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Beirut airport: xenophobia and racism against Palestinians

Opinion
on 19 Comments

I arrived at Beirut–Rafic Hariri International Airport for the first time on Thursday, April 25, to enjoy the Easter Holidays along with a group of other Palestinians who paid for the same trip. I had prepared very carefully. I completed all the legal matters, including obtaining a visa that would enable me to take this weekend’s selfie in the midst of Beirut.

Waiting at the queue to get my passport stamped, one Lebanese General Security officer was very welcoming and about to allow me into Beirut. As I was taking $20 from my bag to pay an visa fee, another officer interrupted, stressing that Palestinians are not allowed in Lebanon.

He collected my passport and headed to his boss. My bad luck came in bouts of three this time. The border official in charge was anti-Palestinian; he had xenophobic attitudes towards Palestinians; he hated his Palestinian mother. After hours of negotiating, explaining I had a visa to enter, he ordered one of his employees to write up a blacklist that had my name and the names of my travel companions. Speaking in a tone of arrogance and hostility, he stated, “My mom is a Palestinian and I cannot wait to get rid of her. Do you want me to let you into Lebanon?”

Other Lebanese officers sitting on a couch stated that the Palestinian Ambassador to Lebanon has no power or authorization to do anything. If I contact him, they said, he cannot help me.

Ultimately, I was denied entry to Lebanon. The officers gave no clear reason or justification, but claimed I normalize with Israel. They said because I live in the occupied Palestinian territory, under the governance of the Palestinian Authority, I therefore was deemed to have also normalized with Israel. Lebanon and Israel have never had diplomatic relations are are still technically at war.

In total the Lebanese General Security officers detained me for more than 15 hours, forbidding me from contacting anyone, including my own family and embassy. I was deprived access to water, food, a lawyer, and Wi-Fi. After much demand, I was granted water, food and coffee and paid for it myself.

While detained I was taken to an isolated, locked up, very cold, unhealthy room, which did not have any windows or phone service. I was held with other deportees who have been subjected to severe and inhumane treatment, abuse and violations of their human rights including our right to movement  access to a lawyer and consular services, and racial and ethnic discrimination. They are either other Palestinians or Syrians. Nobody knew where I was even my mom and dad.

I expressed disappointment for my detention to the officers who guarded me, but nothing changed. They said that other Palestinians have been refused entry for carrying passports with Israeli stamps on them, as called for by Lebanese law, however, my passport did not have such stamps.

At dawn I was notified that I was to stay in detention inside the airport for a total of five days, because that was when the next flight was available on the airline I flew in with, back to the city where I departed. I rejected this and kept asking for a new reservation. The deportation officers were a bit nicer than the previous officers I met the night before. They wanted to help, so they let me and the others in my group contact the tourism office that reserved our holiday. We understood we were going to be deported into Amman, Queen Alia International Airport, where we came from, because we do not have access to airports in Palestine.

Palestinians walk in an alley in one of the most densely populated Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, Burj al-Barajneh, March 5, 2012. (Photo: Mohammed Asad/APA Images)

Palestinians walk in an alley in one of the most densely populated Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, Burj al-Barajneh, March 5, 2012. (Photo: Mohammed Asad/APA Images)

While waiting for the flight to Jordan, Salim, another Palestinian in my group, felt pain in his chest and was barely able to breathe. The deportation officer panicked and informed other officers at the airport. He even called a doctor for Salim. The doctor came to check up on Salim and brought expired cough medicine with him. When Salim noticed, the doctor took the medication and left. We did not see him again. Salim’s son, Zaid, 10, who was held with in a room with money scammers, had a little chit chat with a airport officer. When the officer learned Zaid is only 10 years old, he stated, “you are still very young, but you’ll never have the chance to visit Lebanon during your whole life. “Great,” Zaid responded with pride and hidden disappointment.

