A Palestinian-American discovers that the State Department allows Israel to define his national identity
Saturday, April 3, 2010
It occurred to me recently that I ought to try to gain entry into the West Bank. As a Gaza-born Palestinian with dual American citizenship, I regularly travel using my American passport without any problems. I thought I'd do some due diligence before committing, so I pulled up the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs webpage to see what sort of preparations I had to make to fly into Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport.
Before I launch into the content of the site, I want to highlight some formatting and visuals. The page is entitled, "Israel, the West Bank and Gaza: Country Specific Information." Whatever the nattering ninnies at the top may say, the bureaucrats have it right: Israel, the West Bank and Gaza represent one control system – and therefore, one political (if dysfunctional and fragmented) unit. Just as significantly, the map on the page asterisks both Gaza and the West Bank with a footnote that reads in part, "Israeli-occupied." Well, so much for Sharon's disengagement.
The site tells us that the American government "seeks equal treatment and freedom to travel for all American citizens regardless of national origin or ethnicity." Excellent! Go America!
Wait, there's more. Just a few more lines into the text we learn that, "American citizens whom Israeli authorities suspect of being of Arab or Muslim origin are likely to face additional, often time-consuming, and probing questioning by immigration and border authorities, or may even be denied entry into Israel [italics mine]."
Well, this is problematic. A government that America wet-nursed now reserves the right to discriminate against Americans on the basis of race and religion. But let's be reasonable. Israel has a special history of violence and security requirements. And, while all Muslims may not be terrorists, all terrorists are Muslims –TimothyMcVeigh, the Tax-me-not terrorist and these guys notwithstanding. And this is Israel, and there is no light between us.
I continued to read down the page: "It is possible that Israeli authorities would consider as Palestinian anyone who has a Palestinian Identification number, was born in the West Bank or Gaza, or was born in the United States but has parents or grandparents who were born or lived in the West Bank or Gaza. Any such U.S. citizens may be required to travel to Israel using their Palestinian Authority passport, regardless of whether they hold the U.S. citizenship… Individuals who hold a Palestinian Authority ID, as well as persons judged by Israeli authorities to have claim to a Palestinian Authority ID by virtue of ancestry, will be considered subject to Israeli law and to regulations that Israel applies to residents of the West Bank and Gaza, regardless of whether they also hold U.S. citizenship [italics mine]."
This is important. Basically, the American government, by continuing to maintain diplomatic relations with Israel, is ceding American-identifying authority to the Israeli government. Put differently, within a circumscribed geographical space, the Israeli government gets to decide who is an American and who is a nigg… excuse me, a Palestinian.
Here's an important jurisdictional question: Does this provision also permit the Zionist state to kidnap Palestinian-Americans from foreign cities? Or do they cease to be Americans only when they're in or on the border of Palestine/Israel?
In effect, this provision also limits the capacity of the American government to fill vacancies on a race-blind basis. For instance, I could never be the American ambassador to Tel Aviv. Neither my children, nor my grandchildren could fill that post in the future. Paradoxically, if they were born in the United States itself, they could be the president, but not ambassador to Israel. Imagine for a moment that South Africa were still an apartheid state and Barack Obama has just been elected president – how embarrassing for everyone, having to confront racism upfront like that.
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