One of the astonishing things about the part of the country where Machetera lives, a backward and super-provincial, reflexively capitalistic and hyper-nationalistic (not in a good way) kind of place, is that even here, the truth still escapes all the mostly effective attempts to blockade it. Back when Machetera was suffering from the triple virus and had to haul her computer into the shop, she took it in without bothering to remove the bumper sticker taped below the screen which says “Only free men can negotiate” (Nelson Mandela), with the subtitle, “Palestine. Dying to live.” At the end of the week when she went to retrieve it, an older gentleman, dressed like a lumberjack and waiting to retrieve his own computer, stared fixedly at the sticker, while Machetera’s heart sank. Surely an evangelical tirade about Israel was brewing. Finally, after a few minutes, he asked with the utmost politeness where the sticker had come from because he wanted one for himself. “It’s so true,” he said, shaking his head.
With that in mind, today’s contribution to the destruction of the information blockade is the news about Mohammed Omer, the 24 year old Palestinian journalist who is in critical condition after being tortured nearly to death by Israeli troops for the crime of trying to return home after accepting the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism in London. He and Dahr Jamail shared the prize. You can read more about Omer here, where you will also find a link to his acceptance speech, introduced by John Pilger.
And in other ethnic cleansing news from Palestine, this arrived in Machetera’s mailbox this morning:
Message from Mona (a Jerusalemite):
Dear Friends and Family,
I am writing to share a little about what is happening in my life lately. As most of you know, I have been in Jerusalem since March 18 with Ramzi who at the time had barely turned 5 months. We left Habib and made the sacrifice to be apart for the coming 4 months for the sake of preserving my Jerusalem ID, to keep my residency status. I know this might sound strange, but as a Palestinian who has lived her whole life in Jerusalem, and despite the fact that my family has lived in Jerusalem and Palestine for centuries, according to the Israeli law, Palestinians living in Jerusalem are only residents but not necessarily permanent residents, and therefore are at risk all the time of losing their residency rights.
For the past 3 years, I have been married to Habib, a Palestinian by blood but an American by citizenship, because Habib’s Jerusalem residency was revoked in 2004- although Habib was born in Jerusalem, and has lived there until his adult life. Anyways, now it was my turn to renew my entry visa to “Israel” (yes, I needed a visa in my own country)- I met with a lawyer who asked for a substantial amount to help me renew my entry visa, which would preserve my residency until the next time I have to renew (a maximum of 3 years), but this time the Israelis refused to renew it and instead told me that since I made the decision to marry an “American”, who can’t reside in Jerusalem, I have made a decision to seek residency in a foreign country and am therefore “choosing” to abandon my residency rights in Jerusalem. (Palestinians are not allowed to have dual residency or citizenship, a law that is not applicable to Israelis who are able to hold dual or multiple citizenships.) To make a long story short, I lost my residency rights in my own country!!!! I can only go back to visit as a tourist, and have to acquire a tourist visa from the Israeli embassy!! The ironic thing is that all my family still live there!! But I can never join them, I don’t have a choice in the matter. We, the people of the land are being thrown out(!!!) Don’t be surprised, if you look into your dictionary for the synonym of Zionism that would, in one way and another, be what it is!
On my way back from the lawyer’s office, I was stopped by Israeli soldiers who asked to see my papers – they spoke Russian – I thought to myself, these immigrants know nothing of this land they are serving and protecting – they don’t even know the language – they come from Russia, Europe, Africa, the US, and other places and choose to reside in my country – and they can!!!! Not only that but they can limit my movement in my country, and even kick me out of it! When I complained to my lawyer about this injustice he simply answered, “Mona, this is occupation!!!” Not at all the legal answer I was looking for – there is no human law that can protect me, or preserve my rights. Needless to say, I have lost my right to return, to my country…..to the only country I ever belonged to, the only place I ever called home.
As an adult who has been living under occupation for the past 33 years, I was upset but I can’t say that I was surprised by what happened to me. However, what surprised me was what is happening with my 7 month old, Ramzi. Ramzi was born in the US and therefore got an American passport. Although he is the son of two full blooded Palestinians who call Jerusalem and Palestine home, he was denied residency rights in Jerusalem and was given a tourist visa. I asked the lady at the airport when we first arrived if she could give Ramzi (then 5 months old) a 4 month Visa, rather than the traditional 3 month visa, I showed her my residency card (at the time I still was considered a resident), and showed her our return plane tickets. She said no, and said that I should apply for an extension for Ramzi at the ministry of interior. To avoid conflict and to make my life easier I asked the lawyer to apply for an extension for Ramzi….. to my surprise Ramzi was denied. The Israeli government refused to grant a 7 month old baby an extension on his visa, not even with the help of our lawyer and all his connections!!! So, now I have to face the choice of leaving with Ramzi early and change our vacation plans, or stay with Ramzi here as planned until July 25th, and have my 7 month old be illegally overstaying his welcome in the land of his ancestors. The ironic thing is that this poor little baby can’t even say mama or baba, yet he is posing such a security threat to Israel that they denied him a one month extension on his visa!!
So now, my little family of three are added to the millions of Palestinians who lost their right to reside in their country and have been kicked out of their homes. We now are residents of Las Vegas, but I will always refer to Palestine as my home. Since the 1948 diaspora of our people, the Palestinians in the world have been waiting for a just solution, that would give them the right to return to their homeland, and now 60 years later the list gets longer everyday with people just like the 3 of us who were driven out of our country. I will never give up the hope that one day I would have the choice to live in Palestine, and I will make sure that Ramzi also knows that he has a right to return!