Long story short; I was sent back home after being blacklisted from Lebanon for the rest of my life. The fracture in my heart will stay there forever. The Arab world practices more inhumane treatment against Palestinians than the occupation itself. I need a whole life to recover from the inhumane situation I went through. I suffer from the consequences of the Israeli occupation on a daily basis. Do I deserve to be treated the same way from an Arab neighboring country? Checkpoints, interrogation, restrictions on movement and right violations are not restricted to Israel, the occupying power, but they extend to Lebanon and other Arab countries in the region.

I call upon all free citizens to take action against Lebanon’s racial discrimination policies against Palestinians coming into Lebanon as tourists. This draws us to the Palestinian refugees issue in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, where the Lebanese authorities implement its apartheid laws, which deprive Palestinians from their basic human rights and treat them as second-class citizens.

I also call upon the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take all necessary procedures to protect its citizens through the mandate given to the embassies of the State of Palestine regionally and internationally.

Ibaa Abu Layya
About Ibaa Abu Layya

Ibaa Abu Layya is a translator who holds a BA of English Language and Translation from Birzeit University, and a human rights advocate who stands for peace and justice towards an equal, better life for the inhabitants of this universe.

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19 Responses

  1. Citizen
    Citizen on May 28, 2019, 5:06 pm

    Do the people of Lebanon generally dislike the Palestinians? Do they generally see what Israel does to the Palestinians? Anybody?

  2. MHughes976
    MHughes976 on May 28, 2019, 5:57 pm

    Wikipedia lists Lebanon, Syria, Lithuania, Madagascar and Chile as refusing admission to Palestinians in, it seems, all circumstances. I’m surprised at Chile, which has a well known population of ME ancestry.

  3. eljay
    eljay on May 28, 2019, 6:04 pm

    It’s a shame that these Lebanese officials have chosen to emulate hateful and immoral Zionists. They should strive to be as good as the best, not less bad than the worst.

    • RoHa
      RoHa on May 28, 2019, 9:03 pm

      Less bad than the worst is a start. But they should try to get better.

      • eljay
        eljay on May 29, 2019, 7:37 am

        || RoHa: Less bad than the worst is a start. But they should try to get better. ||

        Fair enough. I suppose they could start by proclaiming their state a “moral beacon”, a “light unto the nations” and/or a “progressive paradise”. Because, y’know, if a state says it about itself it must be true.  :-P

    • DaBakr
      DaBakr on May 28, 2019, 11:44 pm

      @ej

      All due respect to your opinion on religious supremacism, the Lebanese aren’t “emulating” anybody and especially zionists. The Arabs that lived or migrated to what is now Israel were always(at least decades before the zionist entity was born) treated poorly by other Arabic or middle eastern cultures. You’re most likely too young to remember the days when the Palestinians were referred to as ‘jews of the Arab world’ as in they were akin to the way Europeans treated jews pre-ww2. And it’s certainly not just lebanese though their laws are draconian. The ironic thing is that Lebanon would have the world believe this is their way of strengthening the Palestinian identity and is fighting zionists by not acknowledging their existence extended through (logically questionable) not recognizing Palestinians until their ‘nation’ is restored. Basically, the excuse is is all in the cause of resistance

      • eljay
        eljay on May 29, 2019, 7:21 am

        || @Daa: @ej

        All due respect to your opinion on religious supremacism, the Lebanese aren’t “emulating” anybody and especially zionists. The Arabs that lived or migrated to what is now Israel were always(at least decades before the zionist entity was born) treated poorly by other Arabic or middle eastern cultures. … ||

        I stand corrected: the Lebanese and Zionists comprise a collective of injustice and immorality. Hateful and immoral birds of a feather, if you will. That’s no less tragic.

        || … The ironic thing is that Lebanon would have the world believe this is their way of strengthening the Palestinian identity and is fighting zionists by not acknowledging their existence extended through (logically questionable) not recognizing Palestinians until their ‘nation’ is restored. Basically, the excuse is is all in the cause of resistance ||

        OK, so:
        – the Lebanese hate Palestinians in the name of anti-Zionism; but
        – Zionists hate the Palestinians in the name of Jewish / “Jewish State” supremacism in as much as possible of the Palestinian homeland of geographic Palestine.

