Visa problems

Travelled to Jordan via the Allenby Bridge on 4 January, the last day of my journalist Entry visa. “You are not a journalist!”, I was told by the Israeli Government Press Office — because I do not have a job. Of course I am a journalist, I respond — If I do coverage, reportage, and I am published and broadcast, I think, I am a journalist. I cannot help not having a job, I cannot help that I have had to donate my work in order to function. Every media outlet claims to have no budget. “OK. give us seven printed examples of your published work” — and in hard copies, in our offices, and not via email, because she said she would not open my email, or read it, as her inbox is too full. Then we will decide, she said — but only after the war is over … because she is busy with the important visiting journalists, who are unhappy because none of them can get into Gaza, so they stay in Ashkelon, while the even bigger fish, the anchors and all, are at the five-star hotels in Jerusalem.

They are spending all their budgets to do stand-ups, every hour, with lights and crews, all on per diems, to say “We can hear the sounds of battle rolling across the fields”… Then they will have no budget for coverage the rest of the year, once this is over…

Returned on 5 January, via the Allenby Bridge, sick as a dog [it is not easy to cross borders anywhere in the world, and here it is much worse than usual], and hundreds of dollars poorer. At the Palestinian — i.e., the worst, most demeaning, and difficult — side of the crossing, was given only a one month visa (instead of the usual 3-month visa) “Ministry of Interior – ONE MONTH ONLY” was stamped all over. This is because my journalist Work visa expires in early February (in contrast to my Entry visa, which expired on 4th January) …

“You have to renew your press visa”, I was told, as if I didn’t know it.

“Do you work in the West Bank?”, I was asked. Of course, was my cool reply — journalists work all over. (There were even several Gaza entry and exit stamps in the passport”.)

And, of course, the Israeli border crossing at the Allenby Bridge is, in fact, in the West Bank — but they do not seem to think so. Their reality is different, and, to them, they are in control, it is their border, and it is Israel. But, they are working in the West Bank, too …

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