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Randa Jarrar: Imagining Myself in Palestine

May 14, 2012

On a recent trip to Israel, Randa Jarrar gets detained, denied entry, and sent to 'the Arab Room.'

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Image from Flickr via Rusty Stewart

By Randa Jarrar

Trouble began weeks before I boarded my flight to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport. I had heard horror stories about a detention area there, dubbed The Arab Room, and in my anxious and neurotic style, I had emailed a dozen people—American academics and artists of Arab, Indian, Jewish, and European descent— and asked them what I was supposed to tell the immigration officers at Ben Gurion once I arrived. They all wanted to know if I was using my American passport, and I assured them that I was. The vast majority told me not to tell the officers I would be staying at my sister’s in Ramallah. They said this would cause trouble, and offered up the names of friends and family for my use. The generosity of people poured in, and I was advised to say that I was staying with this writer, or that visual artist, or this former-IDF soldier—people I had never met, but who had volunteered themselves to be my proxy hosts. A friend of mine, who is a phenomenal photojournalist, gave me her phone number and said to tell the officers I would be staying with her, and I agreed. She told me to prepare for the officers to call her themselves once I gave them her number, as this is something they are known to do.

I was so afraid of facing the guards at the airport that I had a difficult time imagining the rest of my trip. I would picture myself walking around Ramallah with my sister, or attending a concert, or visiting my aunts, or seeing the separation wall, or staying at the American Colony Hotel for an evening, and I would draw a blank. There was a wall there, too, between my thoughts and Palestine.

Growing up, my Palestinian identity was mostly tied to my father. He was the Palestinian in the family, and when we went back to the West Bank it was to see his brothers and sisters and parents. We always entered Palestine through Amman, crossing the Allenby Bridge over the river Jordan and waiting in endless inspection lines. I remember these trips dragging on through morning and midday and well into the afternoon. My father would sit quietly, and when I complained my Egyptian mother would tell me that the Israelis made it difficult for us to cross into the West Bank. She told me that they wanted us to give up, that they would prefer we never go back. “We must not let them win,” she’d said. My relationship with my Palestinian identity was cemented when I enrolled in a PLO-sponsored girls’ camp as a tween. We learned nationalistic songs and dances and created visual art that reflected our understanding of the occupation. After my family and I moved to America in 1991, my Palestinian identity shifted again, and I began to see myself as an Arab-American. My father’s fiery rants on Palestine died out when Yitzak Rabin was murdered by a Jewish-Israeli extremist. I remember my father weeping in our American wood-paneled den. He said that Rabin had been the Palestinians’ last chance.

When my sister got a job in Ramallah last year, teaching music to children, I knew I would want to visit her. I had not been to Palestine since 1993. I had planned to go back in the summer of 1996, but I was pregnant and unmarried. My parents did not want to speak to me, let alone take me with them, in such a shameful condition, to the West Bank. I never went back with family after that. I led my own life. I moved about a dozen times over the following fifteen years—an American nomad. I didn’t want to visit the West Bank and be at the mercy of family. If I ever visited, I would do so independently. When my sister moved to Ramallah she found an apartment of her own, and it had an extra room. It was the perfect time to go. My husband booked my flight, and, thrilled, I told my sister I was coming.

I felt uneasy as soon as I arrived at the gate in Philadelphia. There weren’t, as far as I could see, any other Arabs boarding US Airways flight 796 to Tel Aviv. On the airplane, I found myself surrounded by Christian missionaries and Evangelicals and observant Jewish men. The group across the aisle had their bibles out, the man sitting next to me read from a miniature Torah, and as the flight took off, I found myself reciting a verse from the Quran, almost against my will. I am an atheist, but all the praying was contagious.

I spoke to no one on the plane, and no one spoke to me, until I got up to stand in line for the bathroom. A man with a wandering eye and a yarmulke asked if I knew why a section of the plane had been hidden behind a thick grey cloth. I said that it was probably to give the flight attendants a little privacy during the eleven-hour trip. He nodded, and said, “Good. I was worried that it was for those crazy Ultra-Orthodox people. They’re like the Jewish Taliban.” I nodded, uncomfortable. I wondered if he would have spoken to me like this if he knew I was of Palestinian descent, and an ex-Muslim. He continued, “They’re ruining Israel. They spit on an 8-year-old girl because she was dressed inappropriately.” I had heard about that, and told him so. A bathroom opened up, and he moved to slip inside, but before he locked the folding door he said, “Unbelievable how crazy they are.”

It was not a conversation I had expected.

As we descended into Israel, the blue Mediterranean floated by below us. We saw the shore of Tel Aviv, and the buildings along it. An American teenager sitting in front of me started shouting, “It’s so pretty! It’s so pretty!” She wouldn’t have any trouble clearing customs, I was sure.

When we landed, everyone on the plane clapped, something I thought only Lebanese people did, and I smiled. I turned on my phone and called my sister and let her know I had arrived, and that I would call her on the other side of customs and immigration. I was only an hour away from her. I took a deep breath and did something superstitious, as I tend to do when I am feeling powerless and anxious. I flipped to a random page in my passport, hoping to find meaning and reassurance in it. On the page I flipped to was a picture of an old steamship, presumably in the shadow of Ellis Island. I found the image inspiring, calming, and I felt ready to face customs.

[T]his was how Israel treated someone with a voice and American citizenship.

I had deleted anything on my website critical of Israel, which amounted to about 160 posts. I had deleted the section in my Wikipedia entry that said that I was a Palestinian writer. It had been unsettling, deleting my Palestinianness in order to go back to Palestine. I had been told that the Israeli officers might confiscate my phone and read my Facebook posts and Twitter feed, so I temporarily deactivated my Facebook account and locked my tweets. The entire endeavor left me feeling erased.

