Imagine you were a Palestinian teenager, born in Jerusalem, when the Israelis took charge of your city in 1967. Imagine you received an ID card, giving you the right to residence in the place of your birth. That permit was in order when you left in the 1970s to study in the US. When you returned 20 years later, having graduated, married and started a family, you presented your document at the airport, only to be told it had been revoked.
This is the story of Munther Fahmi, who went back to Jerusalem after the signing of the Oslo Accords, and founded the bookshop at the American Colony Hotel. Fahmi was never a ‘citizen’ under occupation. But now he couldn’t even remain a resident: he had to become a sightseer, entering on a US passport with a tourist visa. Which is how he’s been coming and going, renewing the visa, for years. According to his lawyer, Fahmi was badly misled: his resident’s permit was valid when he moved back to Jerusalem in the 1990s. Never mind that: now he’s been told he’ll have to go.
Eland, the travel publisher, describes Munther’s shop as ‘having the best selection of literature in the Middle East’. A petition to the Ministry of the Interior is gathering signatures.