A Practical Route to Palestine

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Palestinian youths gesture during a demonstration next to the security fence standing on the Gaza border, east of Khan Yunis, in the Gaza Strip, on 23 November 2012. (Photo: AFP - Said Khatib)

By: Ibrahim al-Amin

Published Tuesday, January 8, 2013

From a secluded apartment in the Dora area of Beirut, Jacques (not his real name) offers you his unforgettable services. Fake passports, ID cards, and official documents for Arab and African countries, as well as Latin America and some Eastern European countries. The cost: between $1,000 and 5,000 per document.

He is also willing to try to obtain papers from North Europe or the US for a $10,000 down payment, but with no guarantees and no money back. Frankly, he tells you, his success rate with “advanced” countries is around 40 percent, and that it depends on nothing other than luck.

Jacques recently doctored passports for seven members of a Syrian family that fled from fighting in the district of Homs. He apparently managed to get them papers for a Latin American country. The group secured permits to travel to a country in the region on Syrian IDs, and from there, they made their way to that faraway land, where they hope to meet up with relatives.

I asked Jacques for help in getting documents for members of a Palestinian family who fled from the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus. He asked the purpose: to emigrate overseas, move freely between between Lebanon and Syria, or travel to another Arab state?

I said they wanted to return to Palestine, and that this had now become possible via Egypt. After 60 years of displacement between Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, the family wants to live in historic Palestine, even as refugees. They have an opportunity to rent a small apartment in the Gaza Strip, and the husband, wife, and one of the sons have flexible professions so they can look after themselves anywhere. All they need are documents to travel to Egypt where they’ll then enter the Strip, even as tourists, as many others have done.

After they arrive in their new home, they intend to tear up the documents and ask the authorities in the Strip to issue new papers. They can prove that they hail from a Palestinian village in the district of Akka, and that they still have relatives there, as well as cousins based in a village near Nablus in the West Bank. They are also unaffiliated with any Palestinian political parties. The grandfather had been a supporter of the Fatah movement, but the son and the grandsons seemed to shun activism for reasons that are unclear.

Jacques did not dwell on the case for long. He said he’d do what he could. But then he surprised us by saying he would refuse to receive any payment if the family actually made it to the Gaza Strip. He added he’d be willing to provide a thousand documents for free if that would help a thousand Palestinians return to historic Palestine.

He knows they would not be returning to their original villages in the 1948 areas, but explained jokingly: “This is the best way to tell them I don’t welcome them in Lebanon. So I don’t need to fight them or hate them, nor am I prepared to be accused of racism if I call for them to be dealt with outside Lebanon. This way I’ll be rid of their burden, and they’ll return to their country... isn’t the right of return the main demand of every Palestinian refugee in the world?”

The operation is underway, and if all goes as expected, the plan should come to fruition within a couple of months. There are three potential obstacles:

First, that a decision is made by Israel to block the return of Palestinians even to the Gaza Strip, and it takes prevention steps on the political, logistical, and even security fronts.

Second, that the Egyptian authorities bar this family from entering the country, which is unlikely on logical or legal grounds, but possible from a security standpoint.

Third, that Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip prevent the family from entering and settling there. That, too, is presumably far-fetched, for moral, religious, and humanitarian reasons.

While arranging this operation – whose real value matches that of a thousand military operations against Israel – friends were quick to suggest an idea: the establishment of a fund to collect donations that would be used to finance similar ones. That is why this account is being published, presumably without jeopardizing it.

But there is a question that worries me: How many Palestinian refugees would agree to embark on such an adventure in light of the sizeable risks?

I ask because I was surprised, indeed maddened, at the way Hamas activists based in Lebanon and Egypt went into Gaza to congratulate the inhabitants on their victory a few weeks ago, and yet proceeded to come back out. Why? They say they have tasks to attend to related to the struggle. But in fact they have nothing to do except continue to fan the flames of the inferno in Syria in the name of supporting the revolution there or demand that Gebran Bassil be put on trial!

What minds and what hearts do such people possess?

Ibrahim al-Amin is editor-in-chief of Al-Akhbar.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


1. Give passports — real ones, not fake – to any of the following countries of their choice: the US, UK, Canada, Australia, France (additions may me made) to ALL Jews in Palestine who refuse to sign a pledge accepting to live in Palestine as Palestinian citizens and abide by its laws, in the full knowledge that the lawful Palestinian right of return will be enforced immediately. NOTE: many of them already have second and even third passports.
2. Provide ships and other transport as needed (a small cost to the US compared to the “aid”) to take them to their destinations.
Get Jacques on the job, fast!

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