I had read an article about the hundreds of activists that had flown into Tel Aviv Airport last July 8th. They had all been detained over the weekend and then flown back to their countries of origin. Only one of them had made it through. When she was asked how she managed it, she said that she chose the “smiliest” immigration officer and stood in her line. So, when I entered the immigration hall, I did the same. The agent I chose was blonde and young, and her line was moving the fastest. I stood, waited, and tried to relax.

When there was only one person in the line in front of me, the woman went to the back of her booth and a young bearded man took her place. He did not seem “smiley” at all. I considered switching lanes, but I knew I would look suspicious. So I waited.

When it was my turn, I gave the officer my blue American passport. As he scanned it, I noticed that he had unbelievably long lashes. He thumbed through the pages, and I was afraid of what he would make of the Lebanese stamp. He asked me what my purpose was for visiting Israel. I told him it was my Spring Break, and I had come to visit friends. He asked me where I was staying. I did as I’d been told, and said I was staying in Jerusalem, with the photojournalist. He picked up a black telephone. When he hung up, he told me to go wait in the room in the corner. I asked him if I could have my passport back, and he said no. I asked him when I would be getting my passport back, and he didn’t answer. He only repeated that I needed to go to the room in the corner.

I crossed the immigration hall diagonally, and entered the Arab Room. Sitting in the room and waiting were a young Arab man and an older Arab woman in hijab, two black men in African garb, one of whom was holding an iPad, two middle-aged Arab women in hijab, one dark-haired Tunisian-American woman in a long skirt, one woman in a Whitney Houston t-shirt, her hair gathered up in a turban, and one dark-skinned Arab woman in a pant suit. It was readily transparent that we had all been racially profiled. A young man joined us, and got on his phone. I heard him saying, “No, they just finished questioning me. I’m half-Egyptian. I should be out soon.” I got up and told the woman guard at the door that I needed to go to the bathroom, and she nodded. When I came back to the room, I sat down and took out a magazine, reading as calmly as I could. About twenty minutes passed before a redhead, who couldn’t have been older than nineteen, summoned me down the hallway. I followed him to an office where a few brown men were answering questions. The redhead asked me to take a seat and swiped my passport through at his station.

He asked me, “What is the name of your father? And what is the name of your father’s father?”

My father and I hadn’t spoken since he read my first novel, nearly four years ago. He had sent me an angry email, and told me that we would no longer be seeing one another, or speaking.

I gave the redhead the names he’d asked. He noted something on a piece of paper, and asked me where my father was from. My father was born in 1950, when the West Bank was part of Jordan, so I told the redhead that my father was a Jordanian-American.

“So, he is from Jordania?” the redhead said, and I said that technically, yes. “Where was he born?” he said, and, cornered, I told the redhead that my father had been born in Jenin. He noted something else on a piece of paper, gave it to a man who seemed like a superior, and asked me to go to another room in an opposite corner. When I said that I was a writer and an American citizen, born in Chicago, he shrugged, and instructed me, again, to go to the room in the opposite corner.

I went to the room, and I waited.

My father had said in his email that, by writing about sex in my novel so shamelessly, I had disregarded the legacy of my Palestinian family, which, he claimed, had defeated Napoleon.

I always thought he was being dramatic about Napoleon, but eventually I looked it up. In a book titled Rediscovering Palestine: Merchants and Peasants in Jabal Nablus 1700-1900, I found the Jarrar family, and I found Napoleon. The Emperor’s attempt to conquer Palestine had been stopped short in 1799, and an ancestor of mine named Shaykh Yousef Jarrar, the mayor of Jenin, had written a poem “in which he exhorted his fellow leaders… to unite under one banner against the French forces.” I’d never heard of this poet-warrior ancestor before, but I had given my son the middle name Yousef, as if by instinct.

A woman, wearing seven rings on her fingers, and a lot of blue eye makeup caked around her eyes, emerged from a small interrogation room and asked me to join her. She told me to close the door behind me. The room was the size of a walk-in closet, and I knew it had been built to intimidate travelers. The woman said she liked my necklace, and we spoke about jewelry for a few minutes. I admired one of her rings in particular, and she smiled and said it was from Egypt. She then swiped my passport, and asked me about my parents’ names, again. This time, I told her I was not in communication with my father, and that I was an American citizen, and a writer. She did not seem to care about this information one way or the other, and spoke my grandmother’s name. I hadn’t heard my grandmother’s name in years. She had died in the early eighties. I told the officer this, and she nodded, and gave me the names of many of my ancestors. I wanted to ask her for her grandmother’s name, but gave her the name of my friend in Jerusalem, and my Israeli publisher in Or Yehuda instead.

“Your publisher?” she said, confused, and I said, yes, my book had been translated into Hebrew and published in Israel. I could see her computer screen. She plugged in my publisher’s name and my friend’s, in Hebrew, and their addresses came up. The program she was using looked clunky and old, but it held information on every citizen in Israel. At this point, things began to feel Kafkaesque.

She said that there was a Palestinian ID attached to my name. I told her I had no such ID. She said that I had entered the West Bank with the ID in 1993, and that they had record of the entry. She said that this would be a problem. When I tried to plead my case, she asked me to put my right finger on a glowing red scanner. Then my left finger. She took my photograph and asked me to go back to the first waiting room. When I asked her what I should expect, she said she wasn’t sure.

