In yesterday’s New York Times, Yousef Munayyer slammed the bills in Congress to grant Israeli citizens visa waivers when they visit the U.S., and Munayyer cited Israeli discrimination against Arab-Americans at its borders– specifically, the arbitrary refusal of Israeli authorities to allow Nour Joudah, above, a dedicated young American teacher, to return to her job at the Friends School in Ramallah.
Joudah twice tried to return to Ramallah at the beginning of the year, to resume her classes with ninth graders. She was twice rebuffed. She lost her job, the school had to hire another teacher.
Well, there is news in Joudah’s case: the Israeli Ministry of Interior responded last week to a written “hearing” it agreed to provide her following her appeal of the denial of entry. And the Ministry upheld the denial decision, without addressing any of the lengthy legal and factual claims raised by Joudah, her lawyer reports.
“The denial of entry, which occurred twice as you remember — first at Allenby Bridge Crossing on January 5th and then at Ben Gurion Airport on February 25th — was what effectively cancelled Nour’s year-long multiple entry visa and we have been challenging that ever since,” says Joudah’s lawyer, Emily Schaeffer.
Schaeffer says Israel also might have a levied a “ban” against Joudah’s future entries, such as the bans on Adam Shapiro and Norman Finkelstein; but they have not been able to establish this issue.
“I am currently requesting that information from the Ministry of Interior. Oftentimes a denial of entry for security reasons or other reasons (such as overstaying a visa) comes with an entry ban of 5 or 10 years, but not always. I have seen many different cases with varying results,” she says. “If we were to successfully reverse the denial of entry, she would be able to come back now or later and there would be no ban because essentially a court would intervene and say this security denial was unreasonable. But Nour has decided that more than entering right now, what is most important to her is her status to enter in the future.”
So Schaeffer and Joudah want to verify the ban issue before they appeal the ministry’s ruling and try to get a court to set the denial aside.
“As far as teaching at Friends…if that opportunity presents itself again one day, sure possibly,” she wrote to me. “Though given the Ministry of Interior upholding my denial, I don’t foresee them granting me another multiple-entry visa to do so. I loved teaching in Palestine, and while initially my fight was surely focused on getting back to my job and students, this has now expanded to an issue of whether I can enter Palestine at all, for a brief visit or otherwise.”
Reporters at the State Department repeatedly asked about Joudah’s denial last March, without getting a substantive answer.
And I asked Emily Schaeffer what the US government had done on behalf of this American citizen.
“I’m not aware of any State Department position,” she said. “But I am aware of Nour’s congresswoman having been in touch with the Israeli Embassy in DC, who were apparently in touch with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who recommended that Nour try to enter again, which as you recall was not successful. Of course there has been a lot of noise about the Israeli US visa waiver policy being stalled because of how Israel treats Arab Americans trying to enter the country, so it is possible there were some conversations we’re not aware of.”
Joudah is now working at the Journal of Palestine Studies and considering going back to graduate school. She says: “I’m not done yet with teaching though, and imagine I’ll be back in a high school classroom in one way or another within the next couple of years, either through traditional teaching or guest lectures and mentoring work.”