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Encyclopedia of the Palestine Problem

CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN

THE INHUMAN SEPARATION OF PALESTINIAN FAMILIES

Part 1 of 2

The Israeli Government, American Jews and others constantly attack the Soviet Union for not allowing the emigration of Soviet Jews on the grounds of the humanitarian reunion of Jewish families, some members of which are in the Soviet Union, and other members of which are in Israel, European countries or the United States. They accuse the Soviet Union of violating Human Rights.

Israel has constantly urged the United States and the European powers to pressure the Soviet Union into permitting Soviet Jews to emigrate on the humanitarian grounds of the reunification of families. The United States and the European powers succeeded in convincing the Soviet Union to sign the Declaration of Helsinki on August 1, 1975.

Thirty five nations participating in the European Conference on Security and Cooperation signed a 100 page declaration pledging civilized norms on Human Rights questions, including that of contacts and regular meetings on the basis of family ties, the reunification of families and travel for personal and professional reasons. The signers included the leaders of the United States, the Soviet Union, Canada and every European nation except for Albania. The text of this solemn pledge on cooperation in humanitarian fields as related to Human Contacts follows:

COOPERATION IN HUMANITARIAN AND OTHER FIELDS. HUMAN CONTACTS

The participating States ....

Make it their aim to facilitate freer movement and contacts individually and collectively, whether privately or officially, among persons, institutions and organizations of the participating States, and to contribute to the solution of the humanitarian problems that arise in that connexion,

Declare their readiness to these ends to take measures which they consider appropriate and to conclude agreements or arrangements among themselves, as may be needed, and

Express their intention now to proceed to the implementation of the following:

CONTACTS AND REGULAR MEETINGS ON THE BASIS OF FAMILY TIES

In order to promote further development of contacts on the basis of family ties the participating States will favourably consider applications for travel with the purpose of allowing persons to enter or leave their territory temporarily and on a regular basis if desired, in order to visit members of their families.

Applications for temporary visits to meet members of their families will be dealt with withoutdistinction as to the country of origin or destination: existingrequirements fortravel documents and visas will be applied in this spirit. The preparation and issue of such documents and visas will be effected within reasonable time limits; cases of urgent necessity such as serious illness or death will be given priority treatment. They will take such steps as may be necessary to ensure that the fees for official travel documents and visas are acceptable.

They confirm that the presentation of an application concerning contacts on the basis of family ties will not modify the rights and obligations of the applicant or of members of his family.

REUNIFICATION OF FAMILIES

The participating States will deal in a positive and humanitarian spirit with the applications of persons who wish to be reunited with members of their family, with special attention being given to requests of an urgent character - such as requests submitted by persons who are ill or old.

They will deal with applications in this field as expeditiously as possible.

They will lower where necessary the fees charged in connexion with these applications ...

Applications for the purpose of family reunifications which are not granted may be renewed at the appropriate level and will be reconsidered at reasonably short intervals by the authorities of the country of residence or destination, whichever is concerned: under such circumstances fees will be charged only when applications are granted.

Persons whose applications for family reunification are granted may bring with them or ship their household and personal effects ...

Until members of the same family are reunited meetings andcontacts between them may take place in accordance with the modalities for contacts on the basis of family ties.

The participating States will support the efforts of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies concerned with the problems of family reunification.

They confirm that the presentation of an application concerning family reunification will not modify the rights and obligations of the applicant or of members of his family.

The receiving participating State will take appropriate care with regard to employment for persons from other participating States who take up permanent residence in that State in connexion with family reunification with its citizens and see that they are afforded opportunities equal to those enjoyed by its own citizens for education, medical assistance and social security. (1)

The pledges of the Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe represent customary International Law as codified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international conventions. Following is an opinion letter dealing with the question of the rights of spouses and parents to maintain family life in cohabitation written by Dr. Dinah Shelton, Professor of International Law at Santa Clara University School of Law, Santa Clara, California. U.S.A.:

Under general international law every person has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State as well as the right to leave and to return to his own country (Article 13, Universal Declaration of Human Rights.) While much attention has been focused on application of the right to leave a country, protection of the right of entry is equally necessary and has been the subject of investigation where its violation has been challenged; for example, with the use of involuntary exile as a means of punishment in Chile.

