Israeli Discrimination: Beyond Borders

Joharah Baker

An Israeli soldier stands guard as a bus
carrying activists crosses the Allenby Bridge crossing point between
Israel and Jordan, early Wednesday, June 2, 2010.

June 16, 2010

As much as I try to avoid it, the situation inevitably arises from time
to time. If I tell people that traveling with my children is a
nightmare, most mothers in particular would probably nod their heads
understandingly, thinking I am referring to keeping two wayward children
under control on an international flight. While that has also been an
issue with me like most other mothers, this is not the "nightmare" to
which I am referring.

To put it in a nutshell, I cannot leave the country with my two children
– aged 10 and 7 – from the same borders. As crazy as this sounds, it is
true, courtesy of Israel’s complicated and discriminatory system of ID
cards among Palestinians. I am one of thousands of people who fall
between the cracks – stuck between two oppressive Israeli sets of
restrictions for travelling Palestinians, the result of which is that
mother and children cannot travel together across Israeli borders.

My two kids were born in Jerusalem (a prerequisite for their eligibility
to become Jerusalem residents). I was born in the United States. After
the Oslo Accords were signed and the PA made its grand entrance into the
West Bank and Gaza, I was also afforded a West Bank Palestinian
passport since I had been living in Ramallah for over a decade. When I
married, I came to Jerusalem with one Palestinian ID card, one American
passport and the hope that Israel would somehow grant me family
reunification with my husband, therefore transforming my green
(Palestinian ID) to the more coveted blue Jerusalem ID. Of course, this
did not happen overnight. To be exact, it took 11 years after which I
still have not been granted a Jerusalem ID card but rather a one-year
residency permit in Jerusalem (renewable upon security check every 12
months). To travel across checkpoints between Jerusalem and the West
bank, I must always carry my permit, which allows me (after a
fingerprint check) to cross into the city.

But back to my issue with traveling. Israel bans Palestinians (with
Palestinian Authority ID cards) from traveling through its Ben Gurion
Airport. On rare occasions, a special permit is given to Palestinians to
travel via the airport, but usually only in cases of serious medical
conditions. Even then, the process is lengthy and is not guaranteed. You
may be given an answer about whether a permit has been issued or not
mere hours before your flight; in some cases, even afterwards.

Palestinians, therefore, must leave the country through Jordan via the
Allenby Bridge. My children, given that they have neither a Jordanian
nor a Palestinian passport, cannot travel from Jordan. I of course,
cannot travel from Ben Gurion. So, this is what we do when their father,
the original Jerusalemite, is not traveling with us. The first time, I
was taking my then much younger kids to the United States to issue them
US passports. My father (who only has US citizenship) flew them out of
Ben Gurion and met me later that night in Jordan (after I crossed the
bridge earlier that day). On the way back, I had my sister, who is also
only an American citizen, meet me in Jordan to take the kids back with
her to Tel Aviv’s airport. I crossed the bridge the second day.

The occasion has arisen once more. I am to fly to Geneva with the two of
them in a few days. This time, there is no one to take them out of the
country and I do not have the luxury of time to try and convince the
Israelis to give me a permit to fly out of the airport. Hence, I am
sending them on a flight alone from Ben Gurion (with an escort from the
airline) and will meet up with them in Europe. The same goes for their
return trip. I, of course, will have the much less enviable task of
crossing the bridge to Jordan.

Mine are not the only woes in regards to traveling via Israeli borders.
Internationals (especially pro-Palestinian) run the risk of being
stamped with a one-month or even one-week visa – or worse, being turned
back at the border altogether. Palestinians from Jerusalem and inside
Israel are harassed, strip searched and humiliated by Israeli security
personnel at the airport, sometimes missing their flight because of the
hours-long interrogations. At the Allenby Crossing, Israeli border
personnel are known to take people into the "room" where they hold them
for hours, interrogate them on where and why they are coming to the
country, only to send them packing back to Jordan. No one is immune
either. High profile personalities such as Noam Chomsky have been
returned at the Allenby Bridge and others such as Norman Finkelstein
have been given a five-year ban at Ben Gurion, stamped clearly on their
US passports.

Israel’s security checks, whether at internal checkpoints inside
Palestine or at their international borders are infamously grueling and
oftentimes just plain ridiculous. Questions such as "do you have any
weapons?" or "did you pack your own bags?" are ones that have obvious
answers, at least to those who know Israel’s security paranoia. Other
questions are equally as ridiculous – "Do you know any Palestinians?",
or worse yet if you say you are traveling to Jerusalem, "Do you know any
Arabs there?"

In my case, it is not the hassle or the harassment of Israeli security
that irks me the most. Our skins have thickened after so many years of
enduring such questioning. What disturbs me to no end is the fact that
mother and children are not allowed to travel together, that the racist
system of segregation Israel has imposed upon Palestinians living under
its occupation has been allowed to continue unabated. Freedom of
movement, democracy and family unity are principles that Israel may very
well embrace, at least for Jewish Israelis. Such things are obviously
not for us.

Joharah Baker is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at
the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and
Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at

:: Article nr. 67099 sent on 17-jun-2010 01:10 ECT

This entry was posted in Palestine. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s