“. . . who dared to travel to Israel with his American citizenship for a visit and whose only crime was the fact that I am Palestinian. . .” (Dr. George Khoury)

Palestinian actors perform a theater production at the Holst Cultural Center in Gaza City, May 19, 2015. (photo by Palestinian Artists Association)
Palestinian actors perform a theater production at the Holst Cultural Center in Gaza City, May 19, 2015. (photo by Palestinian Artists Association)

❶ From MA’AN NEWS AGENCY
ISRAELI FORCES DEMOLISH 4 STORES IN SILWAN IN EAST JERUSALEM
July 28, 2015
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Israeli military bulldozers on Tuesday demolished four stores belonging to Palestinians in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, locals said.
[. . . .]
____Khalil al-Abbasi told Ma’an that Israeli troops raided his two stores in the Ayn al-Lawza area inside Silwan, ransacking them and throwing the goods out before demolishing them. . . .
____Separately, Iyad al-Abbasi said that Israeli troops ransacked and demolished stores and two rooms belonging to him in the Ayn al-Foka area of Silwan. . . .
____Silwan is one of many Palestinian neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem that is seeing an influx of Israeli settlers at the cost of demolition of Palestinian homes and eviction of Palestinian families.
(More. . .)
(More. . .)

❷ From AL-MONITOR (PALESTINE PULSE)
GAZAN SOCIETY COMES TOGETHER ON STAGE
Asmaa al-Ghoul
July 27, 2015
GAZA CITY — “You are innocent, O Rabih. You are innocent, O Rabih,” the crowd shouted at Rabih, a character in his 20s who for an hour and a half on stage at the Holst Cultural Center in Gaza City represented the Arab citizen, who faces injustice on the street, at work, at home and in prison. “Rabih al-Arabi” (“Arab Spring”), the play directed by Issam Shaheen, may have had some poorly staged scenes, but they were all rich in symbolism. The young Rabih (Spring in Arabic), played by Majed Antar, represents the Arab Spring, which security services and ruling Arab regimes seek to crush.
____ A cast of more than 20 actors appeared in scenes set in a prison, house, psychiatric clinic and religious hospice. They all played their parts to perfection, greatly entertaining the audience, some in tragic roles and others with great comedy.
(More. . .)

Bulldozed in Silwan
Bulldozed in Silwan

❸ From MA’AN NEWS AGENCY
ISRAELI WARDENS ASSAULT PFLP LEADER IN ONGOING PRISON CRACKDOWN
July 28, 2015
RAMALLAH — The Israeli Prison Service on Tuesday morning assaulted the head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine amid an ongoing crackdown on Palestinian detainees inside Nafha prison, a Palestinian minister said.
____Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Qaraqe said in a statement that the Israeli Prison Service assaulted Ahmed Saadat, PFLP’s secretary-general, who is serving multiple life sentences in Nafha prison in the Negev in southern Israel.
[. . . .]
____He said that Israeli wardens use all means of aggression against Palestinian detainees including torture, beatings, and humiliation.
(More. . .)

❹ From PALESTINE NEWS & INFORMATION AGENCY – WAFA
ISRAELI FORCES DETAIN 11 PALESTINIANS, INCLUDING SIX CHILDREN, FROM JERUSALEM, HEBRON
July 28, 2015
Israeli forces detained early Tuesday 11 Palestinians, including six children, from the East Jerusalem town of al-‘Issawiya, Hebron’s refugee camp of al-Fawwar and Bethlehem, said security sources and the Palestinian Prisoner’s Club (PPC).
____Israeli police raided al-‘Issawiya, a town to the north of East Jerusalem, where they detained six children after breaking into their families’ houses. . . . All detainees were taken to an interrogation and detention center in the city.
____Meanwhile in Hebron district, Israeli forces raided al-Fawwar refugee camp to the south of the city, where they proceeded to detain a Palestinian after breaking into and ransacking his house. . . .
____They also detained another Palestinian after breaking into and ransacking him house in Ash-Shuyukh town to the northeast of the city.
(More. . .)

A PERSONAL ACCOUNTDr. George Khoury, a Palestinian who is now an American citizen wrote this account for his Facebook page on July 25.  (Re-posted here in place of opinion piece and the usual work by a Palestinian poet.)

Professor Khoury has taught Arabic since his arrival to America in 1969. Prof Khoury has earned cum laude his B.A. and Master’s degrees at Seton Hall University and Montclair State in New Jersey. In addition to Arabic, Prof. Khoury has taught French and Spanish as well as Latin, and German in high schools and colleges. He taught Arabic from 1982-1983 in the Near Eastern Department at UC Berkeley, French and Arabic from 1998-2008 at San Mateo College, and initially French and Spanish and later on Arabic at Skyline College since 2002 where he is still currently employed.

