This is a difficult subject for me to write about, but I shall start:
On Monday 19 December, the a three-judge panel of the Israeli Supreme Court held its first hearing in my petition for restoration of an Israeli press card [which I did have from mid-2007 until 2010].
For the past two years, I have had no Israeli press card — and therefore no Israeli visa for “journalists”.
The Israeli journalist’s visa is a strange hybrid visa giving a one-year tourist status [no residency, and no resident’s rights, but just a residency permit] plus [and this is important] a work permit.
So, since 2010 — for the last two years — I have been staying precariously in Israel on a normal 3-month visa for any general tourist [except for the 3.5 month period this summer when I had no visa at all, but just a “receipt” from the Ministry of Interior]. Most of the series of 3-month tourist visas I was given since 2010 are marked: “NOT PERMITTED TO WORK”.
What does this mean, exactly? It is certainly not clear.
Does it mean if I write for my own blog — which is really more like a niche website — I am “working”? If I do this without payment, is it “working”? If I write for other publications, with or without token payments, is that “working”? Does “working” require payment? Is it merely payment that confirms working, and that also bestows the special status of “journalist”? And so on…
How can I reasonably expect — and, importantly, how can the Israeli Government expect — me to be able to get work from any major media organization if I am being kept in a kind of stasis by a visa marked: “NOT PERMITTED TO WORK”???
I have been totally clear and honest about what I am doing, but my status, though legal, is not clear.
The Israel Press Cards are issued by the Israeli Government Press Office [GPO] which is part of the Prime Minister’s Office [PMO]. [The current Prime Minister of Israel is Benyamin Netanyahu]
way through the process, beginning with a committee established by the Prime Minister’s Office [PMO]
Let me say here that I do hold a Palestinian Press Card — and used to hold both Israeli + Palestinian press cards, which is important for both security + for relative assurances of the ability to move throughout the area under Israeli administration or military control.
But, as the Israeli IDF spokesperson said to me: “I can’t deal with that”…
In other words, a Palestinian press card means nothing to Israel — and Israel gives no reciprocal rights given to any holders, whether Palestinian or international, of Palestinian press cards.
[Many of the members of the major international media organizations in Israel also have Palestinian press cards, too…]
But, one of the important points at the moment is, without an Israeli press card, it is IMPOSSIBLE for me to go in and out of Gaza [except through the Rafah Crossing, which I have not tried, due to the relatively high expense and high uncertainty involved].
Despite the request of the Israeli Government Attorney [State Prosecutor’s Office], the three-judge panel sitting in judgement in Chamber Gimel of the Israeli Supreme Court on Monday did not dismiss my case from their docket and return it to the tender hands of the GPO.
The Supreme Court judges asked the Government to be more prepared, and then set a second hearing for late February.
More to follow, later, in further installments on this developing story…