Palestinian-American denied entry to West Bank for summer skateboard program

Israel/Palestine
on 28 Comments

Last week I was supposed to travel to Palestine to be a camp counselor at SkateQilya Skate Camp in the West Bank town of Qalqilya in Palestine.  SkateQilya is a small organization run by my friends Mohammad Othman, Adam Abel, and legendary American skater Kenny Reed. The group runs a summer camp and provides year-round skate-related programming for kids in Qalqilya and nearby villages and towns. 

In 2013, Mohammad and Adam spearheaded an effort to build a skate ramp in Qalqilya and they have been intimately involved in supporting and growing the budding skate community in the small West Bank city ever since.  Last summer I was a counselor at the inaugural SkateQilya Summer Camp, a three-week coed program with 11 local girls and 11 boys.  It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I was very much looking forward to returning this summer, especially since we had expanded the program to 35 campers (we have spent the past two months fundraising for the camp and continue to do so).

Professional skateboarder Kenny Reed speaks with Palestinian children attending a summer camp in the West Bank town of Qalilya where they learn to skateboard. (Photo: SkateQilya/Facebook)

Mohammad Othman gives a T-shirt to a Palestinian camper at SkateQilya. (Photo: SkateQilya/Facebook)

Unfortunately, I was denied entry after eight hours of being interrogated aggressively and treated unpleasantly by Israeli border security at the Allenby Bridge border crossing with Jordan.  I had landed in Amman at 9 a.m. on Thursday, August 3 and gotten a taxi straight to the Allenby crossing.  I arrived at the Israeli side of the bridge around 11:30 a.m.  Although I’m a U.S. and German citizen (I’m born and raised in Washington DC and my mother is German) and should have no problem passing through Israeli security, my father is of Palestinian origin, so I went in expecting extra questioning and waiting (my father left Bethlehem, Palestine for the U.S. in 1957 at age 5). 

I have traveled to Palestine five times before and have been hassled every time by Israeli authorities to varying degrees.

After going up to the window and presenting my passport like all travelers, I was questioned for 15 minutes after which my passport was taken and I was told to sit and wait, as I had been expecting.  Palestinians have to sit and wait while Europeans, Americans, and other international travelers pass through without any problem 95 percent of the time.  After two hours of waiting, I was finally called to be questioned.  It was unpleasant and antagonistic from the start and I was questioned for about 30 minutes about my family history, who I know in the West Bank, if I attend protests in the U.S., if I attend protests in Palestine, and much more. My phone was taken and looked through for five minutes (a young woman looked through my Instagram account thoroughly but seemed upset that she couldn’t find whatever it was she was looking for).  

I have no involvement with any Palestine-related organization other than SkateQilya and have worked full time in the financial world since graduating from the University of Connecticut in 2010.  I also make music and videos with DC Record Label FHTMG. We made the first ever rap music video in North Korea in 2014 and released a music video filmed in Palestine earlier this year.  


Back at the crossing between Israel and Jordan, I then waited for another hour before being taken to a back room and questioned further about the same things by two new border officers (they also took my fingerprints and took headshots).  After this round of questioning, they informed me that since I’m going to the West Bank and not Israel, I have to talk with an official from the Israeli army.  After waiting for another hour, a young baby-faced army officer who seemed like an American college kid came to talk to me.  He was the least antagonistic of anyone I had dealt with but after 15 minutes of talking with him, he nonchalantly told me that since I’m involved with an NGO I need an entrance coordination from Beit El and he was going to send me back to Jordan.  He said I could come back and try to get in once I get this security coordination.  He spoke to my friend Mohammad, the director of SkateQilya on the phone and told him this is the only way I could get in.  After trying to plead my case in vain, I waited for another hour to get my passport back and was then escorted outside to wait for a bus back to the Jordanian side of the border.  

Camper practices on a ramp at the SkateQilya summer program where Palestinian children from the West Bank learn to skateboard. (Photo: SkateQilya/Facebook)

Mohammad Othman fits a helmet on a Palestinian child attending skateboarding camp in the West Bank. (Photo: SkateQilya/Facebook)

I took a taxi back to Amman and checked into a hotel in around 8 p.m. and had to scramble to figure out what to do. With the camp starting in just two days, we decided it was too much to try to run around and chase a work permit that the army probably wasn’t going to give us in any case.  I began searching for flights and ended up buying a ticket to leave for the next morning.  I’m now in London staying with a friend and will soon return home to Washington DC. 

I had planned on releasing the above music video, which we filmed mainly at the skate ramp in Qalqilya after arriving in Palestine, but obviously, I had to change my plans. 

About Abu Rahss

Abu Rahss is a rapper, videographer, and co-founder of the music collective FHTMG. He currently resides in Washington D.C. and works as an analyst at an investment firm.

