The silent transfer: Israel says I’ve lived with my family long enough

Sam Bahour’s visa extension; in the upper left-hand corner “last permit” is written in Hebrew, English, and Arabic

Well friends,

The mighty State of Israel has spoken. Well, to be specific, the Israeli soldiers maintaining Israel’s 39-year military occupation and who are fortified — draconian style — in an illegal settlement called Beit El (which is built on confiscated Palestinian land, partly my family’s) located on a hilltop north east of my city, El-Bireh, have spoken.

Drum roll please …

The Occupying State of Israel has decided that I have been living with my family and two daughters long enough. After being given a one month tourist visa when I entered through the Israeli border to reach the Palestinian areas (which is the only way to enter), the Israelis have responded to my request for a three month extension by saying one more month would be more than enough. Not only that, but they were kind enough to relieve me from the humiliation and agony of requesting another extension to remain with my family by hand writing, in Arabic, Hebrew and English, LAST PERMIT, on the visa.

What does this mean? As my previous writing and that of others points out, it means I will need to bid farewell to my wife and two girls, leave home, exit Israel and attempt to reenter in order to get back to the Palestinian areas under occupation by Israel. Sounds simple enough, given I’ve been dancing to this routine for 13 years now.

However, Israel has been denying entry to thousands like me, foreign nationals who do not have a Palestinian I.D. card (I applied for family unification 1994 but Israel refuses, to date, to issue me a I.D. card too). So telling me, like the many before me ever since Hamas was elected into government, to leave Palestine/Israel by not providing a serious visa extension while I’m in the country, is an off-the-radar way of silently transferring Palestinians living here out of Palestine. Of course, Israel is betting that on every family it can break this way, the remaining family members will voluntarily leave to relocate in order to join their exiled loved one(s).

The final result of this transfer policy: a land with no people, for a people with no land. Finally, the original myth that Israel was created on can be made to come through. After creating scores of refugees by numerous wars, killing scores under occupation, deporting scores more, detaining yet scores more, making life under occupation miserable for scores more, and now by refusing to allow Palestinians that come from around the world to contribute to a better future, Israel would have finally succeeded in emptying the land from the majority of Palestinians, opening the way for more illegal settlement, land grabs and annexations.

Areen, in seventh grade

Nadine, in first grade

I have much more to write about this, and will, as I wage the battle to remain with my wife, with my girls, in my home, in my father’s and grandfather’s homeland. I will soon write an essay to make my case and that of all Palestinians prohibited from reaching their homes and families.

If I only had the email address of the multi-lingual occupation soldier that wrote “last permit” on my visa, I would send him pictures of my two girls, Areen, 12, and Nadine, 6. I wonder if his/her children look any different on the first day of school.

I thank all those who are assisting in this issue, especially the many Israeli friends who understand that those being DENIED ENTRY are those that have come to build bridges, not walls. We have come to invest and create a new reality - a reality that ends this racist occupation and brings a brighter future, a joint future, to both Palestinian and Israeli children.

I end by passing to you the link to yesterday’s bold article by Amria Hass, that never-tiring Israeli journalist living in Ramallah who forces us to always remember that peaceful coexistence is not a pipe dream, but rather a historical inevitability.

Can you really not see?

Steadfast (like never before),

Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American living in the besieged Palestinian City of El-Bireh in the West Bank. He is co-author of HOMELAND: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians (1994) and can be reached at

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