The right of freedom of movement is contained in every major international Human Rights instrument. In addition to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is expressed in the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 12; Protocol No. 4 to the European Convention of Human Rights, Articles 3 and 4; American Convention on Human Rights, Article 22.

Even more widely recognized and protected than the right of freedom of movement are family rights. As early as the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, it was provided that "family honors and rights, individual lives andprivateproperty, as well as religious convictions and liberty, must he respected." (Article 46 (1)). This is repeated in Article 27 of the GenevaConvention on the Protection of Civilians in Time of Armed Conflict (Geneva IV) which provides in Article 27 that protected persons are entitled in all circumstances to respect for their persons, their honor, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs.

Similarly, Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home, or correspondence." Emphasizing the importance of this, Article 16 expresses the right of everyone to marry and found a family, continuing that "The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state." This language is repeated in Article 23 of the Covenant of Civil and Political Rights.

The special needs of children are implicitly recognized in the provisions relating to family rights, but are also explicitly stated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child Res. 1386 (XIV) of 20 November 1959. Principle 6 of this declaration states:

The Child, for the full and harmonious development of his personality, needs love and understanding. He shall, whereverpossible, grow up in the care and under the responsibility of his parents, and, in any case, in an atmosphere of affection and of moral and material security; a childof tender years shall not, save in exceptional circumstances, be separated from his mother. (2)

President Ronald Reagan delivered a speech on May 27, 1988 in Finlandia Hall where the Helsinki Declaration on Human Rights in 1975 was signed and challenged Mikhail S. Gorbachev to improve the Soviet Union's record on Human Rights by reuniting divided families and by increasing emigration of Soviet Jews. He said: "Thirteen years after the Final Act was signed, it is difficult to understand why cases of divided families and blocked marriages should remain on the East-West agenda, or why Soviet citizens who wish to exercise their right to emigrate should be subject to artificial quotas and arbitrary rulings." (3)

President Mikhail S. Gorbachev of the Soviet Union had already answered this question when interviewed on French television on September 30, 1985: "When it is a question of reunification of families, we agree to this and settle such questions. There are exceptions when individuals in point know state secrets. But does not France have legislation protecting the interests of the state? It does. I know so. We will continue to resolve these questions without fuss, through a humanitarian appr0ach." (4)

In fact the object of this Zionist campaign against the Soviet Union is not humanitarian, but political. The Zionist objective is not human rights or the reunion of families, but obtaining more Soviet Jewish immigrants in order to increase Israel's population and fulfill its expansionist policies of settling the West Bank and Gaza and other neighboring Arab countries.

The proof of this is shown by Israel's insistence that Jews who leave the Soviet Union and go to Vienna, Austria or to Romania must come as immigrants to Israel, and it maintains that these Jews should be forced to do so although they have families in the United States and other Western countries and refuse to immigrate to Israel. This is evident from the fact that only 20% of Soviet Jews who emigrated in the last few years went to Israel.

The policy of Israel was exposed by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in its Daily News Bulletin of May 24, 1988, which published the following dispatch from Tel Aviv:

Israel will soon initiate a drastic change in its policy of granting visas to Jews seeking to emigrate from the Soviet Union. Effective shortly, they will be issued only to those definitely bound for Israel, the news media reported over the weekend.

Soviet Jews wishing to immigrate to countries other than Israel presumably will have to obtain visas from those countries.

Premier Yitzhak Shamir and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres agreed on the change because of the liberalization of Soviet exit visa policies last year and the soaring number of dropouts - Soviet Jews who settle in countries other than Israel after leaving the USSR with Israeli visas.

The change also was prompted by the prospects of a significant increase in the number of exit permits this year. According to Yediot Ahronot, Soviet officials have promised Peres that 1,400 Jews will be allowed to leave this month, including several individuals denied permission in the past for "security reasons."

While no date has been announced for the changeover, Jerusalem has already advised the Dutch Embassy in Moscow that it intends to stop issuing visas through its facilities. The Netherlands has represented Israeli interests in the Soviet Union since Moscow broke diplomatic ties with Israel in 1967.

