Saturday, 21 July 2007

Visa struggle

Throughout the world there are Palestinians who have no official papers recognising their nationality. This includes refugees in camps in Lebanon and Jordan, as well those who were out of the country (& their descendents) in 1967 when a census was conducted throughout the West Bank.

People like Sam Bahour are fighting for the right to enter Palestine and to use their skills to help rebuild their nation. Sam returned following the Oslo Accords and went on to found PalTel - the first Palestinian telecoms company. Yet he travels on his US passport and has no permit to reside in the West Bank. He is dependent upon Israeli renewal of 3-month tourist visas, which in autumn 2006 the government decided to stop giving him. (BBC report) Many who work for NGO's, schools and universities are in a similar position. Going in and out of the state on these visas arouses the authorities' suspicion and many have had problems coming back into the country and trying to get another tourist visa. After the crackdown, international governments intervened but there has been little progress. It can be argued that the Israeli government is essentially discriminating against 'foreigners' who are not Jewish. Not only do organisations suffer, but more importantly, so do families. There are countless instances of families where one or more members are unable to return to the country, or who live under the threat of not being able to return. Sam argues that the family structure is the key to holding society together throughout the occupation, so as long as this is prevented, it causes disunity.

More information on Sam & his views can be found here.

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