Half an hour later, a group of teenage guards took me to baggage claim. I asked them if I could speak to someone from the American embassy, or the consulate, and they nodded, smirking. A few minutes later, I asked them what we were doing there, and they said we needed to find my bag. I said that my carry-on bag was my only bag, and they seemed shocked. I travel a lot, I told them, which they seemed to find suspicious. They asked me why, and I said I was a writer. They frowned at me. We waited for more guards. It must have been their shift change. The baggage claim was deserted. In the corner, a few guards were giving each other massages. The guards I was waiting with gave each other high fives and chatted about teenage stuff. I kept asking what we were waiting for, and they ignored me.

Finally, they took me to a room in the corner of the baggage claim area. It was becoming clear to me that at Ben Gurion, unjust things happened in corners. The guards asked me to open my bags. I did as I was told. I noted that the room was filthy. The Israelis were concerned with showing a clean and gleaming exterior—the floors of the airport outside shone–but for suspected threats and people like myself, behind closed doors, tucked away in dirty corners, they hadn’t bothered. A very butch young woman asked me to follow her. She led me to yet another room, where the walls were faded and filthy, and the floor was covered in dirty carpet, littered with small bits of paper and hair clips. It reeked of intimidation, and of humiliation.

I don’t believe in hokey things such as souls or spirits, but I could sense a deeply disturbing feeling in the room. There, though I was not strip-searched, the young guard poked and searched every millimeter of my clothes and underclothes. I tried to keep myself distracted, so I wouldn’t weep. I tried to keep my spirits up. I wondered if she thought I was a “hair-orist.” I did not want to allow these teenagers to rob me of my dignity.

When I came out of the room, a boy with pimples, who looked like he was my son’s age, was going through my clothes. Above him hung a tourist poster for the Dead Sea. The poster read: The Dead Sea; Where Time Seems To Stand Still. I had been in Ben Gurion for over two hours, and knew the feeling. It was as if I existed outside of time, suspended in a strange molasses of interrogation.

When he was done checking all my clothes, he asked me if I needed any help re-packing the bag. I said that I didn’t, and that I had a system for packing. “You have a system?” he shouted. I told him this was an American idiom. Still, he watched me closely as I packed.

I was worn down and angry. The teenagers escorted me back to the waiting room, the Arab Room, where there was now a new guard. A few people were gone, and a few new people had arrived, but it was still an Arab Room.

The woman with all the rings walked in with my passport in her hand and said that she was sorry, but that I was not allowed to enter Israel. She said she had spoken to her supervisor, and that he had decided that I was not to enter. When I asked her if I could speak to him personally, she said she would ask, and walked away with my passport. I never saw her again, nor did I see the supervisor.

I called my sister and told her the news. She was devastated. A friend of mine had been waiting in his car outside the airport to drive me to her, and I called him, too. When I told him now that I was being shipped back to the U.S., he said, furious, that he would call his friends at the U.S. Consulate. When I called him back, he said that there was nothing they could do, and that I was banned by law from entering Israel because I was considered Palestinian.

I told a guard that I was a diabetic, and hungry, and an hour later someone wordlessly brought me the sandwich. I began to feel like a prisoner, grateful for a dry bit of bread and cheese. Half way through the sandwich, I asked the other people in the room if they were hungry. A middle-aged woman in hijab said she was, and I gave her the rest of the sandwich. A large guard appeared over me, hovering, and asked me in Arabic where I was from. I answered reflexively in English, “I am from here. And from California.” He asked me, in Arabic, where I was going after the airport. I said, in English, that I was going to Jerusalem. He walked away and accused me of pretending not to know Arabic. He said the word Arabic hatefully. I followed him, and said, in Arabic, “OK, I do speak Arabic. Where do I want to go after this? I want to go to a bar with my friends.” He laughed at me, and said I could go to a bar when I got back to America.

After a while, I was the last person in the room. It had high stone walls that spanned every floor of the airport, and when I tried to look all the way up, I could not see the ceiling. I felt as if I were trapped in a strange, deep well.

An elderly man who was not Jewish but who had attempted to make Aliyya was put in the room with me. When they told him he was being deported back to the U.S., he said he would not leave. The guard said to him, “I could do this the nice way, or I could do this the not nice way.” It was ludicrous in more ways than one, to hear a nineteen-year-old speak to an old man that way. He sounded like a thug.

An hour later, the bearded young man who had originally questioned me at the immigration hall became my guard. When I tried to go to the bathroom, he said I was not allowed. This made me nervous. I had been allowed to go before. I told him so. “Well, it’s different now,” he said.

“Different how?” I asked. “Am I under detention?”

He would not answer me. I told him that I was an American citizen and that I demanded to know whether or not I was under detention. He closed his eyes, then opened them, and said, reluctantly, “Yes.”

I lost it. I demanded to see someone from the embassy or the consulate. He ignored me. I said that he needed to take me to the bathroom. He said no. I lifted up my dress and pretended to squat, and shouted, “Fine, then I will go to the bathroom right here!”

He became angry and shouted to another guard to take me to the bathroom. When she said she couldn’t, he took me himself. He insisted on the gender-neutral handicapped toilet, and he waited outside the stall. When I was done, he checked the stall after me, to make sure that I had not concocted a bomb out of my pubic hair. I laughed at him, and he angrily took me back to the detention room.

