Palestine: The Politics Of Issuing Passports

The hostility between the Hamas government in Gaza and the Fatah government in Ramallah has manifested itself in many areas, from education to electricity. Now it is affecting the issuing of passports, and one blogger in Gaza has been caught in the middle.

Since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA) following the 1993 Oslo Accords, Palestinian passports have been issued to residents of Gaza and the West Bank. Until 2007, all passports were issued in the Interior Ministry in Gaza, but when Hamas took control in Gaza, the PA in Ramallah transferred the population registry to its jurisdiction. In addition, it prevented the supply of blank passports to Gaza. The Gaza authorities renewed old passports for some time, but then in 2009 the PA introduced new black passports (instead of the earlier green colour), compatible with electronic scanning equipment and compliant with international standards. They also extended the validity from three to five years.

Now Gaza residents are forced to apply for passports in Ramallah, and they use agencies which charge inflated amounts. The process can be drawn out, and applications are sometimes rejected, apparently based on political affiliation and the “security considerations” presented by the PA's General Intelligence Service in the West Bank. In response, some members of Fatah have been prevented from leaving Gaza, and have had their passports confiscated by the Hamas-run Internal Security Service.

The Gazans affected by the delays and rejections include patients requiring medical treatment that is not available in Gaza's poorly equipped hospitals, and people hoping to go on the umrah pilgrimage, such as blogger Khaled Safi:

فنلندا الدولة الأولى على مستوى العالم التي تكفل للمواطن حق قانوني لاستخدام الانترنت في منزله بسرعة 1 ميجا/ثانية، وفلسطين (الدولة) الأولى على مستوى العالم التي تُسقط حق المواطن في الحصول على جواز السفر الفلسطيني، خصوصاً إن كان من سكان قطاع غزة.
تقدمت في مايو – مثلي مثل العالم والناس – بطلب تجديد جواز السفر الفلسطيني؛ كيما أبر بوعدي لوالدتي الفاضلة ونعتمر سوياً في شهر رمضان المبارك، واتبعت كافة الإجراءات المطلوبة، دفعت رسوم البريد ومستحقات تجديد جواز السفر، و.. وانتظرت
وإذ بالرد يأتيني عن طريق صاحب المكتب بعد أقل من شهر (مرفوض).
Finland is the first country in the world to guarantee its citizens the legal right to have use of broadband internet at home with a speed of one megabit per second, and Palestine is the number one “country” in the world which deprives its citizens of their rights in acquiring Palestinian passports, especially if they are citizens of Gaza.
In May, I – and along with me, the world and its brother – submitted a request to renew my Palestinian passport, in order to keep the promise I made to my dear mother that we would perform the umrah pilgrimage together in the blessed month of Ramadan. I followed all the required procedures, paid the postal fees and the charges for renewing a passport – and waited.
After less than a month, by way of the owner of the agency I received the reply “refused”.
Khaled's passport, rejected for renewal (

Khaled's passport, rejected for renewal (

نعم.. لقد رفضت حكومة رام الله إصدار جواز السفر لي بحجة “السلامة الأمنية“، لأنني أمثل خطراً أمنياً، بسبب انتمائي السياسي، أو عملي، أو لون شعر لحيتي أو لأنني من غزة.

كلمة غزة مفردة في حد ذاتها تهمة لمن ينطق بها، ومن ينتمي إليها خارج عن القانون، ومن يقطن فيها إرهابي حتى وإن لم يكن بلحية، ولابد من فحص كل ما يخرج منها بأجهزة إشعاعية عالية التردد للتأكد من تمام موافقتها للمعايير المنحطة والمقاييس المنحازة لهؤلاء وزمرتهم.

كنت أظن أنني الشقي الوحيد، الذي طالته قبضة (مرفوض) بسطوتها، وانفردت تلوك معاناتي بطغيانها، فانزويت ألملم مأساتي وحدي، أبتهل لربي أن يفرج كربي، وما هي إلا أيام وتناثرت القضايا من حولي واتسعت رقعة المعاناة لتضم شريحة أعظم، فتشمل أطباء ومرضى، أكاديميين وطلاب، معتمرين وحجاج، وجمع غفير من المواطنين، الذين كانوا يعتقدون أن لهم الحق في الحصول على جواز سفر فلسطيني.