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28 Responses

  1. JosephA
    August 7, 2017, 7:25 pm

    Abu, thanks for sharing your story about your experience with the racist Israeli worse-than-apartheid system. Keep up the good work.

  2. Annie Robbins
    August 7, 2017, 11:33 pm

    this is so sad. it really pisses me off.

    • Paranam Kid
      August 8, 2017, 6:49 am

      It would be sad if it were due to a misunderstanding, or an inexperienced officer, or such like, but this is institutionalised, Palestinian-targeted racism, apartheid, and hatred. So, no, it is not sad but revolting, disguting, gut wrenching, and it confirms that Israel in its current racist form has absolutely no legitimacy whatsoever. Israel needs to be dismantled and rebuilt from the ground up on the basis of Equality for ALL its citizens, Palestinians included, as Philip Weiss described in his post yesterday.

      • Arafatbastard
        August 8, 2017, 8:58 am

        How odd: I thought that “Palestinians” live in “Palestine”, and Israelis live in Israel.

        Basically, you’re just a racist.

      • Talkback
        August 8, 2017, 5:18 pm

        Arafatbastard: “How odd: I thought that “Palestinians” live in “Palestine”, and Israelis live in Israel.”

        Yes, it’s pretty odd that you call this “thinking”. We have Palestinians who live in Israel and illegal Jewish settlers who live in Palestine and “Israeli” doesn’t even exist according to Israel’s Supremacist Court of Justice.

        Arafatbastard: “Basically, you’re just a racist.”

        Nope, he’s not a Zionist.

      • Misterioso
        August 8, 2017, 7:37 pm

        @fatbastard

        In fact, there is no such person as an “Israeli.”

        To the best of my knowledge, Israel is the only country in the world that differentiates between citizenship and nationality, i.e., “Israeli” nationality does not exist, only Jews and non-Jews, and each citizen carries an appropriate identity card. While the implications of this absurdity for discrimination and racism against non-Jews are obvious, it has been upheld by Israel’s Supreme Court.

      • jon s
        August 9, 2017, 12:49 am

        Misterioso,
        Israeli citizenship is held by Jews and non-Jews.
        The identity card no longer specifies nationality.

      • Annie Robbins
        August 9, 2017, 3:23 am

        does it specify religion?

      • Sibiriak
        August 9, 2017, 1:37 am

        Misterioso: To the best of my knowledge, Israel is the only country in the world that differentiates between citizenship and nationality,
        ————————-

        Actually, there are many multi-national states that differentiate between citizenship and nationality.

        Just a few examples:

        Spain

        “Nationalities and regions of Spain”
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nationalities_and_regions_of_Spain

        Russian Federation

        Russia is a multi-national state with over 185 ethnic groups designated as nationalities”

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_groups_in_Russia

        (N.b. the Russian language has two different words for “Russian”, one designating Russian Federation citizenship , the other designating Russian nationality.)

        China

        ” The Chinese government officially says there are 56 nationalities. They are called 族 zú or 民族 mínzú in China. “

        https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nationalities_of_China

      • Sibiriak
        August 9, 2017, 1:54 am

        Talkback: … “Israeli” doesn’t even exist according to Israel’s Supremacist Court of Justice.
        ————–

        To be precise, “Israeli” continues to exist as a designation of citizenship . The court did, however, reject the idea of an Israeli nationality.

      • Sibiriak
        August 9, 2017, 3:37 am

        Wikipedia (emphasis added):
        ——————————

        The [Israeli idenity] card is laminated and held in one of the two inner compartments of its plastic cover, and includes the following personal details:

        unique Identity Number
        full name (surname/last name, given name)
        name of father
        name of mother
        date of birth (both civil and, unless otherwise requested, Hebrew date as well)
        ethnicity (only in cards issued before 2005)
        gender
        place and date of issue (both Gregorian and Hebrew date)
        portrait photo (in color)

        * * * *

        As of 2005, the ethnicity has not been printed; a line of eight asterisks appears instead. The bearer’s ethnic identity can nevertheless be inferred by other data: the Hebrew calendar’s date of birth is often used for Jews, and each community has its own typical first and last names.

        An amendment to the Israeli registration law approved by the Knesset in 2007 determines that a Jew may ask to remove the Hebrew date from his entry and consequently from his Identity Card. That is due to errors that often occur in the registration of the Hebrew date because the Hebrew calendar day starts at sunset, not at midnight. The amendment also introduces an explicit definition for the term “a day according to the Hebrew calendar”.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli_identity_card

      • Sibiriak
        August 9, 2017, 3:52 am

        Columbia Law School, “Readings on Citizenship and Nationality in Israel/Palestine”:

        16 Tamarin v. State of Israel , C.A. 630/70 (1972) Tamarin, an Jewish citizen of Israel requested that his nationality on his Israeli registration identification card be changed from ‘Jewish’ to ‘Israeli’. The Israeli Ministry of Interior denied his request. He appealed to the Israeli courts and ultimately took his case to the Supreme Court of Israel, which supported the decision of the Ministry of the Interior.). Israeli ID cards no longer explicitly list nationality as a field so the remedy the petitioners sought wasn’t about the identity card exactly.