I waited two more hours. Whenever a guard came into the room, I would ask him what was going on with my passport, and what I could expect. The guard would look down at me and sneer, “You have to wait. You have to wait.” When I told him I had been waiting for hours, he only repeated, “You have to wait.” My wait felt interminable. In his speech to the UN, Mahmoud Abbas quoted the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish’s poem, “State of Siege.” He read, “Standing here. Sitting here. Always here./ Eternally here,/ we have one aim and one aim only: to continue to be.” And he added, “And we shall be.” The state of sitting, of standing, of waiting, is the principal state of the Palestinian, it is the state of the refugee, of the oppressed, of the outsider, of the writer.

Eventually, two female guards came to tell me what time I would board the flight back to the U.S. When they did, I burst into tears. I had been holding out hope, right to the last. After they left, I was stuck with the male guard again, the one who had picked up the phone in the immigration booth.

I asked him if I could board a flight elsewhere—to Amman, or Cairo, even Paris. I wanted to go somewhere, at least, even if I couldn’t see my sister.

“No,” he said. “You have to go back from where you came.”

I said that this was unacceptable, and that I wanted the choice to go elsewhere.

This time, he shouted it. “No. You must go back from where you came.”

“Are you from The Lord of the Rings?” I said.

He narrowed his eyes at me, and snapped, “Come with me.” He made me stand in a hallway for twenty minutes, as punishment. I made fun of his long eyelashes. I asked him if he was related to Snuffalupagus. He ignored me.

An hour or so passed, and a guard came and eventually escorted me to flight 797, back to the U.S. We bypassed security, avoiding a scene, and when we got to the airplane the guard gave my passport to the flight attendant, an American.

“Do not give her back her passport until you arrive in America,” he said.

She squinted at him, confused. “What do you mean?”

“This woman was denied entry, and must return to the United States. Do not give her this passport until you have left Israel and arrived in America.”

She looked at me and nodded, frowning.

I went to my seat, which was in the middle of the middle row, the worst place to sit on a twelve-hour flight.
The flight attendant walked over and handed me my passport. “Um, here you go,” she said, and I laughed and thanked her.

Holding my passport again on that almost-empty plane, I understood, in a way, how lucky I had been. The passport hadn’t been confiscated. I was not imprisoned. And yet, this was how Israel treated someone with a voice and American citizenship. There are today, held without charge in the Israeli military detention system, hundreds of Palestinians, including children. There are reports of a systematic pattern of ill treatment towards them. Silenced and oppressed, these prisoners have little recourse. In the news recently I saw that two thousand of these prisoners have resorted to the last form of protest left to them: they have collectively gone on hunger strike.

I flipped through the passport, and, surprised, found that the officials had left a stamp on it. The stamp was massive, and read, in English and Hebrew, Ben Gurion Airport ENTRY DENIED. I stared at it for a few minutes. Then, I saw it: the picture of the ship I had seen eight hours earlier, that I had thought was a sign of good luck.

I remembered how, when I first met my mother-in-law in Texas, we had bonded over her collection of costume jewelry. A lot of the pieces were from her first husband, whom she had divorced before meeting my father-in-law. I noticed that many of the pieces he’d given her had imagery of boats and ships. When I pointed that out to her, she had raised her wine glass and said, “You’re right! He was shippin’ me out.” And that’s what had happened to me. I had been shipped out.

Two massive, bald-headed men sat on either side of me. If I believed the conspiracies, I would have thought those guys were Mossad. But it was obvious before long, from the way they blasted terrible club music on their earphones and, later, passed out, that they were just some doofuses on their way to America. In an attempt to be polite and not touch the men around me, I folded my arms, but this became terribly uncomfortable after a while. A few hours into our flight, I decided that I was tired of being polite and so I put both my arms down. Minutes later, the man on my right began to jab my elbow. I ignored him and feigned sleep. He jabbed and jabbed.

Finally, I turned to him, my arm firmly on the armrest, and said, “I get it.”

He looked at me, embarrassed.

“I really get it. But I am keeping this armrest. I am not moving. I will keep my arm here for the rest of the flight,” I said. And I did.

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38 comments for Randa Jarrar: Imagining Myself in Palestine

  1. Comment by Maura Rutkin on May 15, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    I read this a few minutes after reading a piece about Nobel Peace Prize winner Henry Kissinger ( over 80 and in a wheelchair) being separated and searched by TSA agents at an American airport. Terrorism has given rise to a stunning bureaucracy, seemingly staffed by idiots. I’m embarrassed for Israel, I’m embarrassed for the US but the fear of the terrorist is what drives these things. One cannot use the term ‘racial profiling’ as unfair if one group knows that factions of another group are raising children that hate so much that the loss of their own life or those of innocents is meaningless in the justification of a cause. Ms. Jarrar should have been allowed to see her sister. Mr. Kissinger should never have been searched. No one should be imprisoned without due process. On the opposite side of those seemingly simple statements however is the harsh reality that stopping the randomness and horror of terrorism may have to include sometimes inconveniencing, insulting or profiling completely innocent and righteous individuals.

  2. Comment by Kam on May 16, 2012 at 1:26 am

    Maura: What happened to Ms. Jarrar has nothing to do with terrorism and everything to do with a state (i.e., Israel) worried about its demographics. Even if Ms. Jarrar had been a ninety year old woman with the same background she would have been denied entry into Israel not because she could be a terrorist, but simply because she is Palestinian and Palestinians should not return to their land period. This has become blatantly obvious for anyone willing to look beyond the tired old line that “Israel has the right to protect itself.” Yes, terrorism is a harsh reality and an abhorrent behavior that costs much bloodshed, but you would think that with all of the information that the Israeli government apparently had about Ms. Jarrar and her ancestors that they would be able to come to the sensible conclusion that she was not a threat. If they thought she was a threat to the security of Israel then they must not be very good at counterterrorism. The fact is they knew she was not a threat and still denied her entry. Do I have proof of this? No, I don’t, but the writing is on the wall as they say.

