Dina Shehadeh is a 17-year-old American girl. She was just about to begin her senior year of high school back home in Ohio where she had been born and raised. During the summer break, Dina had spent the summer with relatives in the West Bank, Palestine. You see, Dina is a Palestinian-American. She was born and raised in the United States, but her family and heritage emanate from the occupied West Bank.
After a summer visiting her family, and watching helplessly as Palestinians in Gaza were bombed as part of a collective punishment war, two weeks ago, Dina was scheduled to return home to get ready for her final year of high school. Had she been of any heritage besides Palestinian, there would have been no problem.
In the City of Lod, at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport, Dina was separated from her mother and detained as Israeli security told Dina her she was not allowed to leave the country. She would have to leave through a land crossing to Jordan and fly from there. Israel was not letting her on a plane, because—they explained—she was no longer an American citizen in their eyes, she was a Palestinian. To the Israeli State, that means it is entirely within their rights to bar her from so much as entering the airport in the suburb of Lod.
On the night of August 13, 2014 Dina had been scheduled to fly on El Al flight 1. Her ticket had long since been booked and paid for. That’s when Israeli security told her that they no longer considered her an American citizen with American travel privileges. As a Palestinian, she does not have the right to fly on an Israeli airline, from an Israeli airport. Had she been Asian, African, European or really anything else besides Palestinian, there would be no problem. But the Palestinian identification card her family filed for her the year before now stripped her of any recognition as an American in the eyes of the Israeli state. Funny they didn’t mention that sooner…
“We put aside the American passport for this matter and they are only Palestinian,” the Israeli Ministry of Interior office at Ben Gurion Airport explained. Thus, from now on Israel will require her to have a special permit from the army to even enter the airport premises.
“Otherwise she can leave through Gaza for Egypt, and Jordan from [the West Bank crossing at] Allenby.”
When Nedha Shehadeh, Dina’s mother “said this is the last time we’ll come back if this is how we are treated the lady told her I don’t care.”
The security then told Dina’s parents to go ahead and board their flight. They told them that Dina would join them. But this was a lie. Dina was kept locked away in a security room.
“It was an office where all of the people work there clock in and out,” she explained.
“I was just sitting there the whole time for like two hours by myself,” Dina continued, “until this man that works there took me to a office and I used his phone to call my father.”
Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza alike both still have the legal right to access the Ben Gurion airport. But since the second Intifada the Israeli military instituted a “temporary security provision” which mandates that Palestinians obtain an “airport permit.” Even thought Dina is an American, her parents put her on the aforementioned registry and thus Israel will treat her as though she were a terrorist. But remember, “Israel is the most free country in all of the Middle East” and it “is not an apartheid state,” according to Israeli nationalists in Israel and the West alike.
“They should have told her when she was coming to their country ‘hey we don’t want you go back’ they do that to a lot of people,” Dina’s father said. “Why would you let her in, when she’s leaving with her mother, a minor underage, and separate her from her mother?”
These are all important points, but perhaps more important is how this highlights the injustice of how Palestinian citizens are treated by the Israeli state. Now that she is not recognized as an American, Dina could face three months in prison for a minor traffic violation in Israel. The same would not apply to her as an American or Israeli citizen.
This sort of injustice is what makes many look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as unique in its manner of oppression the “other.” Yes, certainly in nations like Syria, the death count is much higher than what you will see in Gaza. But such draconian anti-Palestinian laws are a factor beyond the body counts. In Islam, there is a concept that “oppression is worse than bloodshed.”
If you look at the reaction of the Muslim world to the injustices in Palestine and think that there is a sense of hypocrisy for there not being more of an outrage when it comes to Syria and the Assad dynasty, it is probably because of unique injustices like this, which hearken to Nazi-era anti-Jewish laws, as well as laws from the Jim Crow Era in the United States and the infamous “Black Codes.”
About the author: M.B. David is the author of several scholarly works on Middle Eastern politics, history and religion, such as People of the Book: What the Religions Named in the Qur’an Can Tell Us About the Earliest Understanding of “Islam” as well as the recently published Sci-Fi novel Sleeper Cell 2240: Memoires of the 21st Century Interplanetary Revolution. He is currently working on his doctorate, writing a dissertation focused on the non-profit Hashlamah Project Foundation and associated global study circles.