Israel this weekend banned a Palestinian-American author from participating in a Palestinian literature festival in occupied East Jerusalem.
Susan Abulhawa – known for her novel "Mornings in Jenin" – was banned from participating in the Kalimat Palestinian Literature Festival being held in occupied East Jerusalem this weekend. Upon landing at Israel's Ben Gurion airport, Abulhawa was detained for 36 hours and subsequently deported back to the US, where she currently lives and holds citizenship.
Although Abulhawa appealed the decision in Israel's Supreme Court, her appeal was rejected, the Times of Israel (ToI) reported. Spokeswoman for Israel's immigration authority, Sabine Haddad, said that Abulhawa had been refused entry because of a 2015 incident when she had refused to answer questions by Israeli occupation forces when attempting to enter Israel from Jordan. Haddad explained that "[Abulhawa] was refused entry then and told that the next time she arrived she had to coordinate in advance," however this weekend "she landed without arranging entry in advance," ToI added.
In a statement to the Kalimat festival (published in full by Mondoweiss), Abulhawa said that:
As you all know by now, Israeli authorities have denied me entry into my country and I am therefore unable to attend the festival. It pains me greatly not to be with my friends and fellow writers to explore and celebrate our literary traditions with readers and with each other in our homeland. It pains me that we can meet anywhere in the world except in Palestine, the place to which we belong, from whence our stories emerge and where all our turns eventually lead.
Speaking out against the claim that she should have coordinated her visit in advance, Abulhawa continued: "This is a lie. In fact, I was told upon arrival at the airport that I had been required to apply for a visa to my US passport, and that this application would not be accepted until 2020, at least five years after the first time they denied me entry."
"They [Israel] said it was my responsibility to know this even though I was never given any indication of being banned," she added.
Abulhawa also claimed that she was able to smuggle electronic and writing equipment into the prison cell where she was held, saying: "I have photos and video from inside that terrible detention centre, which I took with a second phone hidden on my body, and I left for them a few messages on the walls by the dirty bed I had to lay on. I suppose they will find it vulgar to read: "Free Palestine," "Israel is an Apartheid State," or "Susan Abulhawa was here and smuggled this pencil into her prison cell".
Israel has deported many high-profile figures this year, most of who were accused of being affiliated with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Among those deported were Ariel Gold, a Jewish-American activist with Code Pink and Ana Sanchez Mera, a Spanish activist affiliated with the BDS National Committee (BNC).
In what was seen as a landmark case, in October Palestinian-American student Lara Alqasem successfully appealed against Israel's attempt to ban her from studying at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The 22-year-old was held in Ben Gurion Airport for two weeks while her appeal was heard, with Israel's Supreme Court eventually ruling that the country's controversial anti-BDS law did not apply to her case. The court condemned Israel's stringent attitude towards Alqasem, ruling that "since [her] actions do not sufficiently warrant banning her entry to Israel, the unavoidable impression is that her political opinions were the reason behind the cancellation of the visa that was granted to her. If that is indeed the case, we are talking about a radical and dangerous step."