  3. Comment by sumsum on May 16, 2012 at 3:21 am

    did you try entering through the northern crossing from jordan into nazareth? it’s a small border crossing and at worst you can just go back to amman :)

  4. Comment by jeff on May 16, 2012 at 10:37 am

    i advise you to visit this guy lectures in Fresno State,i can’t tell you
    that he is an outstanding English scholar, but as Jewish hater he is one of the first,go to Fresno and get info from the first source,he cleaned his blog because he had what to cover.

  5. Comment by Gaelic Neilson on May 16, 2012 at 10:41 am

    I think Randa Jarrar is a threat to the survival of non-democratic Israel. The fact that she is a writer, she would expose the truth about Israel’s apartheid. She represents what Israel fears, the possibility of Israel becoming a non-segregated, non-racist state that has abolished apartheid and allowed refugees just rights.
    Israel’s refusal to allow her entry has clearly backfired. Randa’s photographic memory takes us through the airport in Ben Gurion with her, Now we can all see how Israel treats some Palestinians when they attempt to return.
    Contrast this to how “Birthright” Israel participants are welcomed, with a fully paid trip, tour, and food, just because they are the “right” type for Israel. That many have no ties or heritage at all that relates to the land they trample on, makes no difference.
    I’m reminded of “People Not Places” by Ilana. It was written for Palestine, after she completed a “Birthright” trip to Israel. Palestinian history spoke out through the “sand” to her…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhtXWvJwDjE

  6. Comment by jeffrey on May 16, 2012 at 11:07 am

    i advise you to talk with black police officer in East Bay to understand
    how polite Israeli police officers who meet terrorists every day in real life, who have seen dozens kids killed by “professor” friends in buses or clubs.Do you know that millions Arabs are prospering in Israel and they (Arabs)don’t want join to Autonomy even with their territory because Arab population is heavy subsidized in Israel,they want live in the country they hate.Any Jew who by mistake appears in Arab village will be beaten or killed,this is the difference mr.”professor”.
    Did you see pictures proud Arabs after they killed 1-year and 3-years old kids with hands covered by blood,after they put then in human
    body,you believe they are human beings.
    Of course Arabs are good in propaganda they can lying without any problems,make fake funerals, they can come to hospital where they had
    surgery and plant bomb in their surgeon room,no limits,no conscience,
    I could say the same about the “professor”,

  7. Comment by Sean on May 16, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    I wanted to read this with great interest and I found it whiny and flat. She didn’t disclose the full truth; she was detained for a few hours and interviewed and then deported. Not great – true, but not exactly terrible. She was dealing with custom service folks and i don;t know why she expected a fiesta. I have had friends from the UK who’ve had similar experiences in the US. I am sure it is much worse in other countries – thinking Egypt or Turkey.

  8. Comment by sickofit on May 16, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    The older I get the more I see the evil is in Israel and the Palestinian’s are actually the victims of an incredibly effective and well thought out PR campaign in this mess.
    With me starting out life as virulently pro Israel/Anti Palestine I find myself holding almost the reverse opinion now that I know the truth that was never told to me, to make certain I was gotten into that state of mind about Israel. If I had been given that truth to start I could never have come to accept that Israel had a legitimate case for what it does.

    Israel started in terrorism by European Jewish terrorists who wanted to create a new Israel and made that claim based on Biblical writings because their audience was Christian and guilt ridden over the failure to help them under Hitler. They attacked the British who were the governing authority in Palestine at the time and Palestinians as well to drive them out. They had pogroms where they murdered whole villages of Palestinians to make sure no people existed to lay claim to the land and then let that terror drive out thousands more. They didn’t even move into most of the villages they destroyed, if you can get in you can see them now abandoned for over 50 years, or online you can see news reports of people who have gone back with cameras, they didn’t even do it to take it they just wanted to drive out the native people so there would be no people left who could talk about having been there for hundreds or thousands of years (which they were)as the “Israeli’s” were and are all European Jews (who until recently deny Ethiopian Jews are real Jews)with no claim any rational person or court could accept to that land. That Europeaness, not some magical ability of secret knowledge is the basis of their manufactured legend of “screening” for terrorists. It’s Racial Profiling. If they aren’t European’s they are possible perps, that is the entirety of their alleged ability to protect against terrorism, “Jim Crow in Israel”.

    A tidbit some of you may be old enough to recognize, it goes to the width, depth and insidiousness of how well this pro Israel PR Campaign is run and how deeply it is ingrained into American society as many outside Israel especially in America, do their bidding to support it. I can recall back to the late sixties (it probably went on prior to my noticing) until some time in the late 90’s early 00″s when every time Israel did something any rational person would see as wrong or even evil, within a week if that event which was usually them killing a bunch of innocent people or violating the Palestinian people in some way that made keeping to their most recent acquiescence to Israeli demands impossible if they were to maintain personal dignity, we had holocaust movies on TV for the next few weeks and the news reporting on whatever the Israeli action was went away asap? More proof of this correlation is that once what I have just pointed out began disseminating (I assume via the internet as the dates correlate) widely and more and more people began to acknowledge they had noticed this too, it stopped. If it weren’t the intentional thing it seemed why would that correlation have stopped once a critical mass of people spoke openly about it?

    I think we must learn to separate the Religion of Judaism from the idea that is Israel. I do not think the two are related by much but name and correlation in geography.