        Of course there are still clues that give nationality away – aside from a person’s name, Jews have birthdates listed in the Jewish calendar, and for non-Jews only the paternal grandfather’s name is given. [emphasis added]

        http://www.law.columbia.edu/open-university-project/curricula/citizenshipnationalityisrael-palestine#_ftnref16

        ———————————————–

        “Tamarin v. State of Israel (CA 630/70)”

        The Nakba Files presents an original English translation of key excerpts from Georges Raphael Tamarin v. The state of Israel. In this landmark case, the Israeli Supreme Court refused to recognize the legal category of Israeli nationality. The Court upheld the state’s commitment to the category of Jewish nationality, a classification that would include Jews from everywhere around the world while precluding any common nationality between Jews and non-Jews within Israel/Palestine. The Tamarin case was upheld as recently as 2013 in Uzi Ornan v. Minister of the Interior.

        http://nakbafiles.org/nakba-casebook/tamarin-v-state-of-israel-ca-63070/

      • Marnie
        August 9, 2017, 4:08 am

        שMy ID card has a heading called ‘nationality’ and under my ‘nationality’ is ********

        Under ‘nationality’ for most all russian jews is the same – ********

        Under ‘nationality’ for israeli jews and olim that have had an orthodox conversion, under ‘nationality’ is yehudi (Jew).

        Under ‘nationality’ for israeli arabs is arab.

      • jon s
        August 9, 2017, 4:31 am

        Annie,
        No

        I was sad to read about the writer’s problem entering this year. Sounds like a bureaucratic foul-up which could have been resolved.

        On the other hand, good news on tourism:

        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/news/surprising-countries-where-tourism-is-booming-in-2017/

      • Talkback
        August 9, 2017, 4:41 am

        jon s: “Israeli citizenship is held by Jews and non-Jews.”

        True, but both are not considered to be nationals, only Jews. Israel’s concept of a “citizenship” is fake. It applies a real citizenship only to Jews which trumps the face citizenship any time.

      • Talkback
        August 9, 2017, 4:50 am

        Sibiriak: “Actually, there are many multi-national states that differentiate between citizenship and nationality.”

        You are making a mistake. “Nationalities” WITHIN citizenship is not the same as “nationality” AS citizenship. The latter is basically two words for the same concept. A country has one nationality, one citizenship.

        But Israel considers only (all) Jews to be THE nation (THE nationality) of Israel after it created an artificial differentiation between nationality (as citizenship) and citizenship. Like the Nazis did between nationals (“Reichsbuerger”) and citizens.

        The real citizens of Israel are only Jews. Something Israel tries to conceal with formulations like ‘those who have a right to immigrate under the law of return.’ so it doesn’t have to explicitly formulate rights, privileges or benefits that are for Jews-only and openly racist.

        Sibiriak: “The court did, however, reject the idea of an Israeli nationality. ”

        Exactly. It doesn’t consider Israelis to be the nation of Israel, but instead all Jews in the world.

      • Sibiriak
        August 9, 2017, 8:40 am

        Talkback; A country has one nationality, one citizenship.

        ———————

        No, a number of countries have one citizenship and multiple nationalities. See above examples: Spain, Russia, China.
        Thus the term “nationality” isn’t always equivalent to “citizenship”, though the term can be used that way, of course.

        There is nothing wrong with having multiple nationalities within a single country; the problem is when one nationality in a multi-national country is given special rights and privileges and other nationalities face institutionalized discrimination or oppression.

        . It doesn’t consider Israelis to be the nation of Israel, but instead all Jews in the world.

        Yes, that is the point. One nationality is privileged over others. That is why eljay calls Israel a “supremacist” state.

      • Sibiriak
        August 9, 2017, 9:43 am

        Talkback: … Israel considers only (all) Jews to be THE nation (THE nationality) of Israel…
        ——————–

        True.

        ———————-
        Talkback: …after it created an artificial differentiation between nationality (as citizenship) and citizenship.

        Israel didn’t create the distinction between citizenship and nationality, and that distinction is not artificial. Many other states make the same distinction.

        The problem is not the distinction between citizenship and nationality per se, it is the complete identification of a multi-national state with only one of its nationalities (“Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people and only the Jewish people” ) and its institutionalized discrimination against the others.

      • Mooser
        August 9, 2017, 1:24 pm

        “Israeli citizenship is held by Jews and non-Jews.
        The identity card no longer specifies nationality.

