World Bulletin / News Desk
Sarah Ali is a 22-year-old Palestinian living in Gaza. She studied English Language and Literature and is currently a teaching assistant at the Islamic University of Gaza. Last December, she was invited to take part in a tour in the United States about Gaza Writes Back, a book to which she contributed.
The book is an anthology of 23 short stories written by young Palestinians commemorating, in fiction, the fifth anniversary of Israel’s 2008-2009 attack on Gaza known as "Operation Cast Lead".
To participate in the tour, she had applied for a US visa. Fortunately, Israeli gave her a one-day permit to go to the United States Consulate in Jerusalem for the visa interview.
It was her first time outside Gaza in 15 years. She expressed her emotions with these words : "Visiting Jerusalem was a surreal experience to which no piece of writing can do justice."
Two weeks after the interview, she got her passport back with the US visa. She could not go abroad using the Rafaah gate because there were hundreds still waiting on the list to travel, so the only way to go was dependent on Israel's permit.
The American Friends Service Committee, the organization sponsoring the book tour, helped her apply for a permit. After almost a month waiting for a decision, she was told her application was rejected.
The reason the Israeli authorities gave for denying her a permit was that she did not belong to any of the categories normally allowed to travel through Erez. Those include patients getting treatment in Israel, merchants who import goods from Israel into Gaza, foreign journalists and individuals or delegations traveling within US consulate-sponsored programs.
She said "Looking at casualty figures, no one can deny that it is overwhelmingly Palestinians who are the victims of violence whose source is Israel. Yet “security” is the constant justification for Israel."
The book itself and the speaking tour came as a peaceful and creative initiative intended to promote dialogue and mutual understanding. She said "Israeli leaders make the bogus claim that they are fighting “terrorism” (except they don’t consider their own white phosphorus bombs, drones F-16 fighter jets and Apache helicopters to be “terrorist”) and want to achieve peace with Palestinians through dialogue and negotiations. Yet, ironically, when ordinary Palestinians ask for a permit to travel and dialogue, they are faced with apathy, distrust and rejection."
Luckily, three of her friends — editor Refaat Aleree and contributors Yousef Aljamal and Rawan Yaghi did make it to the US for the tour. Because they were already out of Gaza studying in Malasiya and the UK before the tour started.
After this refusal she changed her opinion about "Gaza descripton". She said "I used to think that calling Gaza “the largest open-air prison” was hyperbolic, but recently I started to believe it might just be the perfect description. Everyday, there are hundreds of Palestinians stuck in Gaza."
Sarah Ali expressed the truism again with her last words: "Freedom of movement is a human right. No civilian population should be locked up like this. Nobody should have to think of borders a hundred times before they consider travelling or booking a ticket. Nobody should have to live at the mercy of occupation. "
The story cited from Electronic Intifada
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