    I look at Israel and I think to myself it is as if a bunch of Italian Catholic’s who had been in America for generations went back to Rome and stated “we are establishing our native homeland here”, and then started to commit acts of terrorism and murder to drive out the people living there now and claimed it as their native born right because they were Italian by ancestry and Catholic by religion. Then established a country and demanded the Italian people accept their claim and leave all the while constantly murdering abusing humiliating and stealing from the Italians to enlarge the landmass they hold.
    If you recognize that That is what Israel is, you can see the whole problem in the proper light.

    Judasim is a religion, just like Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etcetera. It is not a race or a nation, those two ideas are a human construct for an illegitimate purpose.

  9. Comment by Marcher on May 16, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    We welcome all points of view and civil discourse. We will not publish insidious and/or profanity-laced comments.
    Clean and thoughtful, please.
    Editors

  10. Comment by Joker on May 16, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    Ms. Jarrar,
    you tried to lied to the border patrol. You got caught you got deported. This would have happened any where in the world. If you were honest you may have gotten in.
    What would you think would happen to a visitor coming to USA with a foreign passport, being caught in a major lie at the border check point?
    Same. You don’t need to bother hiding your hate for Israel right before you board the plane, do you think somebody in Mossad will not do a simple web search once in a while and mark their enemies of which you have declared yourself on the list? Do you believe that a country who you have declared yourself to be an enemy of should allow you the right to enter it?
    Apparently you can only write, you cannot read, so you have missed the second underware bomb. It is sickening of what your Muslim brothers are doing in the name of your religion, but this is why guards have to check the bathroom stalls after terror suspects.
    Your father was wrong Arafat already rejected by the time he was shot Rabin’s offer because he wanted to war to continue. There was no hope, never was, your side killed it a long time ago.

  11. Comment by Bill on May 16, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    So let me get this straight, we’re supposed to demonize Israel because this woman chose to lie about where she was going and who she was going to see? People who lie about their intentions and destinations tend to have bad things happen to them. This woman is embarrassed because of her actions.

  12. Comment by Larry Harrolson on May 16, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    For someone who hates Israel so much, I’m surprised she feels she has a right to visit there, no quesitons asked. Israel has the absolute right to decide who it lets into its borders. Perhaps she shouldn’t have lied to the immigration officials in the first place. Moreover, did she truly think she could simply erase her anti-Israel publications from her computer and that would satisfy Israeli intelligence? Israel has faced too much Arab terrorism against its civilians to simply welcome every person that hates Israel into the country without a thorough background check. Randa is free to continue publishing her anti-Israel screeds from the safety and security of the United States, where she belongs.

  13. Comment by joshua g on May 16, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    I am an American. I was born in Oakland, CA and still live in the Bay Area. My father, my father’s father, and continuing for 3 more generations were all born in Hebron. My grandfather immigrated to Detroit in 1935. I speak fluent Arabic, Hebrew , Ladino and English. In 2002 I attempted to return to Hebron to visit my ancestral home. I was arrested in Hebron, for not obtaining a “city pass.” I was detained for 2 days. I received only water and stale pita. On 2 different occasions I was kicked, while sleeping on the floor. When I was released, I was given no official explanation of my detainment. I was taken to a border crossing and released.

  14. Comment by F Callen on May 16, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    Not only whiny and flat but every detail was manipulated to make Israel/Jews look bad and the author/Arabs look like poor innocent victims. That is the reason why so many western neutrals on this issue simply don’t accept the Arab “narrative” – because we can see right through the twisting, turning, double standards and outright lies. You are the wolves who cried “wolf” too many times. Of course there are many people who are suckers for this type of sob story, however that is not a sustainable constituency: you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.

    To avoid disappointment, always check in advance whether you are likely to be denied entry to a country you intend to visit. The fact you prepared lies in advance and concealed your written attacks on Israel shows you knew it was touch and go so you should have come clean in the States and checked with the Israeli consulate first.

    Finally, your inconvenience is a small price to pay to prevent the type of terrorist atrocity that used to occur before these checkpoints were tightened.

  15. Comment by Alan Cabal on May 16, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    Judaism is not a religion, it is a viciously racist tribal code based on a completely mythical past. Israel is its manifestation as a state. There are no surprises, here. I commend Professor Jarrar on her patience.

  16. Comment by Joe America on May 16, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    So much for free speech!

  17. Comment by Thomas the Doubter on May 16, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Try entering most Arab countries with even an Israeli stamp in your American passport and see what kind of treatment you receive…

  18. Comment by Ibraheem Aruna on May 16, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    This made an interesting reading and indeed an eye opener.They have lost it and have lost my sympathy accordingly as well as that of other people.This is worst than aparthied afterall she was carrying the passport of Isreal`s biggest supporter. They should reform and policy makers should give travellers the privilege of an airport interviews. The fact that she is a descendant of a Palestinian father is not a good enough reason to have been denied entry.

  19. Comment by anon on May 16, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    First, if Ms. Jarrar only wanted to visit the West Bank, why didn’t she enter through Jordan instead of Israel? Not sure it would have changed the outcome, but it might have.

    Second, being an American citizen does not give you the automatic right to visit any country of your choice. While it is regrettable that she only learned of the Israeli decision after a 12 hour flight, it was also entirely predictable. She tried to slip through and got caught.

    If I criticized the Chinese government on the internet for years, and then tried to enter China and was denied entry, I wouldn’t be surprised either.

    I sympathize that you can’t visit your family, but sometimes a nation’s security must take precedence over individual wishes.

  20. Comment by michael e. on May 17, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    So you try to enter Israel under false pretenses and are turned back. Are we supposed to have sympathy? In most Arab countries you would find yourself in jail. I don’t see the point here.