Yes, the Ramallah government refused to issue me a passport for reasons of “security”, because I represent a danger, due to my political or work affiliations, or because of the colour of my beard or because I'm from Gaza.
The word “Gaza” is one that in itself is an accusation of whoever pronounces it, and whoever belongs to it is outside the law, and whoever resides in it is a terrorist even if he does not have a beard. And everything that leaves it must be searched by high-frequency, X-ray devices to make sure it complies with debased and biased standards imposed by those people and their associates.
I thought I was the only unlucky one that the grip of “refused” had caught hold of with all its strength, and that I was the only one savouring my sufferings because of its tyranny, so I isolated myself to heal my wounds. I implored God to drive away my distress. Within just days the issue had been dispersed around me, and the area of suffering had expanded to include a greater slice of society. It includes doctors and patients, academics and students, umrah and hajj pilgrims, and a large number of citizens who thought they were entitled to acquire a Palestinian passport.
حلول شتى تبرع بها مستشارو القضايا السياسية العالقة في غزة، وهم كثر، فريق منهم أكد أن الخلل يكمن عند مكاتب السفر التي تدبر الأمر بليل، وتحيك المؤامرة مع منتفعين “ليلهطوا” رسوم البريد ومصاريف التجديد، ورشح فريق آخر أسماء مكاتب بعينها للتسجيل عندها لعلاقتها وقربها من أصحاب القرار هناك، في حين ركز ثالث على سلوك الشخص وهيئته، فلضمان الحصول على جواز السفر- من وجهة نظره – لابد أن تلبس “الهبز” وفي يدك “علبة فايسروي” وتزيل لحيتك “بالحلاوة” لو أمكن، وتعطي الانطباع لأصحاب التقارير في منطقتك أن عقدك انفرط وحالك انفلت وبين ليلة وضحاها أصبحت “حبتي” مثلك مثل أي صايع يحترم نفسه، وحمّل الفريق الأخير القضية على شماعة الانقسام وطالب بالإسراع في إزالته والعمل على متطلبات الوحدة، ورأب الصدع وإزالة الخلاف بين الأخوة، لتسير عجلة السلام.. و.. وبقية المصطلحات الأعجمية على قاموسي.
Various solutions have been offered by the advisers, who are many, on the political issues prevailing in the Gaza Strip. One team has asserted that the problem lies with the travel agencies which arrange the matter under the table, and weave the plot with the beneficiaries that “walk away with” the postal fees and the renewal costs. Another team has nominated the names of agencies, the very same ones, to register with because of their connections and closeness to the decision-makers over there [in Ramallah]. A third focuses on the behaviour of the individual and his appearance; to ensure getting the passport you must – in their opinion – dress like a hippie [in baggy clothes] and have a box of Viceroy cigarettes in your hand, remove your beard with sugar wax if you can, and give the impression to the report writers in your area that you've lost it and let yourself go and became a “junkie” overnight just like any other self-respecting bum. And the last team hangs the matter on the peg of division , and calls for division to be rapidly stopped and for the work that unity requires to be initiated, to bridge the gap and remove the differences between brothers, to make the wheels of peace turn…and…all the other incomprehensible phrases in my dictionary.
وفي مبادرة يائسة أصدرت الحكومة في غزة قراراً بتجديد الجوازات لمدة عام لمحاولة التخفيف عن أصحاب الاحتياجات الطارئة للسفر، خصوصاً المعتمرين، بعدها مباشرة جاء قرار رفض “التفييز” للجوازات الخضراء من المملكة السعودية، بحجة أن تجديدها لم يكن من حكومة رام الله حسبما هو متفق عليه.
مطية أولئك الأشقياء في المقاطعة السوداء أن الرفض مرهون بالانتماء السياسي؛ لذا عندما تسمع أحدهم يخاطبك عبر الشاشة يزعم دعمه لأهل غزة وصمودهم، فاجمع في فمك ما قدر الله لك من لعاب، وامزج ذلك بما علق في حلقك من مخاط، وبكل ما أوتيت من قوة أطلق لها العنان بلفظة واحدة:
In desperation the government in Gaza has issued a decree that they would renew passports for a year, in an attempt to make things easier for people with urgent travel needs, especially those performing the umrah pilgrimage. Immediately after that came Saudi Arabia's announcement that they would refuse to give visas to green passports, because they had not been renewed by the Ramallah government as agreed.
The problem with these brats in the black Muqata'a is that refusal is dependent on political affiliation; so when you hear one of them speaking on your screen supporting the people of Gaza and their steadfastness, collect whatever saliva God has granted you in your mouth, mix it with the phlegm hanging in your throat, and with all the power that has been given you, give vent with one phrase, “I spit on you!!!”

With thanks to Hisham and Anas Qtiesh for their help with this post.


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