“You married a Palestinian. You cannot enter Israel”

Israel’s family reunion practices are gravely offensive

Palestine Update 234, April 12, 2019

This time; Palestine Updates brings you two powerful testimonies. The first is from Zoughbi Zoughbi, Director of Wi’am: The Palestinian Conflict Transformation Center. Wi’am is a grassroots civil society organization based in Bethlehem with a mission to promote peacebuilding and empower community members as agents of change. Zoughbi describes himself as a Palestinian, who believes that violence dehumanizes human beings. Therefore, through nonviolent struggle, he seeks to find the common ground in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in the belief that human beings are created in the image of God.

In his testimony: ‘Encircling the sharp edges’ Zoughbi shares his sadness and disdain at the way his wife was refused permission to enter Israel when she flew back from the USA to join the family on the occasion of their son’s marriage. In a second testimony, Elaine, his wife, a US citizen also writes of her emotions and details of the encounter with an intensely callous and inconsiderate set of immigration officers who had just one reason to treat her as they did. Elaine had married a Palestinian. Zoughbi puts it poignantly when he writes: “The story of our family is but one of many similar stories, especially those Palestinians married to persons from other countries and from Palestinians who live in diaspora. My story has hit me hard. Families have the human right to be together; it is the basis of all human rights, whether someone marries tomorrow or is married 30 years from tomorrow”.

Please read these testimonies and disseminate them widely. They are profound and touching. It never ceases to amaze those of us from the outside how Palestinians remain resilient even in the harshest of circumstances and view their own adversity as reasons to fight for universal justice, not just their own.

You may wish to write a letter of solidarity to the family of Zoughbi (zoughbi at alaslah.org)

In solidarity,
Ranjan Solomon


Encircling the sharp edges
by Zoughbi Zoughbi

We are still in shock about the inhumane treatment of my wife who has been married to me since 1990, having raised our four children together during those years. Last week she arrived very early to the airport in South Bend Indiana, in order to fly through Chicago then to Newark, and finally, to Tel Aviv. Her children and I couldn’t wait to greet her, to welcome, kiss, and hug her. With great anticipation we couldn’t wait to reunite our family, and to embark on the preparations for our son Lucas’ wedding. Our hearts were beating rapidly as we watched to see when the airplane would arrive in Tel Aviv, so we could talk to her on the phone and hear her voice. We sat mesmerized at our home waiting for any word from her. After initially being thrilled that she landed safely and joyfully in Tel Aviv airport, we stayed rooted next to the telephone, knowing that sometimes the Israeli Authorities will want to check our connection, to ensure she is related to us. After nearly thirty years, we know they already have profiles on all our family members. Even though all the information they need is available to them, the call is a subtle way for them to add extra humiliation. This is done in spite of the fact that we have always been a peace-loving family trying to live faithfully in the Holy Land. We refuse to hate.

As we talked to her later, we noticed that the tone and tenor of her voice became more stressed and strained, as she waited four to five hours without knowing whether they would let her in the country. Although she is an American citizen, they openly claimed she was a criminal because she married a Palestinian. This is heart wrenching, as we know that she has already sacrificed a lot for her children and husband, leaving the comforts of her home country, the United States, sheltered in peace, calmness and tranquility, to come to an unfamiliar place. For 29 years, my wife was walking the Via Dolorsosa, having to renew her visa every 3 months. She hoped to get her visa for one year, as probation to get her permanent residence. The 1993 peace process had given us false hope, the possibility of no more agony, no more pain. For 29 years the authorities played a game around letting her into the country or not. My wife once said that she was honored to be treated as a Palestinian refugee, to live among those of us without a safe place, without a secure future. She chose to live a more stress-filled life, the life we have under occupation. My children said my wife was once the most privileged in the family; she has become the least privileged. Not only that, but now she has to suffer even more pain and stress for no apparent reason, just because she wants to gather her children and husband together under a single roof.

This is not just a personal story only, but a story of my people. We refuse to be discouraged and decimated by the constant hurt and humiliation. Our commitment will not be any other manner, but a way of non-violence and the pursuit of legal restitution. We reject violence. But we will not give up even as our oppressors orchestrate new ways to push us away, out of our homes. Thank heavens that it is now the Lent season, as our story resonates with the passion of Christ. I do not know which station of the cross we are on, from the first to the fourteenth, but I know there is a denial and rejection of my wife’s presence here, like all Palestinians and those who love them.

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I co-founded the BDS movement. Why was I denied entry to the US?

With this denial of entry, Israel appears to have once again enlisted the Trump administration to do its bidding


“Palestinians are now helplessly anticipating a far-right Israeli tsunami that will wipe out whatever rights we have left.” (Photograph: Nasser Nasser/AP)

Omar Barghouti, The Guardian, 16 Apr 2019

Last Wednesday, as I was preparing to depart for the United States for a series of speaking engagements, I was abruptly stopped and prevented from boarding my flight at Ben Gurion airport. The US consulate informed the airline staff that US immigration has banned me from entering the country, despite having a valid visa, without providing a reason.

Given my regular, unhindered travel to the US for years, this ban seems to be an ideologically and politically motivated measure that fits in with Israel’s escalating repression against human rights defenders. Israel’s far-right regime is not merely continuing its decades-old system of military occupation, apartheid and ethnic cleansing against Palestinians, it is increasingly outsourcing its anti-democratic tactics to the US.

As a co-founder of the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights, I have been smeared by the Israeli government and banned from travel repeatedly, including in 2018 when I was prevented from going to Jordan to accompany my late mother during cancer surgery. Israel’s intelligence minister threatened me with “targeted civil elimination”, drawing condemnation from Amnesty International. Their de facto and “arbitrary travel ban” against me was recently lifted for three months after Amnesty International’s pressure.