Israel has also informed the Soviet authorities it intends to stop issuing visas through the Dutch Embassy, where they could be obtained by Jews who have no intention of going to Israel.

Instead, only the Israeli Embassy in Bucharest, Romania, will issue visas for entry into Israel. Jews bound for Israel will have to fly direct, with a brief stopover in Bucharest, rather than flying first to Vienna, as the vast majority of emigrating Soviet Jews do today.

The Soviet Union has allowed several direct flights to Israel via Bucharest in recent months. Romania is the only Communist bloc country that has full diplomatic ties with Israel.

1987 Soviet Policy Change: The change was made feasible after the Soviet Union announced in June 1987 that its citizens could emigrate to any country in the world for the purpose of family reunification.

The altered Soviet policy cleared the way for more extensive Jewish emigration, Maariv noted Monday. Israel became only one of several countries of choice.

Previously, Jews were granted exit visas only if they could produce invitations from relatives in Israel, even if they wished to be reunited with families in other countries, such as the United States.

In late April, Israel announced it would begin issuing invitations with the requirement that emigrating Soviet Jews pick up their visas in Bucharest, in effect ensuring that Israeli invitations no longer will be used to facilitate immigration to other countries.

Under the old policy, Jews allowed to leave the Soviet Union traveled via Vienna, where a majority of them opted to immigrate to Western countries, notably the United States. This month, the "dropout" figure hit an unprecedented 90 percent.

The Israelis were angered and embarrassed by the high dropout rate, arguing that Jews who left Russiaon the strength of Israeli visas were obliged to go to Israel.

They also maintained that the flood of Soviet Jews going to the United States was one reason Moscow clamped down hard on Jewish emigration in recent years. (5)


VIOLATING HUMAN RIGHTS

Zionist violations of Palestinian Human Rights for the reunion of families are based also on political, colonial and expansionist grounds, because the Israelis want to empty the West Bank and Gaza of its inhabitants, as they did by the expulsion of 800,000 Palestinians in 1948-1950 from the 80% of the territory of Palestine which they then occupied.

In 1948 - 1950 Israel re-expelled all Palestinian refugees who had returned to their homes after their expulsion and prevented the reunion of families, some of whose members remained in the occupied areas and some of whose members were either expelled or fled out of fear of Israeli massacres.

Israel consistently violates the right of Palestinian families to contacts and to reunification. The Zionist authorities, in their attempts to force the expulsion of Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and Gaza, prevent marriages, separate the parents of children, separate children from their parents and inhumanly try to disrupt and destroy all family ties among Palestinians, inflicting untold psychological and economic harm on Palestinians both young and old.

HOW ISRAEL SEPARATES PALESTINIAN FAMILIES AND IMPEDES THEIR REUNIFICATION

1. Since 1948, Israel has refused the return of the Palestinian refugees to their towns and villages in the occupied subdistricts of Tiberias, Safed, Acre, Haifa, Beisan, Nazareth, Jenin, Tulkann, Jerusalem, Hebron, Ramie, Jaffa, Beersheba and Gaza in spite of several United Nations Resolutions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees the right of return of Palestinians to their homes.

The Zionist authorities created a legal fiction that all Palestinians absent from their homes on or after November 29,1947 are so-called "absentees." November 29,1947 was the date of the United Nations Partition Resolution. The Zionists created an absurd alleged "law" on absentees which is both arbitrary and discriminatory in application solely against Palestinians.

How bizarre this alleged law is was admitted by Herut Member of the Knesset Yohanan Bader, who stated:

According to this law, the Israeli army is full of absentees. Every man who went to war on or after November 29, 1947, that is to say, left his city, is an absentee, unless he has a certificate to prove that he is not an absentee. (6)

In spite of repeated requests by these families to be united, thousands of Palestinian families in the 80% of Palestine occupied in 1948 are still separated today.

2. When Israel invaded and occupied the rest of Palestine in 1967, namely the West Bank and Gaza, the Israelis followed the same policy of deliberately disrupting the life of Palestinian families as follows:

(a) Over 300,000 Palestinians were expelled from the West Bank and Gaza and many families were thus separated and still remain separated today.

