Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Aah, the power of Citizenship! (aka: born Palestinian, born cursed)

Some people are just more trustworthy than others. You know what I'm talking about, right? More honest, more amenable; the friendly, happy-go-lucky, type that cause no problems. To the Gulf States, this means rich Westerners that they just lovvve to let into their countries' fancy resorts so they can spend spend spend, and tan their future skin away. Others, however, well-are not so trustworthy.

Take Palestinians for example. The moment you see someone holding that ominous, forest green Palestinian passport or travel document, you know there's trouble on the horizon; you know to be afraid-very afraid.

Because Palestinians are stateless, and, by extension, squatters; whoever they are, wherever they go, they will squat, seek jobs, and eventually citizenship, if they can find a way-and if they don't, they'll simply become beggars or a huge burden on the economy. Even if they live in the US or Europe-or even Mars, this notion still applies. Even if they are brain surgeons or Astronauts or millionaires-it doesn't matter, they have palestinian written ALL over them-and it wreaks from miles away.

Such is the case with most Arab countries and their treatment of Palestinians, and my all-too-familiar experience trying to get to Doha today for the launch of Aljazeera International. Its hard enough finding a flight or hotel reservations in Doha now with the Asian Games being hosted there, but I was almost laughed out of the airport when-upon being prompted to present my visa- I told them that my editors suggested I obtain one in the Doha airport, and this would be no problem.

I know what all Palstinians with travel documents out there are thinking: WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? Well, I wasn't I guess. Silly me, for one microsecond I actually thought the Qataris had changed their policy towards us plague-infected Palestinians, that maybe it had become a little more humane; that maybe they'd seen the err of their ways, and had actually realized that I obvoiusly did not intend to come and seek residence in Doha or disturb the precious balance of their economy since my son was staying behind in Cairo with my parents, and my husband was in the United STates.

But no. no no no no. Again and again I was told: You are Palestinian! So when I attempted to switch my ticket from Egypt Air to Qatari Airways-with whom I heard I stood a better chance, I was literally told: "You might stand a chance at obtaining a visa if you had any nationality EXCEPT Palestinian."

And that exception does not include Israelis-who can obtain a tourist visa in the Qatari airport. Or of course Americans, like Yousuf. That's right: my rambunctious little 2 1/2 year old can go to Doha, no problems, no questions asked. But me? Or his father-a Harvard educated Opthalmologist in training? Keep dreaming.

Silly me. I should have thought of the consequences of being Palestinian when I was a little embroyo in my mother's womb. To quote her, 25 years ago, when she was likewise stopped in Cairo Airport (egypt now allows entry only to Palestinian females en coming in en route to Gaza, but Palestinian males must be escorted directly to the border, without stopping in Cairo) and denied entry because she was Palestinian (and pregnant with my young brother):

"How is it my fault that I was born Palestinian?"


Blogger Abu-Issa said...

...And how is it my (our) fault that being Palestinian to the world means I am (we are) like a leper?


6:35 PM  
Blogger Laila said...

ah..exactly! Its a feeling you can easily place in a far away, seldom visited corner of your mind gathering cobwebs-until you are on borders, where, as always, you are reminded of your vulnerability and undesirability as a Palestinian.

12:47 AM  

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