On this US trip, I was scheduled to meet with policymakers and journalists and to address the critical need for cutting US complicity in Israel’s grave violations of Palestinian rights before audiences at New York University, Harvard, a black community bookstore in Philadelphia and the Tzedek Chicago synagogue. Afterwards, I was going to attend my daughter’s wedding in Houston.

I have decided not to miss any of my speaking engagements, joining via video in the middle of my nights, but I cannot possibly compensate the personal loss of missing my daughter’s wedding. I am hurt, but I am far from deterred.

Since Trump took office, he has repeatedly signaled his deep bias in favor of Israel. His Middle East team, Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman, with their fervent support for Israel’s illegal settlements and other crimes, must be the most dishonest broker in the history of US “peacemaking”. He has recognized Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights in violation of international law and more than seven decades of official US policy.

Meanwhile, members of Congress and politicians in 27 states have passed laws intended to suppress the voices of Americans who support BDS. The ACLU has condemned these repressive measures as an unconstitutional violation of free speech that is “reminiscent of McCarthy-era loyalty oaths”.

All of this has emboldened Israel’s hardline rightwing government to accelerate its racist, oppressive policies towards the Palestinian people. Over the last year, Israeli soldiers have massacred hundreds and injured thousands of unarmed Palestinian protesters demanding refugee rights and freedom from the open-air prison that Israel has turned Gaza into.

Last summer, Israel’s parliament passed the so-called “Jewish nation-state” law, which constitutionally enshrines an apartheid reality that has existed for many years. And Israel’s government has buried the so-called two-state solution by continuing its relentless theft of Palestinian land for illegal settlements, while at the same time increasing pressure on human rights defenders, particularly BDS advocates.

During the recent election campaign, Netanyahu promised to begin annexing the West Bank and repeatedly incited against Palestinian citizens of Israel, declaring, “Israel is not a state of all its citizens … Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people – and only it.” He will now likely form a government even more extreme and intransigent than the last, which was the most racist in Israel’s history.

Some Palestinians are now helplessly anticipating a far-right Israeli tsunami that will wipe out whatever rights we have left, but many are intensifying popular resistance, including BDS, calling for impactful solidarity and ending international complicity.

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How the Great Leftist Thinkers of the 20th Century Contended With Zionism


A crowd celebrates in Tel Aviv on Nov. 29, 1947, after the U.N. votes for the partition of Palestine. (Hans Pins/GPO, via Getty Images)

J.J. Goldberg, New York Times, April 11, 2019

THE LIONS’ DEN
Zionism and the Left From Hannah Arendt to Noam Chomsky
By Susie Linfield

As discouraging as these times may be for fans of liberal democracy, the mood among liberal friends of Israel — including most American Jews — is more like severe heartbreak. Look one way and there’s Israel’s right wing carousing with European despots and Holocaust deniers while fanning racism at home. Look the other way and see the cream of the intersectional left cavorting with the reactionary bigot Louis Farrakhan while young rock-star progressives in Congress set about rebranding the Jewish state from ally into enemy and its supporters — meaning, again, most American Jews — into traitors.

Long gone are the days when Israel was new and appealed to idealists around the world, when Golda Meir was a celebrated deputy chairwoman of the Socialist International and Pete Seeger and the Weavers were singing the Israeli folk tune “Tzena, Tzena, Tzena” on the “Hit Parade.”

Tzena, Tzena, Tzena – The Weavers

How has it come to this? That is the central question Susie Linfield poses in her new book, “The Lions’ Den: Zionism and the Left From Hannah Arendt to Noam Chomsky.”

How, she asks, did the state of Israel, which “came out of, and was nurtured by, the left,” become anathema to that same left? How did “Zionist,” the name for participants in and sympathizers with the Jewish state-building effort, “become the dirtiest word to the international left — akin, say, to ‘racist,’ ‘pedophile’ or ‘rapist’?”

On the flip side, how did Israel “come to deny the national rights of a neighboring people and to violently suppress them — not for a year or two, but for over a half century?”

Important questions, and achingly timely. Strangely, “The Lions’ Den” does not really address them. The book is described in Linfield’s introduction, in the jacket copy and promotional material as an “intellectual history” tracing the evolution of left-wing thought that brought us from there to here, from, say, Pete Seeger to Ilhan Omar. But the actual book, the one sandwiched in between “Introduction” and “Conclusion,” is something quite different. It is, in fact, something more original, more interesting and probably more important than a standard intellectual history would have been. Why the book so misrepresents itself remains a mystery.

The heart of “The Lions’ Den” is a series of individual portraits of iconic, midcentury left-wing thinkers who wrote extensively on the idea and reality of Jewish statehood. Six of the eight share overlapping biographies and experiences, which makes their very different intellectual journeys through the same historical thicket both instructive to today’s searchers and relevant to today’s crises.

The other two, Noam Chomsky and the British journalist Fred Halliday, seem quite out of place here, yet another oddity in this volume. Both entered the arena in a later era, making their stories irrelevant to the book’s drama, and neither of them — the very Jewish Chomsky or the non-Jewish Halliday — participates visibly in the others’ intensely personal struggles with Jewish identity.

Arthur Koestler, the Hungarian-born British writer, at his home in Alpbach, Austria. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The six overlapping profiles, on the other hand, tell such an intriguing story that the book’s marginal oddities fade in importance. Here they are: the German-born political philosopher Hannah Arendt; the mercurial, Hungarian-born novelist and adventurer Arthur Koestler; the great biographer and Trotsky admirer Isaac Deutscher; the combative American journalist I. F. Stone; the French Arabist journalist Maxime Rodinson; and the Tunisian-French anticolonialist philosopher Albert Memmi.

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