Yesterday in its coverage of the latest Congressional obeisance to Israel– Senator Barbara Boxer and colleagues’ effort to make Israel our one and only “major strategic partner” and exempt its citizens from visa requirements at our borders — the Associated Press highlighted the case of Nour Joudah, a young Palestinian-American whose job as a schoolteacher in Ramallah was destroyed when Israel twice refused her entry on arbitrary grounds.
I caught up with Joudah and asked her by email what she’s up to and whether she still wants to return to Palestine.
I am the Assistant Editor of the Journal of Palestine Studies.
And yes, there is nowhere I would rather be than in Palestine, working with my students, living among amazing friends to whom I never got to say goodbye…
The Obama administration is said to be opposed to the congressional effort to elevate Israel’s status. The State Department has a couple of times addressed Joudah’s case in briefings. I asked Joudah if she’d gotten any response to her letter to the Obama administration decrying Israel’s discrimination against her as reminscent of Jim Crow.
The White House has not responded in any way to me. I do not think the letter had any effect on the administration’s policies towards Israel. It has been made abundantly clear by their actions, that when Israel is concerned, what Israel wants is of higher priority than how its discriminatory practices affect American citizens.
Has anyone on Capitol Hill asked you to testify about your experience?
No one has asked me to do so, but I would testify to Congress if asked.
In a response to lawmakers dated June 12, Israel’s departing ambassador said Americans were being accorded all rights “to which they are entitled” upon arrival in Israel.
“Given the security challenges we face, every effort is extended in this regard,” Michael Oren wrote to Rep. Keith Ellison and Andre Carson, the two Muslim members of Congress, and the others who signed the original letter [to the Obama administration].
As far as any future trips, I am still taking legal action (something Ambassador Oren apparently felt the need to tell me I had an opportunity to do and did not try). My appeal is currently before the Ministry of Interior and awaiting a judge’s ruling.
Nour’s legal proceedings are a bit complicated since there is a long history (which you covered well a couple months ago). Nour’s case is currently pending in the Ministry of Interior. In April it accepted our appeal of her denial of entry (and effective visa revocation) and allowed her a hearing, but only in writing and through affidavits, not in person. The proceeding is quasi-judicial; it is not actually in a court or with a judge. It is part of exhausting remedies before going before a court, which you may remember was an obstacle we faced when we tried to file an emergency petition to the Lod District Court while Nour was held in deportation proceedings in Ben Gurion airport: the judge said we hadn’t exhausted remedies by waiting for the results of our Ministry of Interior appeal (which was simply outrageous given the fact that Nour’s rights were slipping away while the Ministry of Interior took its sweet time, and there was no way to wait for them during the 7 hours we had until she would be put on a plane!).
Regarding Oren’s comment that legal remedies are available to Nour, that is frustrating, on two levels. 1, Nour is in fact using all the legal means available, and, again, when she even tried to use the emergency ones, the judge told her she hadn’t exhausted her other legal means, leaving her in a complete Catch 22! 2, What kind of right is it to be discriminated against and then forced to wait ridiculous periods of time and spend lots of money in order to actually have your rights upheld? In my opinion, part of why the Israeli authorities are able to perpetuate discrimination is because the procedures for challenging it are both logistically and financially prohibitive. This leaves their actions rarely subjected to judicial scrutiny, and the results are obvious.