        Even though both appear to be splashing around in the muck, I leave it to the reader to decide which of the two is actually closer to the bottom of the morality barrel.

    • echinococcus
      echinococcus on May 31, 2019, 1:38 am

      Sure, Eljay, sure. Being in war against the Zionist invader is to “emulate hateful and immoral Zionists”, while pleading, as you regularly do, for Zionist invaders to continue squatting in Palestine with “equal rights” for invaders is not…

  4. dianeshammas
    dianeshammas on May 29, 2019, 4:13 pm

    I will address later the poster, Citizen’s question if Lebanese dislike Palestinians or the insinuation they are all racist I will explain also later what is racist and sexist in Lebanon.

    However, I have a few questions for the author, which were not clear in her article. 1) what is her citizenship, and from what country is her passport that she presented to Lebanese customs?

    She states: “They said that other Palestinians have been refused entry for carrying passports with Israeli stamps on them, as called for by Lebanese law, however, my passport did not have such stamps”.

    Then she states: “Ultimately, I was denied entry to Lebanon. The officers gave no clear reason or justification, but claimed I normalize with Israel. They said because I live in the occupied Palestinian territory, under the governance of the Palestinian Authority, I therefore was deemed to have also normalized with Israel. Lebanon and Israel have never had diplomatic relations are are still technically at war”

    She would have had to present a passport that contained a Palestinian ID, but she does not clearly state this. The ones that I have seen from Gaza, the outside of the passport states Palestinian Authority and inside a stamp of Ramallah. The above is true about how the Lebanese government denies entry to any marks or stamps or Palestinian IDs linking one’s self to Israel, and it is not racist.

    Lebanon refuses anyone who has an Israeli stamp in their passport—whether it be a stamp of citizenship or stamp of previous travel in Israel, and even if they have a Palestinian ID (Jerusalemite or WB-Ramallah), which as I indicated what I have seen is stated inside the PA passport—-because Lebanon views Palestine under Israel’s occupation. I am not defending the Lebanese government’s decision to do so, but their security concern is of Palestinian collaborators with Israel. In fact, on one of my returns from Gaza to the U.S. I stopped in Lebanon to visit some friends. I was told by them DO NOT MENTION YOU WERE IN GAZA. I responded, why? Lebanon has no relations with the Zionist entity, why should anyone here be upset. The friend responded, “you miss the point, they will think we are spies, collaborators of Israel”. Real fear or unfounded I am just stating this is a reason stated for security that Lebanon will not allow anyone to enter with Israeli stamps or documentation linking them to Israel.

    Another anecdote: I have lived in Gaza for months at time for 5 years, and on one trip I decided to not go to Gaza but travel with a delegation to the West Bank in November 2015. I ended up getting banned from Israel for five years–HUGE DENIED ENTRY STAMP IN MY US PASSPORT (As it stands I cannot enter the West Bank, and if I want to enter Gaza not guaranteed each time, but in 2017 I was given rare entry to Gaza but 24 hours only to get into Jerusalem (Israel) from Jordan and enter Gaza the same day, no three month pass for me). After the West Bank delegation in 2015 I was planning to go on to Lebanon and Dubai, the latter a business trip to have a meeting with a Lebanese-born American to buy our car dealerships. Knowing that no way I could enter Lebanon or Dubai, but my fear of Dubai was allayed by finding out they were more lax than Lebanon on this policy. Even so I did not trust Dubai so I returned to Jordan after being banned from Israel and applied for a temporary US passport at the US embassy in Amman. I skipped Lebanon, frankly being paranoid about them finding out in some surreptitious way I had been denied entry to Israel and being banned also from Lebanon, so went directly on to Dubai. I was fine.

    But I want to make it clear: If I had entered Lebanon with the former US passport with the banned entry to Israel, THEY DO NOT LOOK UPON IT AS A BADGE OF HONOR, BUT NORMALIZATION. Even though I am US born of Lebanese heritage on my paternal side, and back then did not have Lebanese citizenship, but do now through my late paternal grandfather—I have it as I plan to do some long-term research there, and do not want problems going in and out of Gaza like I do and Israel carelessly or unwittingly stamping my passport “ISRAEL”–even though I pleaded with them in 2015 not to stamp my passport THEY DID.