(b) Many Palestinians were absent from the West Bank and Gaza on the 5th of June, 1967 when Israel occupied those areas. They were either travelling or working in other Arab countries, Europe or the Americas. The Israeli government issued orders to consider every person who was absent from those areas on June 5, 1967 as a non-resident. More than 10,000 Palestinians were affected by this order and could not be reunited with their families, a situation still true today.

(c) Many Palestinians who returned to the West Bank and Gaza with visitors' permits were not allowed to reside with their families and were ordered to leave when their permits expired.

(d) Many young Palestinian men who were working in the Arab Gulf States such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Egypt and Libya, or in Europe or America, who visited the West Bank and Gaza and married a Palestinian woman from these two areas were not allowed to reside there. But they were allowed to take their wives with them when leaving, as this suited the Zionist objective of emptying these two areas of their indigenous inhabitants.

(e) Many Palestinian girls were born to Palestinian families working in the Arab countries, Europe or America and many of them met young Palestinian men residing in the West Bank and Gaza and married them. The brides were not allowed to reside in the West Bank and Gaza and were forced to leave with their children and live outside the West Bank and Gaza while their husbands lived in those two areas.

(f) Many Christian Palestinian girls whose families were living in the Arab Gulf States, Egypt or Libya and could not marry in those countries for lack of eligible Christian prospective husbands, remained unmarried because of the difficulties of obtaining residence permits to live with their prospective husbands.

(g) In some cases the husband and/or wife died in accidents while residing in Arab countries. Their orphaned children could not obtain resident permits to live with their grandparents in the West Bank and Gaza.

A case that obtained wide publicity was that of Badawi Kaluti, a four year old boy, who was sent to stay with his grandparents in Jerusalem after his mother died of leukemia in Stockholm, Sweden. The Israeli government tried to deport the four year old boy, and his visitor's visa was extended only after tremendous international pressure.

(h) Many Palestinian families were separated as follows:

(i) The children live with their mother in the West Bank and Gaza, while their father is denied the right to live with his wife and children in the West Bank and Gaza; (ii) Some children live with their father or grandparents outside the West Bank and Gaza while the mother and some of the children of the family live in the West Bank and Gaza. They are only allowed to meet together for short periods dictated by visitors' permits issued by Israel.

These inhumane regulations which disrupt the family life of Palestinians are malicious attempts to harass Palestinians into leaving their native country in order to make room for more Zionist colonizers.

The following are nine specific cases of Israel's violation of the right of Palestinians to family reunification:

Amneh, a resident of Anata in the Jerusalem region and her 11-year-old daughter, Mai. Amneh has been married for 12 years to a Palestinian living in Amman. He comes to see his wife and daughter on a visit permit for a few weeks each year. They sometimes go to see him during the summer school vacation. Three applications for family reunification have been to no avail. "I just want to have him with us for the sake of the little girl, who misses her father very much and dreams of being able to see him every day," Amneh says. Mai, a bright little girl in the primary sixth class, comments innocently: "Why don't they allow him to come and live with us?"

Muhammad Tarawa, from the village of Sair in the Hebron district, recounts: "My two sons were betrothed to young Palestinian girls in Amman. My sons have West Bank identity cards. Their wives are denied the right to join their husbands. They have to go and come on visit permits. I am an old man responsible for 14 people. The travel back and forth to Amman by my daughters-in-law is very costly and my income is limited, as is the income of my children. So far two family reunification applications submitted to the authorities have been refused."

Muhammed Ahmed Abu Seif, from the al-Shati refugee camp, Gaza Strip: "1 suffer from a unique problem. I was married in 1980 and have two boys and four girls. So far I cannot bring my family to reside with me. They come for three months to stay with me and then return to stay at my fatherin- law's house in Amman. My father and mother-in-law are old people and cannot take care of my big family. I am a simple worker and cannot bear such great travel expenses. I have applied for family reunification several times but have been refused."

Musa Othman Gheith, 30, from the city of Gaza. A graduate of the agricultural college, and now a laborer, he recounts: "I married my cousin who lives in Egypt three years ago. Her family is Palestinian and left Gaza in 1968.1 have a child of only five months. My family comes from Egypt every six months to stay with me for three months at a time. In Egypt, my wife lives with her younger brothers and sisters. Two applications for family reunification have been refused."

