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Perspectives

July 15, 2009
Stateless for my first ten years

A Palestinian refugee stands with his belongings in Rafah Camp. Photo: Flickr user Rafahkid

Ahmed Moor was born and raised in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. Recently laid off from a finance job in New York City, he plans to work for a micro-finance initiative inside Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon starting this fall. Though he is now an American citizen, Ahmed remembers what his life was like when his travel document was stamped “stateless.”

Worldfocus.org’s Stateless to Statehood explores a wide range of legal and political situations regarding the relationship between individuals and the states they live in. Kuwaiti Bidoon are considered de jure stateless because they lack government recognition and citizenship status. Palestinians in Gaza are stateless to the extent that they do not yet belong to a true state.

I was born in the Rafah refugee camp in Gaza, Palestine. My status as a refugee was compounded by the fact that I lacked a state identity. This was my status for the first ten years of my life.

I did not become an American citizen until 1995. My naturalization document has a picture of ten-year-old me and the word “Stateless” printed right above it. I remember my mother crying when she saw that word on her own document.

What did I know about statelessness? I am from somewhere. I have a culture and a people. I am from Palestine, and I am a Palestinian.

Palestine was supposed to be recognized as a sovereign state alongside Israel in 1948, but it never was. Palestinians from the Occupied Territories mostly do not have full citizenship rights and are now governed by a constantly shifting mix of overbearing Israel, impotent Fatah, and ascendant Hamas.

Sometimes I forget what it means to be stateless. Nowadays, I rarely think about how many times my family was refused entry a country. It has been so long since I slept inside airports because we did not have the privilege of leaving.

Yet, statelessness is more than lacking the privileges that sovereign states extend to their citizens. Being stateless means something more basic. Statelessness is sheer humiliation and the degradation of human dignity.

The stateless human being is inferior. He has failed to do what other men have done for themselves. It means that, for whatever reason, he is unable to govern himself. He is not complete enough to take control of his life and the lives of others in his community. He has failed to take his place in the United Nations – that great hall of mankind.

Men celebrate their independence days everywhere, but the stateless man is not independent. He is dependent and unwelcome. The stateless man lacks maturity and requires stewardship. He must always be grateful to others for allowing him to work and to live. He is a burden, always compelled to prostrate himself and apologize for intruding.

That’s what statelessness meant to a ten-year-old boy.

Today, I know better. Although I am no longer stateless, the real change in my status has nothing to do with my American passport. I know the history of Palestine and the injustice that bred the injustice that violates my dignity and does not permit me to govern myself in my country. My view of myself has changed but my struggle is the same. It is a struggle for control of my life and the lives of others in my community.

The failure is no longer mine. The failure rests with the people who do not recognize my citizenship and equality. My oppressor erodes his own humanity through his treatment of me. I am not insecure in the fundamental worth of my being; I know my intrinsic value.

So what does it mean to be stateless?

– Ahmed Moor

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7 comments

#7

^5 American for Palestinian Justice

#6

AMERICAN FOR PALESTINE JUSTICE is truly correct. The jewish community tries to justify what happened in Gaza, but any civilized and moral person understands that the methods taken were wrong and devestating. To those who say otherwise, count the deaths on both sides. Who has the most?…

#5

Iran arms path to Hamas hit hard by Gaza war’

By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent

Tags: Hamas, Iran, Israel News

Iran’s smuggling network to Gaza has shrunk following Operation Cast Lead, and international awareness of the issue has increased, according to Western and Israeli intelligence sources.

According to Western intelligence reports, Iran has been maintaining a robust arms smuggling system into the Gaza Strip as part of the support it extends to Hamas. This support is set up in a modus operandi similar to the one Iran has employed for two decades in helping Hezbollah in Lebanon through Syria.

The route through which arms are moved from Iran to Gaza seems to have become more complicated. Currently, it appears weapons shipments are dispatched through Bandar-Abbas, a southern Iranian port. From there the shipments are transported to Yemen, through the Persian Gulf.
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The weapons go from Yemen to a Sudanese port, from where they are transported by professional smugglers to Egypt and onto the Sinai peninsula. From Yemen to Sudan, the arms are transported inside the hulls of medium-sized civilian boats.

According to the London-based Sunday Times and other media, the Israel Air Force used unmanned drones to attack secret Iranian convoys in Sudan last March; the convoys were said to be smuggling weapons to Palestinian militant organizations in the Gaza Strip.

But usually shipments from Sudan make it over to Bedouin smugglers, who transfer the shipments into the Sinai and get the goods over to the Egyptian part of Rafah. From there it is smuggled in tunnels to the Palestinian part of town, which is the terminus.

