Abdul Karim Sa'adiThe first person I see when I arrive is my friend Abdul Karim Sa’adi. My team met him in 2005 and he proved a fantastic contact. As the regional field worker for the Israeli human rights NGO B’tselem, he was a fund of knowledge, prepared to share his experience with us, as well as being a gentle humorous man. Over the past three years he has made many friends among EAPPI volunteers and a group of Brits organised a speaking tour for him in the UK in November. Knowing how meticulous you have to be with visa applications, they trod with extreme caution, careful to cover every possible loophole. So I was astonished when he told me he had been refused. He had all the credentials: letters of invitation, the tour schedule, expenses covered, his own bank account details, proof of steady work, married man with four children, no reason to overstay, etc. etc.

For Palestinians it’s not just missing an important opportunity to tell what’s happening or not being able to enjoy your friends’ hospitality. It’s also another humiliation. Says AK, ‘I fight for human rights every day of my life, yet I am denied such a simple right. I have never committed a violent act, yet Israeli war criminals are welcome in the UK, and I am not.’ I am so sad. Apart from all the wasted hard work setting up the tour, I feel so awful for AK. I know he will never come now, out of pride. ‘If your prime minister crawled on his knees to invite me, I would not go,’ he says. I feel embarrassed by my own freedoms, never refused anything, anywhere, yet half the valuable person AK is.

Another of our Tulkarem contacts, Samar, has been luckier. When I saw her last week she was ecstatic at having got a visa to go on holiday to Switzerland, invited by another former EA. On an earlier occasion I had invited her to the UK, but she too was denied a visa. How come the Swiss don’t think she’s desperate to stay in their country like we do? Why shouldn’t Palestinians go on holiday? My third rejectee from Tulkarem a couple of years ago was a farmer. He has a brother in London and I supported his application to accompany his elderly mother for the birth of his brother’s second child. But no, we didn’t want him either. I’m beginning to think I’m the jinx.

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