Jamil, from al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza, recounts: "I was married in 198 1. My wife is from the Jarash refugee camp in Jordan. I now have three children. The first two, born in 1981 and 1984, were registered on my identity card, but the third, born in 1986, was not permitted to be registered. My father-in-law is an old person and my wife and children must cross the bridge in order to see me. Four applications I made to reunite my family were refused."

Musa Alloush, a pharmacist from Bir Zeit was married in 1981 to a girl from Amman, then visiting on the West Bank. When her three-month visit permit expired, Musa tried to renew it, applying at the same time for family reunification. He was stunned when the authorities refused to allow her to stay for even an additional three months. Through the assistance of a relative, he eventually succeeded in renewing his wife's visit permit, but at the end of the three months, his wife was ordered to leave the country. The relative had to accompany her to the bridge and have her permit stamped as proof that she had left the country.

Still the husband did not despair, but applied repeatedly for visit permits for his wife. All requests were refused. Musa then turned to the courts. Through a lawyer he was able to obtain a permit for his wife to visit, but only for 10 days. The wife came with their one-month-old daughter, Cristine.

Once the 10 days were up, the authorities refused to renew the wife's permit and demanded that she leave the West Bank. She refused. The family must now remain in constant touch with their lawyer who again and again must persuade the Israeli legal adviser to postpone the execution of the deportation order, with each postponement valid for only 15 days. "So you see," says Musa, "our life together is shortened and we live from day to day."

Musa's wife has given birth to a second child, Rawan, while the first baby was registered on her father's identity card, the second was denied that right and was also denied the right to a birth certificate. Four separate family reunification applications submitted by Musa to the authorities have been denied.

Zuhair (24, from Gaza) was married in 1983 to a Palestinian girl living in Saudi Arabia. His wife was born in Gaza in 1967. During the 1967 war, her family fled to Egypt, later moving to Saudi Arabia where the father had found work. Zuhair has already applied twice to the authorities for a residence permit for his wife, but both requests were refused. A third application is pending.

Since their marriage, Zuhair's wife has been able to stay with him on visit permits only. In Gaza a three-month visit permit can only be renewed every six months. Zuhair's wife thus comes for three months, then must return to Saudi Arabia for six months. These periodic trips cost Zuhair JD300 (US $900) each. He has also had to pay a considerable sum of money to an Israeli lawyer, who has been dealing with the case for two years without accomplishing anything. Zuhair also paid JD1000 (US $3000) to a man who promised to get him a residence permit for his wife, but obviously cheated him.

According to the rules in Saudi Arabia, when a foreign woman marries someone from outside the country, she loses her right to remain in Saudi Arabia and can only stay for six months at a time. Zuhair's wife is thus in double jeopardy. in the occupied territories and in Saudi Arabia.

An even more serious problem looms ahead. Zuhair's wife is pregnant and the child will be recognized neither by Israel nor by Saudi Arabia.

In a desperate attempt to solve the dilemma plaguing him and exhausting his poor budget, Zuhair, a day-laborer, tried to travel to Dubai where he and his wife can be together. Even this untenable solution was obstructed by the authorities' refusal to give him permission to travel.

Zuhair asks why. He was never convicted on security or civil charges. He has done nothing wrong. Why is he persecuted in this way?

Fatmeh M. Azsam and her seven children from the village of Yusef in the Nablus region are among the most touching cases. Fatmeh and her family had lived with her husband in Kuwait since 1963. Her husband was working as a carpenter. In 1974, however, her husband was stricken with mental illness and hospitalized there, leaving Fatmeh and her children with no means of support.

Fatmeh's father was notified of his daughter's distress by friends in Kuwait. He hurried to Kuwait and brought back the entire family on a visit permit, hoping to care for them till the children were grown and able to care for themselves. According to Israeli regulations, however, the daughter's entire family must move to Jordan each time the visit permit expires and reenter on a new permit.

The family has already made this grueling trip across the bridge three times. Meanwhile, they have applied for family reunification, but the three applications already submitted have been refused. A fourth, submitted three years ago, is still pending. Even efforts by an MK of the Labor Party, Abdel Wahab Darawsheh, to reunite the family have been thus far fruitless.

