A letter to the Israeli premier
Dear Mr Olmert,
It is a deep concern that compels me to address you in this frank and forthright manner. Please allow me to elucidate. As you probably know, for almost 40 years, your country
has been in control of the Gaza Strip and West Bank (an area many Israelis refer to as Judea and Samaria).
The success of your nation’s policies in these territories
can at best be labelled as ‘mixed’, both for Israelis and Palestinians. It is a
fraught history of which in all likelihood you know more than me.
It is a more recent and concrete danger that I
would like to bring to the fore. Israel has for some time stopped granting
family unification in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Since March of this year your country has started denying entry to people of Palestinian descent who wish to visit, live, work, or invest in these territories. This also goes for foreigners who wish to simply visit, study or work for a short while with their Palestinian hosts.
Many families where one of the partners has a
foreign passport are forced either to separate or leave their homes, jobs and
friends altogether and relocate abroad.
Conservative estimates of the amount of people thusly affected range over 100,000.
While in the logic of the ongoing conflict it might seem reasonable for an Israeli to think “the fewer Palestinians, the better”, I urge you to follow my reasoning to the contrary.
There exists in the United States, in Europe, South-America
and other parts of the world a vibrant Palestinian community. These people are
very often well-to-do, active in business and more often than not highly educated.
Many of them have been absent from
their native lands here for over three years, thus losing their local ‘citizenship’ and acquiring the passports of their respective host countries.
Optimistic after the Oslo accords, they came
back to Ramallah, to East Jerusalem, Nablus and many other Palestinian cities
and villages to invest, build and, yes, to live. Connected with the communities
overseas in business, academia and civil society these people are
a force of moderation, of positivism and hope to an aspiring, yet beleaguered nation.
This brings me to the crux of my argument; denying these people the right to reside, work, invest, host, study, play, love, stroll the evening streets in what you yourself have stated will one day become a contiguous Palestinian state, will bring about the self-fulfilling prophecy of a Hamas-stan, a decapitated nation in which the forces of compromise
will find it harder than ever to thrive. That, dear Prime Minister, cannot be the legacy that your government wishes to leave behind in the pages of history books. For your citizens, as well as the 3.5 million people that are forced to live under laws upon
which they cannot exert any influence, I exhort you to do what's best for all the people of this Holy Land and allow to enter those that pose no threat whatsoever to Israeli lives.
Tom Kenis works for a Palestinian NGO in Ramallah. He sent this letter to the Israeli premier Ehud Olmert on 13 December 2006
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