        “Jon s”, how would we know if you are lying to us?

      • jon s
        August 10, 2017, 12:59 am

        Marnie,
        Are you sure?
        I don’t think that what you wrote is correct.

      • Marnie
        August 10, 2017, 2:48 am

        I don’t know why Jon s lies.

        jon s
        October 11, 2015, 3:43 pm

        Kris,
        I’m pretty sure that I’m just me.

        As to the id card, Marnie stated :” If you were born a Jew, under nationality is says Yehudi (Jew). ”
        Well, I’m a Jew, I have my id here, and it says no such thing. So much for Marnie’s accuracy.

        Obviously , names can be an indication of religion and ethnicity. If a man is named Muhammad, it’s not hard to guess his likely religion . Lifewise if he’s named Moshe Rabinowitz. But that holds true in all countries.

        jon s
        October 15, 2015, 2:01 am

        Marnie,
        In answer to your comments:

        Yes, I have the ********.

        I’m lying? How so?

        On your last comment directed at me- somewhat incoherent- you saw fit to do a take on my name (“JonASS”). How mature. Then you refer to “Richard”. My only response is : “huh?”

        jon s
        October 15, 2015, 2:15 am

        I never denied that any official can infer the nationality of the bearer. Many Jews have the Hebrew date of birth specified, and ,of course, there are typical names.

        Marnie
        October 15, 2015, 2:59 am

        My only response to you is duh, Richard. You could have said in your above response where you wrote “As to the id card, Marnie stated :” If you were born a Jew, under nationality is says Yehudi (Jew). ” Well, I’m a Jew, I have my id here, and it says no such thing. So much for Marnie’s accuracy.”

        Instead of writing that, you could have clearly pointed out you too have the ********under nationality also, instead of casting doubt on the accuracy of my post. Better yet, you could have left it alone! Interesting that you have only now chosen to corroborate my post, doing this only now in response to being called JonASS and Richard (dick, if you prefer). If you don’t lie outright, you leave out details and continue posting the same crap, revelling in the balagan you’ve created, until someone calls you an ass (or dick).

        I apologize for calling you an ass and Richard. I will go all Miss Manners on you and will point out that you might consider responding to echinococcus as just that, instead of writing Hechinococcus. And possibly in future posts, get your line straight from the get go. I can’t imagine how any student of yours could learn anything with your convoluted style of communication. Must be very frustrating for them. I almost feel sorry for them. All you leave them with is a failed bagrut, no hope for the future and lots and lots of anger. Anger that is channeled by the IOF against a civiliam population that has been under the boot of the zionist state for over 70 years.

      • jon s
        August 10, 2017, 10:10 am

        Marnie,
        Where did I lie?

      • Mooser
        August 10, 2017, 5:07 pm

        “Where did I lie?”

        Gee, you are an American, resident under “Jewish” status in one of Israel’s settlements. And a Zionist. Why wouldn’t you lie?
        Or are all those factors demonstrating your impartiality and objectiveness?

        And “Jon s”,if a lie is necessary to defend or extend Zionism, do you really have any alternative but to lie, or fail Israel?

      • Mooser
        August 10, 2017, 9:03 pm

        ” I can’t imagine how any student of yours could learn anything with your convoluted style of communication”

        Oh, I think they learn the essential lessons of Zionism which stays with most of them. Let’s take a peek:

        An IDF soldier, former star pupil of “Jon s”, is ransacking a Palestinian home, when he (or she) is confronted by the owner who calls him a thief and an occupier. But having been trained by a classic Zionist Left pedagogue, he has a ready reply:

        “My teacher told me ‘Jews can’t be thieves in their historical homeland. And no Jew is an invader in the Jewish homeland. This stuff is all mine! “Jon s” said so!! He was a bit convoluted, but real solid on the Zionist basics.”

  3. CigarGod
    August 8, 2017, 10:52 am

    Democracy, free speech and vibrancy in action.

  4. JosephA
    August 8, 2017, 7:55 pm

    Yay! Fat bastard is back with his ad-hominem attacks and fallacies. I missed ya, bro.

  5. Cazador
    August 9, 2017, 12:34 am

    Thank you for not posting my earlier comment about the fact that some old Hollywood movie, The Robe, was referring to Palestine as the region where Jerusalem is located. And I thought you were open minded about the Palestine location, people and history… You’re doing a great job, but I’m still trying to figure out what was wrong about my comment. I didn’t write anything false about that movie. Maybe it’s my use of the French word bonze, which means an important person… I guess this will be my last comment on your site.

  6. DavidDaoud
    August 11, 2017, 3:28 am

    All of that waiting and stress, it must be kept in mind, was in horribly hot August weather. Most likely without food and water as well. I certainly sympathize with the author.

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