  21. Comment by Rosie on May 19, 2012 at 12:24 am

    Umm…This was completely reactionist. Who is going to be sympathetic to someone who doesn’t believe in basic human decency? She acts like an entitled american. Nowhere does she try to be civil, just uses the most explosive language she can, for maximum attention-value. What a dolt.

  22. Comment by Paler on May 19, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    It’s curious that a story about a middle-aged Palestinian woman’s failed attempt to visit her homeland evokes talk of terrorists and raising children to hate. The woman simply wanted to see her sister. Apparently, that’s not allowed in Israel.

  23. Comment by Max on May 20, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    It’s easy for us Americans act outraged that a woman with a U.S. passport was denied entry to another country. Keep in mind that Israel deals with the constant threat of all kinds of disruptions by foreigners, up to and including actual suicide bombings. It has happened before that people entering Israel with G-8 country passports have committed terrorist attacks. [See, for example, the 2003 Mike’s Place suicide bombing in Tel Aviv that killed three people and wounded fifty, which was perpetrated by two Brits.]

    Don’t say that Israeli airport security is paranoid about the threat of disruptions and actual terrorism by people from “advanced” or “civilized” countries, because it HAS actually happened before.

  24. Comment by demize! on May 21, 2012 at 4:40 am

    Apparently the readership of this magazine consists mainly of Zionist apologists. It seems to be a fairly “left” publication, so I can only surmise that the commentariat to this article are comprised of paid hasbarists, trolls,imbeciles,or a coterie of the most obtuse bunch of PEP’s ,progressive except for Palestine, that Ive ever read. Israel is a neurosis masquerading as a country, which is fine as it goes if it didnt concoct itself onto someone elses land. But the most obnoxious nation and its most hostile populace wouldnt concern themselves with that. It would have been more equitable one would imagine for the great blooming desserts to be constructed in say Bavaria. Im sure some Talmudic scholar could have found arcane texts proving it was indeed your homeland. And it would have been more in tune with the blood and soil ethno-nationalist belligerence that typifies Israel seeing how it was the home of certain beerhall putchists. Your country is a dump and its people racist garbage, and luckily, its time as state defined by Religion is coming to a close. I can see the tourism posters now “come to beautiful Israel we may let you in, we may not eh”

  25. Comment by Shawn in Montreal on May 21, 2012 at 11:51 am

    I’m having trouble verifying the author’s claim that she deleted a reference to her being a Palestinian writer in her Wikipedia article. Such a move to blank content would like be reverted anyway, and in the edit history, I just don’t see any action that would correspond to what she said she did. Am I missing something?

  26. Comment by anon on May 21, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    On 26 March, 2012, she deleted part of her bibliography that said she was in an anthology of Palestinian writers.

  27. Comment by JeffreyME on May 21, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    A couple of quick notes of clarification regarding Randa’s unsuccessful attempt to visit her sister in the West Bank:

    Jarrar admits she lied about the purpose of her visit, whom she was there to visit, and where she would be traveling and living while in Israel. She crafted the story that she was in Israel to visit a photographer “friend” in Jerusalem, not her sister in the West Bank. She also took deliberate measures to deceive Israeli authorities about her identity by deleting biographical information about her identity and political positions from various web sites. While I am sympathetic to her desire to visit her sister, the deception she created — once discovered by Israeli customs officials — clearly justified heightened suspicion and the resulting refusal to grant her entry into Israel.

    Jarrar’s essay, which I read in full, does not include a vital piece of information that I easily found at the U.S. Consulate web site. The site states that U.S. Citizens of Palestinian nationality who wish to travel to the West Bank (including her sister’s town of Ramallah) must enter from from the Allenby Bridge-King Hussein Border crossing, not Ben Gurion Airport:

    http://jerusalem.usconsulate.gov/border-crossings.html

    I do not know if Jarrar knew the rules, but it was her obligation to find out what procedures she needed to follow. Anyone who has traveled abroad — especially since 9/11 — knows how important it is to learn specific visa requirements for whatever foreign country he or she is visiting. I do not necessarily endorse this policy, but it’s the one that Jarrar should have known.

    One last comment on Jarrar’s essay: I noted her own extreme bias in her pejorative description of a female Israeli officer as “butch looking”. A fascinating remark for someone who is so sensitive about discrimination based on appearances.

  28. Comment by demize! on May 21, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    You see now you’re missing the point my fine obscurantist friends. That being, WHY THE HELL SHOULD SHE HAVE TO TELL SOME ISRAELI TEENAGER ANYTHING? Israel controls all access into Palastine, Gaza had an airport,the “IDF” blew it to smithereens. You also now full well that any and all people of Palestinian decent are routinely harassed,humiliated, and denied access not only to “Israel” but when their destination is Gaza or behind the green line. “She lied” your entire national ethos is a lie,a myth, your very language a construct dredged up from liturgical texts. If America is the adolescent of nations Israel is the petualant child run amuck, for she has no parent to restrain her. She will soon become pregnant out of wedlock, self abort at the prom and be incarcerated to stretch a metaphor.

  29. Comment by Rod on May 21, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    Dear Jeffrey: You have no authority or right to “clarify” anything about this essay since you are not its writer or its editor.

    The only thing you have managed to do is to reiterate that Palestinians are NOT allowed entry into Israel, only into the West Bank, and through a shitty bridge. They are not allowed entry even when they are AMERICAN CITIZENS, and only because of their ancestral background. That is RACIST. Jarrar is NOT of Palestinian nationality- she is an AMERICAN.

