‘Silent Transfer’ presentation at TAU
Tuesday evening, December
12, under the joint sponsorship of HaKampus Lo Shotek and ICRR (the Israeli Committee
for Residency Rights), 5 speakers at Tel Aviv University addressed the issue of the ‘Silent Transfer’ of Palestinians
from the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Few Israelis realize that this
is occurring, much less have information on the subject. The event endeavored
to enlighten the audience.
Four of the speakers are
American citizens of Palestinian descent. Three had come to the OPT from America
to live and to help build the Palestinian state. The 4th is a Cardiologist,
a Professor at the Yale School of Medicine, who travels back and forth to continue his work at Yale and to develop the Cardiology
department at Al-Quds University Faculty of Medicine and conduct cardiology seminars for medical students at Augusta Victoria
All four are now under the
threat of either being denied re-entry to the OPT or expulsion from it. Their
only crime is that they are of Palestinian descent. Had they been Jewish, each
would have been considered an asset to Israeli society. The 5th speaker, Gaby Lasky, is an Israeli Lawyer.
Following introductions by two
TAU students, Sroor Abud in Arabic, and Noah Levy in Hebrew, Basil Ayish took the floor to furnish background. He related
that like himself, many individuals of Palestinian descent from all over the world decided that they wanted to make Palestine
their home, had married there, and had established families. But the desire to
remain in Palestine is easier said than done.
For, the Israeli government
retains control of the borders, as well as being the sole authority to register Palestinians in the OPT, and to give or deny
unification rights. In other words, anyone who desires to live in the OPT but
was not registered by Israel in the 1967 census, is at the mercy of Israeli policy.
Israel stopped allowing family unification when the 2nd Intifada broke out.
Over 120,000 requests for unification have been waiting for years to be processed.
Nevertheless, until March this
year Israel enabled Palestinians with foreign passports to remain in the OPT by allowing them to renew their visas every three
months. The process entailed leaving the country. Upon returning, the visa was
extended for another 3 months.
Suddenly, with no announcement
from the Israeli government, this practice stopped. Palestinians began hearing
that entry had been denied to x, who as a result was forced to remain in Jordan or elsewhere, while a spouse and children
awaited her/him in the OPT. As more and more cases transpired, the news spread.
Among those affected, some
decided to gather information and to learn about what was occurring. It soon became obvious from the large number of people
who had either been denied entry or had had their passports stamped ‘last permit,’ that in March 2006 Israel had
instituted a new policy, a policy that would either separate families or cause families to leave. Recently, 105 passports
were returned with visas not later than the end of December 2006, and all stamped “last permit.” A week later 125 were returned with ‘entry denied’ stamped on them.
If all the people who have been
or will be denied entry leave with their families, this could amount to an exit of ½ a million Palestinians or more—a
boon to Israelis who desire The Greater Israel and are paranoid about demographics.
After Basil, Sam Bahour took
the floor. Sam, who has become well known from media reports about his case,
was born in Youngstown, Ohio. As a youngster he came regularly to the OPT with
his father on summer visits to El Bireh, where his family had lived for generations.
Then, encouraged by the Oslo agreements, Sam decided in 1993 to return to help develop the Palestinian State. He met and married a Palestinian woman. They
have two daughters. Sam is a highly successful business man. After earning his MBA at Tel Aviv University, he helped create a $100 million telecommunications company
in El Bireh, which now employs 2000 Palestinians. Later he developed a $10 million
shopping mall, the first of its kind in the OPT.
Yet, his accomplishments
in business notwithstanding, his request for unification, handed in some 12 years ago, has never been responded to. Then, in September 2006, when he made his normative 3-month exit from the OPT to renew his visa, upon re-entering
he received an extension for a month rather than for the usual 3 months. Worse
yet, it was stamped “last permit.” He eventually received a 3-month
stay of execution, probably due to the wide exposure that his story received in the media both in Israel and abroad. But Sam realizes that there is no guarantee that his visa will be extended again.
The third speaker, Akram Baker,
is founder and Senior Partner of Brandicate Consultants; from 1991 to 2001 Akram was Human Resources Manager in charge of
international employer branding and marketing at DaimlerChrysler Services, was Communications Advisor to the late Faisal Husseini,
when Minister for Jerusalem Affairs in the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian negotiating teams on the economy and the
environment, and is co-president of the Arab Western Summit of Skill, an independent political analyst, who often appears
on BBC. In 2004 when Brandicate opened a branch in Ramallah, Akram moved his
family from Germany to the OPT. His wife is a Christian Israeli. When his second daughter was born in Israel, the clerk registering the child refused to give the child
the surname of her father, insisting instead on registering the child in her mother’s maiden name, and writing in the
slot on the form instead of Akram’s name, “father unknown,” advising Akram that if he objected, she would
refuse to to register the child. Akram has till December 28 to remain in the
OPT. Israel refuses to extend his stay.
Last of the four was Professor
Tarik M. Ramahi, M.D., whose impressive Curriculum Vitae extends 10 pages. On
September 27th this year, when he left the OPT for the USA to attend a professional conference and to tend his
patients he was advised at Ben Gurion airport that he might not be allowed to enter Israel again. Had his case not become known, and had not a number of people intervened to help, especially Dr. Ruchama
Marton from the Physicians for Human Rights and Attorney Gaby Lasky, it is likely that he would have been refused entry.
Gaby Lasky concluded the evening
by relating the legal grounds that Israeli authorities ignore in denying entry to individuals of Palestinian descent who have