Editor’s note: A petition campaign has begun on behalf of Munther Fahmy, who runs the book store at the American Colony Hotel in occupied East Jerusalem. Israel is seeking to deport him. Fahmy sent us the following note about his case:
I was born in Jerusalem in 1954 and therefore when the Israelis had conquered Jerusalem in 1967, I was given, as the rest of the Arab population in East Jerusalem, an Israeli ID resident card. In 1975 I left Jerusalem to continue my university education in the USA. Graduation, starting a business, marriage, having a child years later in 1994-95 and intoxicated with prospects of peace after the signing of the Oslo agreement, I flew home and was told at the airport in Tel-Aviv that my Jerusalem ID was revoked and the only way I could enter then was as a tourist on my US passport..which I reluctantly did and continued to do as I thought there was no other way to reinstate my residency.
The Israelis started giving me a hard time entering and leaving the country as a tourist 2 years ago, and especially last month, when I was told that the next time I will be allowed to reenter the country, after this current tourist visa expires on April 3rd, is next year in April for 3 months only during that entire year. I then started legal proceedings to re-capture my ID card back. A lawyer later told me that I was lied to in 1995 when I arrived– my Israeli blue ID card was valid till it was finally revoked in 2002 while I was going and coming as a tourist!!
So, a year ago we took the Interior Ministry to court to reinstate my residency status and I lost because they invoked a racist law they have on the books which strips any resident of Jerusalem (all residents of Jerusalem who holds ID cards are Arabs, Jews in Jerusalem and everywhere in Israel are citizens) who left Jerusalem for 7 years or more and holds a foreign passport of his or her blue Israeli residency ID card and right to live there.
So, I appealed to the Supreme Court and after 4 postponement of the court date in the last year, in which I needed to leave and come back to renew my tourist visa several times, be at the mercy of the passport control people every time wondering if I will be allowed to enter and if allowed to enter wondering for how long they will allow me to stay, the Supreme Court date was set for Feb 17 this year.
On that day, my request was rejected in the first minute of the session! To add insult to injury, I was told to consider myself lucky that I was allowed to come and go as a tourist that long and even dare to start a business while I am a tourist, and then finally saying that “if this happens in YOUR country the USA, you would be deported on the first plane” . Unfortunately, the session was in Hebrew and I was not privy to this remark by the judge until the end of the session. I would have loved to remind the judges that people born in the USA don’t have to go to the Supreme Court to ask it to intervene with the Immigration authorities to let them live in their country of birth!
The last insult was that I should write a letter within 30 days from Feb 17 2011 “begging” the Interior Ministry (the one I am suing!) to please reinstate my residency!
Anyway, my lawyer sent the letter on March 17 and if the interior ministry rejects it, which we are almost certain of, I will be deported when I exceed my tourist visa on April 3rd.