After 20 years of not visiting or seeing Jerusalem and my homeland Palestine, I decided to go back, this time as an American citizen with an American passport which I gained in 1975. The trip was intended to be a religious pilgrimage with Father Bernard Poggie to visit my homeland and see friends and places I haven’t seen for so long. Once we arrived to Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, they allowed Bernard to enter. For me, I was sent to the “green room” for questioning. The conversation that ensued is this:

The Shin Beth agent stated it very bluntly, “You are Palestinian. Your American passport is worthless. Do not try to deny the fact that you are a Palestinian.” I answered very bluntly as well, “I never denied my Palestinian identity. I am Palestinian from head to toe, my father is Palestinian, my mother is Palestinian, my brothers and sister is Palestinian. I hail from Rafidia-Nablus, my grandfather was an Orthodox priest and I can trace my Palestinian roots for the last 500 years.”

I made perfectly clear to them that I didn’t come as a Palestinian to visit the Holy Land but as an American citizen and you should honor this American passport like all other countries in the world. The security officer (who I believe to be a Shin Bet official) retorted with the utmost sarcasm and cynicism, “How do you want me to honor your American passport? Do you want me to kiss it, to hug it, or to worship it?” “Moreover,” he added, “You are rude and ill-mannered. How did you get to be so rude?” I answered, “I am neither rude nor ill-mannered I am just pointing to the facts. I always traveled on the strength of my American passport, I never held a Palestinian passport and never lived in Palestine under the Palestinian Authority.” His answer was, “You will be deported to Jordan and come the Allenby Bridge to continue your visit to the Holy Land.” (The Allenby bridge is the connection between Jordan in Israel. Palestinians can only enter the West Bank through this bridge because they are not allowed in through Israel proper.)

I agreed to my deportation to Jordan and he made me sign a deportation paper. A few minutes later the story changed and now he wants me deported to the Fiumicino Airport in Italy because that’s where I stopped before landing in Tel Aviv. I was stunned but agreed to it.

Dr' George Khoury
Dr’ George Khoury

The airport guards came and took me with a few other people amongst whom was a Palestinian lady with her daughter. They were both American citizens but Palestinian-born. The Israeli’s told the two of them that they would be deported back to the US but they would deported separately. They both broke down in tears and pleaded with them to at least allow them to be deported together but to no avail. They drove us about half an hour away from the airport and held us like criminals in a detention facility from Monday to Thursday morning. They locked us up, forbade me personally from keeping my IPhone, refused me to take a book with me to that filthy room and threw me there with a bunch of poor, hungry, and disoriented men from different national and ethnic backgrounds. That was July 20th and we were at the airport from 5pm to almost 1am Tuesday morning.

At that detention center we were given sandwiches whenever they remembered we were human beings who might get hungry after such an ordeal, and there were two young men, one Korean and the other Russian who were truly hungry. They could not speak one word of English. They knocked at the window asking the guards who were chatting and smoking in the backyard of the building to allow them some food. At the detention facility they were roughed up, verbally abused, and totally disrespected by young Zionist thugs who despite their young age must have already lost any trace of their humanity. We didn’t sleep a wink because they kept the bright neon lights on the entire time. I dared to ask one of them about his name because he spoke Arabic who was trying to ingratiate himself with us. I told him you know the names of all of us “What’s your name” dared I ask. He said, “George. My name is George.” The other guards remained totally anonymous, insulted us by using disrespectful and abusive language, and forbade us from speaking to one another from each others prison cells.

To make a long story short, I found out Thursday morning that from the start they intended to deport me neither to Jordan, nor to Italy, but back to San Francisco. Moreover, they stole my luggage with all the clothes in it and I was forced to remain in the same clothes from Sunday to Thursday. I say they stole my luggage because Father Poggi, who parted with me at the airport with the intention of meeting me in Jordan (as Israeli security officer had told us) saw my bag as he was leaving the airport, assuming I would pick it up on my way out. Little did we know how naive we were to believe that we are dealing with professional liars and thieves. I was lucky enough to have my handbag with me the entire time. My carry-on luggage contained my insulin. I am a diabetic and not having my insulin with me at all times would be fatal.

Thursday morning at the detention center I was picked up around 9:30 a.m. and taken straight to the run way to the airplane (not through the terminal) using movable stairs. The guard had my passport and three tickets to San Francisco, changing my itinerary from KLM to Alitalia-Delta to New York, with the strict instruction to the pilot and the crew not to give me back my passport until I boarded the plane from Italy to the USA.

This is, in gist, what happened to an American citizen who dared to travel to Israel with his American citizenship for a visit and whose only crime was the fact that I am Palestinian. Its stunning that I as an American citizen for the last 40 years and as a native son of Jerusalem, I was denied on both counts entry into my homeland for a visit, while Jews from around the world (including Peruvian Indians from the Andes), who have never stepped foot on that land, are welcomed with open arms and offered citizenship to Israel.

I’m back in San Francisco now. They took something that was supposed to be a vacation from my long work hours, a reconnection with my homeland and old friends, and made it a nightmare from hell. I was disrespected, demeaned and treated like I committed a crime. To add insult to injury, I called my travel agent to have him help me recover some money from the lost return ticket only to discover that the funds for my return ticket was already used to fund my deportation by the Israelis. I tell you my story so as to encourage people to visit more often Palestine and to challenge the thuggery of this racist, Zionist entity and do it here in the USA as well as in Israel. Without the US’s blind and unconditional financial and political support of the state of Israel, the occupation and all its tragedies against the Palestinians would not continue.

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