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One More Makes it Home

The Story of One Palestinian's Struggle to Find Belonging

Jerusalem24 – Over a year, the issue of family reunification was at the forefront of many discussions, as was the Israeli citizenship and Entry Law that causes family reunification a challenge for Palestinians.

The law has been called problematic, and even racist. The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel – Adalah said in a statement that “there is no country in the world that prevents its citizens from exercising their right to form a family based on national or ethnic affiliation.”

Jessica Montell, general manager of the HaMoked Center for the Defense of the Individual, says, “I think the family unification in the West Bank has a similar motive to restrict any increase in the Palestinian population in the West Bank.”

According to Amnesty International: The “Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law” bars family reunification for Israelis married to Palestinians from the Occupied Territories. It specifically targets Israeli Arabs (Palestinian citizens of Israel), who make up a fifth of Israel’s population, and Palestinian Jerusalemites, (1) for it is they who marry Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. the law violates the absolute prohibition on discrimination contained in international human rights law, notably several treaties which Israel has ratified and is obliged to uphold, including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

Some Palestinians persevere and manage to get an ID despite Israel’s Citizenship and Entry Law, such as Omar Qusrawi. Omar has lived without a Palestinian ID for years under the mercy of Israel. He tells Jerusalem24, “I’m from here, I grew up here. My whole family grew up here. I speak the language.”

Omar applied for an ID in 2012, after that it was a long wait. “It was hard when I was living here because it was like, what are you doing? Why are you here?” says Omar describing situations when Israeli soldiers stop him.

Without any Palestinian documents or an ID, your travel plans are limited according to Israeli decisions. “It’s like I’m asking a stranger’s permission to come into my homeland,” says Omar.

Living in Diaspora, Omar met a lot of people. He spoke about some people talking about birthright, coming to Israel, and receiving Israeli citizenship.

Birthright is an organization that sponsors free ten-day heritage trips to Israel, occupied Jerusalem, and the occupied Golan Heights for young Jews. over the years, some Jewish activists have protested Birthright, saying the trips erase the experiences of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians living under occupation in the West Bank.

“I could just be told you’re not allowed to come in any time. And this person who has no connection to the land, no family,” says Omar of a colleague he was speaking to. He adds that “she was the first person in four generations of Russians to even come to the Middle East area.”

“It is honestly heartbreaking to see how few rights we have as Palestinians.”

After years of waiting, Omar received an ID, and he no longer faced the same burdens. “Imagine carrying around 100 kilos your whole life, and sometimes it just gets heavier and it’s just gone,” says Omar.  “I can just go in and out of my homeland as I please, and there’s a sense of belonging that comes with it.”

To hear more about Omar’s experience listen to the whole interview on Wake Up Palestine.

Mohammad Hamayel

Ramallah based journalist, Mohammad graduated from Al-Quds University with a B.A. in Media and Television. He has covered the 2015 Jerusalem Intifada as well as the Great March of Return for international media outlets. currently an editor/presenter at Jerusalem24. A UN alumni and a follower of global events and politics, especially American affairs.

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