Palestinian organizer Mohammed Khatib, the Europe coordinator of Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, was denied a visa to the United States, where he had been invited to speak at the Jewish Voice for Peace National Membership Meeting, which took place in Chicago from 31 March to 2 April. Along with Black4Palestine organizer Kristian Davis Bailey, Mohammed is working on a project to build Black-Palestinian transnational solidarity between liberation movements, focusing on youth organizing.
Additional events in the United States, focusing on Palestinian political prisoners, the struggle for justice in Palestine, Black/Palestinian transnational organizing and liberation struggle and the struggle of refugees – from the urgent need to fight racism in Europe today to Palestinian refugees’ right to return – were also being planned for Mohammed.
Mohammed is himself a Palestinian refugee from Ein el-Helweh refugee camp in Lebanon. A Convention-recognized refugee, the mere sight of his Belgium-issued refugee travel document led visa processing staff members at the U.S. Embassy in Athens, Greece to deny his travel to the US, rejecting even a review of his invitation letters and travel program scheduled in the United States.
As Davis Bailey spoke at the JVP plenary on Sunday, 2 April, he said:
I would like to start by bringing into the room my dear friend and comrade Mohammed Khatib, who was scheduled to join us in person on this panel. Mohammed is the European coordinator of the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network and a Palestinian refugee from Lebanon. It is explicitly because of his status as a refugee that he was refused the opportunity to even interview for a visa to the US. “There is nowhere to deport you to,” the embassy told him.
This would have been Mohammed’s first time to the US and he was very eager to engage the membership of Jewish Voice for Peace as a refugee in exile, and as a descendant of survivors of the Nakba. He was subject to the double violence of being denied access to his homeland by Israel and being denied the ability to travel because of his status as a refugee by the US.
Next year marks 70 years since the Nakba. As a solidarity movement we have to take seriously that the majority of Palestinians are refugees in exile and that the end of the occupation or even creation of a Palestinian state does not resolve the fundamental injustice they experienced. We need broad and massive commemorations of the Nabka and to expose the crimes and outcome of the Nakba as the fundamental root of this conflict. We need campaigns and demonstrations to end Israel’s “Palestinian ban” with the same amount of fervor as we rallied at airports against the US’s “Muslim ban.” We cannot abandon the right of return.
The denial of Mohammed Khatib’s visa is, of course, not at all an individual case, but part and parcel of long-time United States policies of ideological exclusion and racist profiling as well as refusal to recognize the rights of refugees. Palestinians traveling to the United States for public events or speaking tours have long faced the threat and the reality of visa denial based on ideological exclusion or racist categories of “suspicion.” The recent intensification of the “Muslim Ban” and promotion of anti-refugee, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim propaganda in order to justify the exclusion of peoples – often not people coming for events or speaking engagements, but people being denied access to their families, their education or simply a place of refuge from war and occupation – only underlines this ongoing and long-term policy of exclusion and deportation.
If you only watch one of our videos, please watch and share this brilliant interview: Mohammed, a Palestinian refugee and organizer with Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network offers one of the most insightful commentaries on the importance of the Black struggle and joint work between all oppressed people fighting for liberation. He reflects on learning about the Black struggle at the same time as he learned about the Palestinian struggle, the escalation in violence against Black and Palestinian lives in the last decade, and the need to go beyond solidarity for a unified struggle against our common oppressors around the world. "We have to focus on a few things that we can be successful if we do in the US for Palestine and in Palestine for the Black struggle, and against racism in the Arab world and in our societies. This relationship is needed. It's for our people and for our struggle," he concludes.We publish this video two days after some of our Arab comrades launched the Arabs4BlackPower initiative. Mohammed reminds us that this solidarity has existed for decades, but please take part in supporting our struggle by signing or sharing their solidarity statement with the Black struggle: (http://goo.gl/xjKntf)
Posted by Black4Palestine on Thursday, September 1, 2016
The denial of a visa to Mohammed also represents the blows suffered by the growing U.S. movement for justice in Palestine due to the constant barriers erected by the U.S., Israeli and other states designed to prevent interaction among Palestinians across national borders, and between Palestinian, Arab and international movements for justice and liberation, from denial of entry to deportation to so-called “anti-terror” laws that terrorize communities and movements. While Skype and video links allow communication to continue across borders, they are not a replacement for the benefit of face-to-face interaction and movement-building.
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network denounces the denial of a visa to Mohammed Khatib, as part and parcel of the racist U.S. visa and entry policy that has impacted millions of people around the world – not only since the beginning of the Trump administration, but as a long-term policy stretching over decades. This visa denial is far from an individual case and represents an ongoing aspect of a policy of racism, ideological exclusion and separation and fragmentation of Palestinians from one another and from their national liberation movement.
Mohammed Khatib is available for Skype discussions or video presentations to organizations in the United States and elsewhere who would like to hear his perspective on the Palestinian struggle today, Palestinian political prisoners and Black/Palestinian solidarity. To arrange a video presentation, please email email@example.com contact us on Facebook.