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An American in Palestine: Or Not

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    An American in Palestine: Unless you are of Palestinian origin! Salma Andrea - salmaandrea @ comcast.net Canada is our ally, when I cross the border with my US
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 2, 2006
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      An American in Palestine:
      Unless you are of Palestinian origin!
      Salma Andrea - salmaandrea @ comcast.net


      Canada is our ally, when I cross the border with my US passport, I zip
      through and they shine a smile at me. Compare this to what happened to
      me crossing into Israeli-controlled Palestine.

      I read the articles and heard the warnings, stories of Palestinian
      people with various citizenships that would normally allow them
      passage into Palestine, being denied entry. Nevertheless, I thought,
      you hear so many things, I am sure I will get in. Well I was wrong.
      After a couple of interviews at different stages of crossing the
      Allenby Bridge over the river Jordan, I waited for a total of 8 hours
      and then was denied entry. I saw everyone leave. I memorized every
      corner of the place. I kept myself entertained for a long time by
      talking to people and playing with mi serably bored and tired
      children. Eventually the janitors came to clean, they did a great job
      which initially surprised me but then I realized that this space is
      shared by Israelis and it's probably for the sake of these soldiers
      that they do all this.

      I remember a time when we used to be crammed in filthy hot areas under
      the sun waiting to get in. Today you can fly through the border for a
      mere $80, VIP service they call it. A civilian Israeli with a big
      smile, constantly shaking hands and patting well dressed men on their
      backs carries out the mission of expediting your passage. VIP service
      won't help you if you are somehow black listed (for example today, a
      Palestinian with an American passport), it simply erases the mandatory
      unnecessary wait. What a joke, and what a testimony for the reality of
      all what happens on this crossing. Pure harassment, unless you can
      afford to pay that fee. It's engraved in my memory, the time when we
      used to be stripped searched as young as I could remember. These days,
      you are not stripped searched unless you are on some really bad l ist
      like some good people I know. Strip searching is simply for
      harassment, as the high tech equipment they use can detect everything.
      I remember when our shoes were taken away for security reasons and
      later dumped from a window in a heap that became a mix of people and
      shoes in seconds. I always stayed away, risking loosing my shoes until
      everyone left. I would pick up my shoes with tears shed for my
      people's humiliation. I remember only a few years back, when a soldier
      would dump your suitcase in a plastic bin and go through every piece
      of clothes in it with his or her hands. Yes it took hours and hours.
      Now you still wait and wait and wonder what are you waiting for?

      Oslo did give us something, cleaner, air-conditioned rooms where the
      same policies of discrimination, harassment and humiliation are still
      carried out, and more sophisticated machines to pick through our
      pockets. Speaking of sophisticated machines, I almost forgot our
      welcome of a few days ago. As you enter the building where it all
      happens, I went through a new machine with a voice that yells at you
      to stop while you are locked from both ends and strong puffs of air
      are shot at you. I was terrified. As I was commanded by the machine to
      exit, I looked back and saw multiple pictures of myself looking
      hysteric with my hair flying around. At that moment I understood why
      the soldier in front of me was looking up at the screen smiling. Is
      this a joke I wondered? I can't imagine how an old person, a child or
      someone with a heart condition would react to this contraption that
      entertained a bored soldier.

      For hours I watched passports and documents trickle out of the
      security office, people rushing to the window with some really thick
      glass while a female soldier with a disgusted look on her face called
      your name. There were no loud speakers and therefore people rushed and
      closed in on the window to hear. Often this behavior irked the soldier
      and she would scream at the top of her lungs in Hebrew while signaling
      for people to go behind the line.

      The majority of soldiers working and dealing with people at the lower
      levels were women. When it came to Shin Beit and real interviewing,
      the men showed up. I entertained myself trying to project some
      theories about why that was. One young Israeli soldier, who was
      visibly irked during processing my passport by the fact that I was an
      electrical engineer, kept passing me with a snicker on her face. I
      could feel the hate in her eyes.

      Finally, a young soldier by the name of Yael came out and announced to
      me that it is not possible for me to cross. He was surprised when I
      asked him his name and was disarmed for a second or two. He said that
      I need to obtain a Palestinian identity card or a Tasreeh (a permit
      obtained by family members on the West Bank on my behalf and which
      takes weeks to be issued) to enter and exist from now on. Such papers
      would not allow me in many areas in the West Bank, including Jerusalem
      and it would make my crossing through check points hellish and
      improbable. I.e. it simply restricted my movement. By stripping me of
      the right to use my American citizenship, they can control where I go
      and subject me to whatever treatment they want to inflict on me. Not
      that Americans are i mmune to bad treatment in Palestine specifically
      if they make it clear that they support Palestinians.

      The racism and prejudice extends beyond whatever passports you carry.
      If you are of Palestinian origin, you go in, but you have to
      experience the prison and humiliation that is the West Bank now. With
      me waiting endlessly were 8 people, a Canadian, 2 British, and 4 with
      an American passport. We were all denied entrance except for a mother
      and her daughter. There were no reasons given. Not even an apology.
      All of us were of Palestinian origin. A woman, who has just arrived
      from the USA to join her husband, had a little newborn in her hands
      who was constantly awakened by the flies whizzing by. I thought they
      would eventually let her in since I saw another woman with an older
      daughter get in (the other two with American passports). But they
      wouldn't let her in. The woman did not possess an original birth
      certificate for the newborn to identify this woman as her mother. So
      she was sent back to Jordan where she knew no one. I offered to have
      her contact my family there but she declined in tears. Palestinians
      are very proud people. In conclusion, this new policy seems to target
      people of a certain age range who are traveling alone and who have
      "privileged" passports.

      This is nothing new. Israel always came up with absurd inhumane racist
      laws and policies. For example, there is a law now that forbids
      Israelis from entering the West Bank. Therefore a friend of mine, a
      Palestinian who is also an Israeli citizen, cannot legally live with
      her Palestinian husband and kids. Their home in Ramallah on the West
      Bank is forbidden to her. Of course the rest of the family is not
      allowed to live in Israel since Israel's Law of Return basically
      allows only Jews or those who convert to Judaism to acquire Israeli
      citizenship.

      I am an American Citizen who was discriminated against, denied entry,
      denied seeing my relatives, and denied visiting my country of origin,
      simply because of my Palestinian roots. But you'd think that the USA
      would care about its own US citizens being mistreated by this great
      ally. Well, I called the US embassy and they don't give a damn
      basically. After all when it comes to Israel, nobody else matters to
      the US even its own citizens.


      Relevant Reading:

      http://electronicintifada.net/bytopic/443.shtml

      http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/736349.html

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_Return

      http://asp.alhaq.org/zalhaq/

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