The weapons are mostly Chinese-made, but some are manufactured in Iran. This includes medium- and short-range rockets, anti-tank missiles, explosives and firearms.

A recent study by the Palestinian Center for Democracy and Conflict Resolution showed that more than half the 16,000 people working in the tunnels are under 18, as were 30 of the 115 people killed in the tunnels since Israel imposed the blockade two years ago.

The Hamas government says the tunnels are legal until the blockade is lifted, and the Rafah municipality charges a NIS 10,000 shekel ($2,500 dollar/1,800 euro) fee to open one.

On the way back from Sudan to Yemen, the smuggling boats are often used to smuggle African foreign workers into Asia or for contraband products. United States Navy vessels found several of these boats. One, searched during routine security patrolling in the Red Sea, contained a large shipment of jams.

Israeli intelligence sources report that after Operation Cast Lead, the Egyptian security forces are more willing to cooperate with their Israeli counterparts. Coordination is done through phone calls between relatively high-level officials.

Israel has reportedly carried at least out three air strikes since January against what was believed to be Iranian arms shipments passing through Sudan on their way to Gaza, according to the American news network ABC.

Sudanese officials confirmed that in January, in the wake of Israel’s assault on Hamas-ruled Gaza, unidentified aircraft attacked a convoy of 17 trucks heading north through eastern Sudan.

#4

Doron L: There could have been a Palestinian state if in 1948 the Jordanians and the European Jews did not conspire against the Palestinians ( by the way there was never a real war) There could have a state in 1948-1967 if the state of Israel and the Jordanians did not continue to kill the Palestinians and both spent so much time denying the existence of such a nation Per Golda-Meir infamous statement to the London times “ it is not as we came and took there land from them they did not exist” so if you examine your history you will discover who has been denying who. There could have been a Palestinian state had the Alon Plan was real and genuine, but it was what Bibi has promised his dad the other day “ I will continue to give the Arabs a proposal they will continue to reject.” There could have been a Palestinians state in 2000 and 2001 in Taba had the Israeli’s offered Arafat something on paper and with maps they never did (read the writings of Jews on the issue: Glad Share; Yosi Bellin; Shlomo Ben Ami,; and Robert Mally) There could have been a state for the Palestinians had Olmert offered what you claim he offered. In your next blog could you tell the readers what was the Olmert plan and when did he offer it, and where did he offer it, and what kind of maps he offered Abbas. How come no Israeli newspaper published that!!!!!! As for the Jewish refugees they do not exist and they were never forced out, the way the Palestinians were forces out. One final point why Jews who come from Europe and the UAS are called great Jews and Pioneer Zionist, and those who left the Arab world are called refugees. I would love to see Silvan Shalom going back to Tunisia and Ovadia Yousef going back to Iraq. If they have property they still can claim it, and indeed you can go back to where ever you came from, this way Worldfocus will do justice to an issue that never existed to begin with

#3

New Prophecy? Says:

I was recently in the Middle-East. I find it appauling, that the only thing the Muslim population can agree upon is hatred of Israel. It is only a reason and method to direct violence towards a group of people, if tomorrow, hatred toward Israel would dissipate, I have no doubt in my mind that the Muslims in the area will fight and kill each other. (oh wait thats happening now on a moderate scale to). Although there are many who are moderate and seek peace, they are continually subjugated by the the extremist mullah’s and leaders of the community to hate, and if they dont hate and wish for the death of others, then they will face death themselves. I ask you, how is it possible to make peace with a group of people who really dont want peace, because a peace with Israel will only mean a beginning of war and destruction among the Arabs themselves. How could you not understand, that it is in the best interest of all the surrounding Muslim countries to provocate hatred towards the Jews and Israel, because its the only way they are able to maintain any sense of stability in there own countries… case in point:

Saudi Arabia- Conflict in Israel means 2 things, first any instability is a direct correlator towards oil prices, and second, the week Saudi government can only remain in power, if the economy is somewhat stable, they cant even protect themselves from themselves, let alone any other neighbors.

Iran- once again case in point, hatred of Israel is the cornerstone of Ahmadinijad’s poise for power. the populace is fed up with him and his lies, but they continually use the instability in the region to develop weaponry, cause instability, and distract there people from their internal strife.