    If I am in Lebanon I cannot even call Palestine the government blocks the call.

    Now, if the author presented a passport from a country with whom Lebanon had relations an it was discovered that she was Palestinian and based their denial on that fact that is racist. The same action of denial into Lebanon would have happened to me if I had presented my US passport with a denied entry to Israel. As the author does not make it clear what traveling documents that she presented to the Lebanese government, she only states they were different than her traveling companions. The Lebanese government is very clear about no one entering with Israeli stamps or Palestinian IDs linking one to Israel for the security reasons I provided above.

    NOW WHAT IS RACIST ABOUT LEBANESE GOVERNMENTAL POLICY—and not all Lebanese are racist or xenophobic towards Palestinians and Syrians.

    Among sectors of the Lebanese population there is discriminatory attitude towards Palestinians that stems from hostilities spawned mostly during the Lebanese Civil War—even though at the time before the Civil War, the Lebanese government signed the Cairo Accord that allowed Palestinians to set up their own state within a state and bear arms. Within the Lebanese government, what is atrocious is their nationality law and personal laws that clearly discriminate against women, whether Palestinian or Lebanese who marry foreign nationals. Personal laws also affect ease of divorce and inheritance for a Lebanese born woman married to a foreign national or even a woman, who does not have Lebanese citizenship, married to a Lebanese citizen. Over the years there has been many protests, organized mainly by Lebanese women and non-Lebanese born women living in the country, to life the personal laws. When I was in Lebanon in 2010 I attended a meeting at the Le Serail concerning civil rights for Palestinians, right to work in formal jobs in Lebanon, health care, etc. there was a sub-committee within the Lebanese government devoted to this topic. It was very disheartening when the only changes made were minor to almost non-existent. The Lebanese government argues that if they grant citizenship to Palestinians there is the issue of tawatin (spelling?) of settlement in Lebanon that Israel will eschew its responsibility of UN 194 of allowing return of Palestinians to their original homes in what is referred to as “Israel”. Israel’s mantra has always been that is the responsibility of Arab countries to grant Palestinians citizenship not understanding that many Palestinians want to return to their homeland.
    With respect to the Syrian situation, not all Lebanese are racist towards them, some of my relatives have Syrian spouses–my relatives some of them are Syrian as we are from the North. of Lebanon close to the border. Technically, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and artificially created Jordan, were all part of Greater Syria. When my paternal grandparents came to the U.S. all their documents stated Syria as the country emigrated from until Lebanon and Syria became their own sovereign countries in 1943, and 1944, respectively.

    Lebanon has taken in more Syrians than any other country, and contrary to popular opinion not all Lebanese are rich, they depend on remittances from their more well-heeled and less well-heeled relatives abroad, who reside mostly in the West. Lebanon has received very little funding to care for the massive exodus of Syrians entering Lebanon. Blame should be placed on the U.S. government for not funding adequately Lebanon for bringing in Syrian refugees, THAT THE US GOVERNMENT HAS FAILED MISERABLY TO ALLOW ENTRY OF, and use as a pretext the Muslim ban.

    I have more to say but have a manuscript to finish. More info is needed above as it is very unclear what documents she presented to Lebanese customs.

    I am a U.S. born citizen as well as recently obtained Lebanese citizenship through my late grandfather. People who know me maybe from this blog, maybe not they know I lived for four months at a time for 5 years in Gaza, conduct research on various topics on Palestine, am an activist, and in no way a Zionist. Lebanon’s nationality law as well as its personal laws are discriminatory towards women as citizenship is based on a variant of jus sanguinus , patrilineally, i.e. the father or the husband is a Lebanese citizen. For years there have been a great deal of protests, especially among women, to change the laws not only for Palestinians, but for Lebanese women married to a Palestinian man

    • Nathan
      Nathan on May 29, 2019, 7:15 pm

      dianeshammas – If you read carefully the last paragraph of the article, you can get the answer to your question. Here it is: “I also call upon the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take all necessary procedures to protect its citizens through the mandate given to the embassies of the State of Palestine regionally and internationally”.

