is leaving through Rafah – which Egypt nearly always keeps closed.

Some small minds (Trump and Netanyahu for example) think that walls are the solution to keep the “others” out.

What would happen if, instead of focusing on keeping people out, we (the privileged Western nations) focused on ensuring that the benefits we enjoy are spread magnanimously around the planet.  There really is enough to go around. We have the resources, the technology, imagination and the brains to do it. We simply lack the heart and spirit of generosity.

This might explain in a small way why I’m so passionate about the rights of Palestinians, especially those imprisoned in the Gaza Strip. The burden of this illegal restriction on simple movement is unbearable to imagine, but it’s real and it must end.

 

 

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Filed under Gaza, Israel

No secrets

Israeli citizenship is a complicated topic.   I think it requires a special type of PhD to understand it.

In very simple terms — as I understand it — all Jews anywhere and everywhere in the world automatically qualify for Israeli citizenship regardless of whether their ancestors are from Israel.  A Jew born and raised in Mongolia could arrive at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv and become a citizen of Israel.

On the other hand, a Palestinian whose grandparents and great-grandparents farmed the land and owned homes in villages located in the area on which Ben Gurion airport now sits, cannot return to see or visit or live on the land that once belonged to their families.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, the other Israeli hawks, and most Israelis don’t appreciate the anger and sadness this double-standard creates.

Israeli authorities also issue 10-year travel bans to people they don’t want in Israel, usually activists who are supporting and working with Palestinians.

The latest news is about Adam Shapiro, an American who was detained at Ben Gurion airport.   He has been told that a secret 10-year ban was issued against him in 2009 and he will likely be deported.  Shapiro is the co-founder, along with his wife, of the International Solidarity Movement.

I wonder if a secret 10-year travel ban has been issued against me.  I’m not a high-profile activist by any means, but if Israeli authorities check my passport, they will see the stamp from the Palestinian Authority.  I am posting it here because I have no secrets.

Lora's passport stamp from Palestinian Authority.

Lora’s passport stamp from Palestinian Authority.

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Filed under Israel, People

Gaza welcomes me!

Yesterday I traveled from Cairo to Gaza.  I did not sleep the night before because I was so excited.  We left Cairo about 4 AM with six Palestinians returning home, the driver and me.   I think Egyptians have a reputation for driving fast.  I can confirm that it is true.

Lora leaving Cairo 4AM headed to Gaza.

When we arrived at the Rafah border, I was very excited and nervous too because I remembered how I was turned away last year.  Fortunately, I was granted permission by both Egypt and Gaza to cross.  It is not an easy crossing at Rafah.  First, we showed our passports to the Egyptian guards at the gate.  Then we walked to a large, very old building and showed our passports to Egyptian clerks.  Then we took a bus about three blocks to another new building where we showed our passports to Palestinian clerks.

Lora and Salah at the Rafah gate.

At each step along the way, my foreign passport delayed my progress because everyone had questions and wanted to speak with other officials about my travel to Gaza.  My Palestinian travel companions from Cairo did not want to leave me behind.  They waited with me at each step so that I would not be alone.  I am very grateful for their kindness!

Finally, I was given permission to enter Gaza!  I wanted to kiss everyone because I was so happy but I am trying to respect the customs and culture in Gaza, and so I smiled and said “shukran!” a thousand times.  🙂

Palestinian Passport Stamp

I am very proud of the Palestinian stamp on my passport.

Several engineers from Gaza met me at the new terminal in Rafah, a very modern facility that opened just recently.  Gaza is ready to greet the world.  Now Egypt, Israel and the rest of the world must ease the severe travel restrictions which have locked Gaza down for many years.

Later I will share about my first special evening in Gaza.

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Filed under Egypt, Uncategorized