And the list for Syria and Lebanon is very similar. If the surrounding Arab population is so worried about the Palestinians then why not have a three state solution, where the Gaza strip will be given back to Egypt and the West bank will go back to Jordan (the two neighboring countries who have formal peace with Israel.) Well its because neither want the land! the last time Palestinians went to Jordan, they tried to overthrow the leader and create chaos and havoc. None of the Arab neighbors, have any respect or care for the Palestinians (otherwise they would’ve accepted them a long time ago in there countries) they just use the Palestinians as pawns in a large regional game of chess.
For there sake, if the Palestinians want peace, they should stop teaching there kids hatred, and educate them in tolerance and accepting of others. They should not think of ways to kill the Israelis but ways to build there own futures. Not use there tunnels to transport rockets, but use those tunnels to transport there message of love. the religion of islam, teaches of tolerance and acceptance, but your Mullah’s have corrupted it into being a religion of hate. To the true muslims, i urge you to reclaim your religion and begin building a foundation of peace and love, not hate and intolerance.

#2

Predictably, Doron L has continued the popular line of Israel being a small, defenseless, eternal victim nation. However he fails to mention many important facts. That Israel has continued to inflict both terrorism and dehumanizing conditions upon the Palestinians for many decades. He fails to mention that the Palestinians in Gaza live like caged mice in an open air prison- fenced in and unable to leave. The people of Gaza are denied food, water, medical supplies (including leaving for life saving cancer treatments), entry or exit of their homeland, use of their waterfront for shipping, and are subject to random acts of violence and indiscriminate shooting at the hands of the Israeli Defense Force on a daily basis. He fails to mention that the Israeli government refuses to let Human Rights representatives into the Gaza Strip for fear that the true suffering and torture will be uncovered for the world to see. He fails to mention that homes are bulldozed on a daily basis with no military objective other then to torture the population as well as steal more of their land on which they can build more illegal settlements. He fails to mention that The Israeli government used the chemical weapon of white phosphorous bombs in December 2008 over the Gaza Strip, against universally recognized world restrictions, resulting in severe burns to the bodies of civilians. He fails to mention that the U.N. Charter states that it is inadmissible to acquire territory by war, as Israel has done repeatedly, and that the International Court of Justice declared in a landmark 2004 opinion that Israel’s settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the wall being built to annex them to Israel were illegal under international law. He fails to mention that Israel continues to construct “JEWS ONLY ” roads throughout the West Bank that restrict Arabs from movement. He fails to mention that Palestinian children are made to walk through raw sewage running through the streets due to a lack of infrastructure because of Israeli bombing missions. He fails to mention how Israel consistently uses brutal and excessive force against a defenseless population, up to and including opening fire on groups of children with “rubber” bullets ( which are in fact steel bullets surrounded by rubber) which often lead to their death. He fails to mention how Israeli citizens living in the illegal settlements built on Palestinian stolen land, who is required by Israeli law to have weapons, consistently fire into the homes of Palestinians living in neighboring communities. He fails to mention that there are 11,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, many having never been charged with a crime, and others jailed for merely expressing their political opinion. He fails to mention that during the 2008-2009 massacre in Gaza, During the 22 day offensive, according to Amnesty International, Israeli forces killed over 1,400 Palestinians, while 13 Israelis died during the same time period (not a difficult task when you conduct indiscriminate bomber jet raids over a caged population). He conveniently fails to mention that while Israel likes to portray itself as a defenseless country surrounded by a sea of Arabic hostility, it is in fact the 5th largest nuclear weapon power in the world, and has over 3900 tanks (Palestine has 0), over 350 American Made F-16 Bomber Jets (Palestine has 0).He fails to mention the humiliating “checkpoints” that Palestinians are forced to endure, many for hours on end, in order to have any movement around their own country. While he speaks of a “small Jewish State”, he fails to point out that Israel illegally occupies 78% of Palestinian land, and ever expanding due to their illegal “land grabs”. In conclusion Doron, the old tired rhetoric of Israel being a small defenseless state has grown very tired for an educated population.

#1

Ahmed Moor would not be stateless if the Arab world had accepted a two-state solution in 1948 and not invaded the tiny state of Israel. Instead, they started ongoing wars to destroy a tiny Jewish state.

There could have been a Palestinian state in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem between 1948 and 1967. Egypt and Jordan didn’t allow it. Egypt used Gaza as a bas for fedayeen (terror) attacks into Israel.

There could have been a Palestinian state in 2001 if Arafat had accepted the Clinton plan. Instead he started a war. There could have been a Palestinian state if Mahmoud Abbas had not rejected Ehud Olmert’s offers.

At every stage, the Palestinian (and broader Arab) goal has been not a Palestinian state, but the destruction of a small Jewish state.

Finally, will World Focus ever tell the story of the Jewish refugees from Arab lands? Their descendants form half of Israel’s population.

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