As a result of having neither residence permits nor identity cards, the seven children face major problems. Under occupation, lack of an identity card means one is subject to arrest by military or civil authorities at any time. It also prohibits the children from attending school. After attending the local government school illegally for two years, Fatmeh's children were eventually expelled. They were accepted again last year following agreements made by their lawyer with the authorities, but only after having lost two to three scholastic years each. The children are growing up without a future.

"We want to live among our relatives in peace and security," Fatmeh says, "not threatened with deportation at any moment." (7)

Mushawah Othman Dwaikat, 28, who was born and raised in the Askar refugee camp near Nablus, left the West Bank on a regular exit visa in 1976 and enrolled in a civil engineering college in the Phillipines. His parents renewed his visa every three years, according to Israeli regulations. When they attempted to renew it again in 1985, the authorities refused their request. An expired exit visa tasrih is equivalent to losing one's residency.

Dwaikat approached the Israeli embassy in Manila, but to no avail. In June of last year he left the Phillipines and attempted to cross back into the West Bank with his expired visa. The authorities turned him back. His family later managed to obtain a temporary tourist visa for him, but once he arrived at the border crossing he was arrested and held in Nablus jail.

Dwaikat was taken to a military court and imprisoned for one month and fined NIS2000. Having served his sentence, he attempted to get his identification papers back, hut was told he had to leave the country.

Dwaikat's lawyer contends that the intended expulsion is unlawful and has no legal or security basis. (8)

The above cases are only examples of what the The Jerusalem Post concedes to be "five thousand families in the territories awaiting reunification." Following is an account of the problem by journalist Joel Greenberg.

Jamal Borghouth lives in a rented flat in Beit Jala, the hilltop town off the road from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, sells floor tiles in his store nearby, and is marking time until his Soviet-born wife, Galina, and their daughter, Lina, can rejoin him in the West Bank.

Galina and Lina are now in Moscow, waiting for visitors' permits to enter the area. None has been granted since they left Beit Jala last September.

Much of Borghouth's time is taken up by almost daily trips to the Bethlehem military government headquarters to inquire about his application for a permit.

Galina, who first came to the West Bank with her husband in late 1982, has not received a permit to reside permanently in the area, the application for family unification submitted by her husband in February 1983 had gone unanswered, and she can only stay in the West Bank on a temporary basis for up to three months. Every time her permit expires she has to leave the area, usually for Amman, where her brother-in-law lives, until she can rejoin her husband in Beit Jala for another temporary stay.

The case of Jamal and Galina Borghouth is one of an estimated 5,000 family unification requests that have accumulated in recent years at the offices of the Civil Administration in the territories. Last year a total of 1,000 persons were granted residence in the territories under the family unification regulations. In 1985, the total was only some 500.

Palestinian Human Rights lawyer Jonathan Kuttab, who has handled numerous unsuccessful requests, says the low acceptance rate is part of a deliberate political policy aimed at slowing the growth of the Palestinian population in the territories. At a recent press conference, Kuttab charged that the Israeli authorities were trying, through denial of family unification, "to make life so difficult that people will leave." Kuttab notes that no objective criteria have been published regarding the processing of family unification requests, and no specific reasons for rejection have been given to families whose requests have been turned down.

Israeli officialsdealing with the territories dismisscharges that their policy is politically motivated. They insist that they have a responsibility to prevent the adverse consequences of a mass influx of population into the territories, which, they say, would surely follow if family unification were granted freely.

They argue that economic and natural resources in the territories are already strained, unemployment among university graduates is mounting, and there are serious overpopulation problems in the Gaza Strip.

"After 1967, the government recognized the need to allow the unification of families separated during the Six Day War," said one official. Family unification was therefore permitted according tocertain criteria, "but in subsequent years we have been faced with the prospect of the entry of huge numbers of people into the territories, running into the tens of thousands." The policy was accordingly changed and the numbers of requests granted was significantly reduced. They are now generally granted "in exceptional cases of humanitarian need."

Israeli officials complain privately that they have been unfairly maligned for their family unification policy. They point to the restrictive immigration policies of certain European countries, and say the High Court of Justice has upheld their right to refuse unification requests.