      So, since the author is calling upon the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for help through the embassies of the State of Palestine, it’s obvious that the author was carrying a Palestinian passport, and it’s obvious that there is an embassy of the State of Palestine in Lebanon.

      • dianeshammas
        dianeshammas on May 30, 2019, 4:37 am

        1) Good luck with the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs as they are part of the Palestinian Authority Vichy government ; 2) you are making assumptions about the author where she lives. She could be Palestinian and live elsewhere outside of the Zionist entity. But I did take the liberty to google her name and she came up as a translator in Ramallah. So that is the West Bank and the headquarters of the PA . Again I am not going to argue with someone who has never probably been to Lebanon has no scholarly background in MENA region and has not die t the years doing research on Arab Americans and the diaspora in US and diaspora. Also, my father’s first cousin was a Lebanese negotiator among with Dr. Haidar Abdel Shadi of Gaza also a negotiator with Israel during the 1991 Madrid Talks discussing Israel’s occupation of Lebanon and Palestine. All my Palestinian friends here know they will have problems entering Lebanon not because their Lebanese brothers and sisters hate them it is again Lebanon has been occupied several times by the Zionist entity and as the author did plainly state that Palestinians are treated unfortunately as Israelis as they are under occupation and as a result as I explained having experience in Lebanon and most of my father’s family , parents, aunts and our cousins were born there— the Lebanese government is paranoid of collaborators snd like any ethnic group has among them collaborators with the Occupier. Hana’s has executed their citizens in Gaza they deem as collaborators . When people are oppressed you will find many collaborators the Zionist entity delights in putting people against themselves. In Nazi Germany there were Jewish capos. Simply if you don’t believe me go consult your nearest Lebanese Consulate maybe they will ha e the patience and time to educate you further on what occurred with the author. I don’t.

  5. echinococcus
    echinococcus on May 31, 2019, 1:18 am

    “They said because I live in the occupied Palestinian territory, under the governance of the Palestinian Authority, I therefore was deemed to have also normalized with Israel. Lebanon and Israel have never had diplomatic relations are are still technically at war.”

    “Technically” is an unnecessary word, as Lebanon is at war against the Zionist aggressor. The Lebanese officer clearly explained why subjects of the Zionist entity (no matter if mediated by its Palestinian puppets) are not allowed to enter.

    Just imagine, during WWII, German-occupied subjects administered by Belgian, French or Norwegian puppet authorities being freely allowed into England, no questions asked. You were going there as a tourist, mind you, not for any other purpose.

    Lebanon is in war against the Zionist aggressor, while occupied Palestine is not. That much should be clear to anyone.

    The title of this article is inflammatory, mendacious and extremely offensive. Considering that it is a title, is it to be interpreted as the highly offensive opinion of Philip Weiss and Co?

    • Citizen
      Citizen on May 31, 2019, 10:46 am

      Having read all the comments so far here, it does seem PW should have chosen a different article banner. Thanks to all of the commenters who have helped me better understand the situation of Palestinians and Lebanon natives in Lebanon.

      • echinococcus
        echinococcus on June 2, 2019, 3:32 pm

        Reaction from “PW”or on his behalf, anyone?

  6. echinococcus
    echinococcus on May 31, 2019, 10:28 am

    “I also call upon the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take all necessary procedures to protect its citizens through the mandate given to the embassies of the State of Palestine regionally and internationally.”

    One has to call you out on that, too. Are you perchance relying on the existence of a “Palestinian State” who sold Palestinian resistance down the river to get cushy offices and American arms to “keep the peace” on behalf of the Zionists?

    Just test it with the following thought experiment, please: why don’t you try to “call upon the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take all necessary procedures to protect its citizens” against theft, search, seizure, arbitrary sadistic brutality, torture, murder and mass murder perpetrated daily by the Zionist occupier on the portion of territory recognized even by the UN colonial powers, and even the US, as being the “Palestinian State’s” very own?

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