    Furthermore, Jarrar is an openly queer writer, so noting that the officer was Butch was simply giving her visibility, something the soldier had no intention of doing in return. In addition, are we supposed to love people who search our hair and every inch of our clothing?

    Last, SHE WAS NOT DENIED ENTRY BECAUSE SHE DELETED INFORMATION ABOUT HERSELF. She was denied ONLY because she has a father who was born in Jenin and is thus considered to be a Palestinian. She would not have had to lie if Israel wasn’t a racist state that does not allow anyone entry to the West Bank (to hide its lies and racism).

    The rest of the negative comments on this article prove that Zionists and defenders of Israel are threatened by the fact that THE TRUTH IS GETTING OUT. There’s no stopping the truth now.

  30. Comment by JeffreyME on May 21, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    Demize, you really have nothing of substance to add to this discussion. You apparently love to rant, and repeat the same shallow rhetoric which really has no impact, except to work yourself up into a lather. Fell better.

  31. Comment by Palestine 2.0 on May 21, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    “What moves me in this post-two-state era, is the sheer audacity of Israel even existing.

    What a fantastical idea, this notion that a bunch of rank outsiders from another continent could appropriate an existing, populated nation for themselves – and convince the “global community” that it was the moral thing to do. I’d laugh at the chutzpah if this wasn’t so serious.

    Israel fears “delegitimization” more than anything else. Behind the velvet curtain lies a state built on myths and narratives, protected only by a military behemoth, billions of dollars in US assistance and a lone UN Security Council veto.

    Israel has no right to exist. Break that mental barrier and just say it: “Israel has no right to exist.” Roll it around your tongue, tweet it, post it as your Facebook status update – do it before you think twice. Delegitimization is here – have no fear. Palestine will be less painful than Israel ever was.”

  32. Comment by demize! on May 21, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    Ok @JeffreyME I shall “fell” (sic) better. How utterly typical for a Zionist apologist to “colonize” the terms of debate and unilaterally declare the borders, something which Israel still has yet to do by the way, then determine what is and isnt “of substance”. How utterly typical of Israeli arrogance. Why dont you build a settlement on these comments and burn the olive grove of unwanted argumentation?

  33. Comment by JeffreyME on May 22, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Demize — thanks for pointing out my typo! It was the only factually accurate statement you have made. I must note that you made your own typos — no apostrophes in your contractions. Either way, however, you are merely shouting in the mirror. Correct spelling or not, you have nothing worthwhile to contribute.

  34. Comment by JeffreyME on May 22, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    Rod —
    1. I have as much standing as anyone else, unless you want to convince the moderator to censor my comments.
    2. The fact that Jarrar is a Lesbian does not give her a pass on characterizing anyone else as “butch”. That is a judgement based on stereotype – not knowledge. Jarrar does not know the woman, and made as judgement on an individual without information — the definition of prejudice.
    3. When facts get in your way, you simply ignore them. Jarrar admits she lied about where she was going and who she was visiting. she got caught, and was unsuccessful in talking her way out of it. She also ignored regulations for entering the West Bank. Whether right or wrong, Israel has set these rules and they are open public knowledge. Did Jarrar deliberately flout the regulations? I don’t know, probably not since she would have known she would never get to see her sister by coming through Ben Gurion airport. But her error was compounded by her refusal to tell the truth about her visit.

    Rod, you clearly hate Israel and want to blame everything on the Jewish state. You really have no way of knowing why Jarrar was denied entry — after all, thousands of Palestinians are allowed in Israel and the Occupied Territories to visit. Despite Jarrar’s lies and deceptions, you are completely unable to comprehend that Israel border police did what virtually every nation would do when a visitor attempted to enter under false pretenses.

  35. Comment by demize! on May 22, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    “shouting in the mirror” like most Israelis you are projecting your own neurosis onto others. Lol do you think any but the already indoctrinated are swayed by your clumsy hasbara? You personify the pathology of the state you are paid to defend.

  36. Comment by demize! on May 22, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    oops sorry no edit “the only factual thing you’ve said” Really? Does Your state have declared borders? Prove me wrong, you cant because it never had, and doesn’t now have fixed borders. It is inherently expansionist and belligerent. So your basically just blowing a lot of hot and fetid air. You do not define what is worthwhile here or anywhere else.

  37. Comment by Ziad Rizk on June 25, 2012 at 11:31 am

    Filtering out the sophistry in some of the comments, and stating certain facts on record about entry into Israel;

    So many before you, peace activists, even Jewish writers like Jared Malsin, Jewish professors and descendants of Holocaust survivors like Norman Finklestein had been deported. Richard Falk, UN’s rapporteur. Nobel peace laureate Mairead Maguire was sent back… Good ol’ Chomsky had been denied entry. Dissent is a security threat to the insecure, even from their very own, this self-praising democratic green paradise in the middle of the savage desert (as they like to portray themselves.) No criticism allowed.

    Naem Giladi, an Iraqi Jew and member of the zionist movement in Iraq back during the time of the inception of Israel would not have his book published in the democratic state as it exposed Zionist terrorism against Jews themselves in Iraq and Egypt.

    Israel reminds me of one of my friends who always seems to think very highly of himself, could hurt no one while he himself always ultra-sensitive, and would accuse the whole world before admitting a wrong.

    Very nice article!

  38. Comment by Suheila on September 1, 2012 at 10:37 am

    It is not for us to decide that she belongs in America and you do not always get clear information from Israeli embassy in advance, I know this myself. People often have to lie about their plans, if they mention the West Bank there is a huge risk of refusal.

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