The officials assert that they have been piepared to grant residence to Palestinians willing tocontribute to the economic development of the territories by opening businesses and other enterprises there.

Nevertheless, the matter of family unification has come under particular scrutiny because Israel's position in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is not identical to that of a government ruling its own territory. Palestinians wishing to join their families in the territories do not see themselves as aliens seeking to immigrate, but as persons returning to their homeland.

Israel's conflict with the Palestinians has charged the unification question with political significance far beyond the personal issues involved. A Palestinian moving to the territories is, in effect, realizing in a small way the Palestinian demand for "return" an issue which stands at the core of the conflict, and which Israel has refused to discuss except in the framework of an overall settlement.

The broader implications of family unification in the territories have brought declarations of concern by foreign governments. In a recent meeting with Palestinians who have been refused permits, the U.S. consul-general in Jerusalem, Morris Draper, assured them of his interest in their cases, and referred to remarks by Secretary of State George Shultz urging the granting of unification requests.

Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke, during his visit in Israel, last week asked Palestinian representatives to submit details of specific cases to his country's embassy, so that they could be taken up with the Israeli authorities.

There has also been criticism at home. Communications Minister Amnon Rubinstein. in a tour of the West Bank last month, said that since family unification is a humanitarian issue, requests should be granted unless there are security grounds for refusing them.

"I don't believe the matter has the least influence on the demographic situation, as some people imagine," he said.

Questions of demographic impact, and the political implications of Palestinian "return" are lost on Jamal Borghouth.

Speaking to visitors recently in his home, he enthusiastically described a recent phone conversation with his wife and daughter in Moscow. He says his three-and-half year old daughter now speaks only Russian, and appears to have forgotten the Arabic she knew when she lived in the West Bank.

Borghouth, 31, was born in the village of Walajeh near Jerusalem, whose residents fled in the 1948 war. He went to college in Bethlehem and studied pharmacy in Amman before travelling to the Soviet Union in 1976 to study journalism at the Lomonosov Moscow State University. There he met Galina, who was studying psychology. They were married in a civil ceremony in 1979.

Borghouth says that, like other Palestinians from the territories, he chose to study in Moscow because college education there is free. After completing his studies in 1982, he returned to the West Bank, followed by his wife. Una was born in Jerusalem in 1983. He says Galina's frequent trips to Amman have disrupted their family life and made it impossible for her to hold down a job.

The first time she tried to enter the West Bank from Jordan, she was turned back at the Allenby Bridge because there weren't enough copies of her entry permit.

The Jordanian authorities refused to allow her back into Jordan because her Soviet passport had an Israeli stamp, and she spent the day shuttling between the Jordanian and Israeli border checkpoints, before she was finally allowed to go to Amman, he says. She has since travelled from Jordan to the West Bank with Jordaniandocuments. The burden of frequent travel has been aggravated by Galina's unfamiliarity with the Arabic language and the strangeness of the Amman environment.

Borghouth says the trips and applications for permits are eating into his income, which was reduced when he lost his job as an instructor in journalism at the Ibrahimiyah College in Jerusalem. He says the college closed its journalism department owing to a lack of job opportunities for graduates.

Though Borghouth worked for an East Jerusalem newspaper, Alshira, which was closed down by the authorities, and once spent 28 days in jail for political activities as a student, he does not believe, nor has he been told, that his failure to obtain a unification permit is security-related.

At one meeting at the Civil Administration, an official suggested that he leave the country and live with his wife in Moscow.

"Would you leave your country to live in Moscow or Washington?" asked Borghouth. "No," said the official. "Then neither will I," Borghouth replied.

He says he will not be the one to order his wife to leave next time her visitor's permit runs out.

"If they want, they can expel her, and the whole world will know what the authorities have done. Giving her a temporary visitor's permit won't solve the basic problem. They say her permanent residence here is illegal, but 1 say there is no law in the world that sanctions the separation of a couple married for eight years."

Borghouth can't help comparing his wife's situation to that of Soviet Jews allowed to immigrate freely into Israel, although unlike many Jews, she is allowed to return to the Soviet Union.

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Encyclopedia of the Palestine Problem
By Issa Nakhleh

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