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Jerusalemites complain about discrimination at airports

The coronavirus appears to have exposed once more the cloudy status of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, as the deportation of a professor and the denial of boarding to some has left may worried that the legal status of 350,000 Palestinians is in danger.
TEL AVIV, ISRAEL - APRIL 21: A photo shows empty Ben Gurion Airport after all flights were temporarily stopped as part of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) precautions in Tel Aviv, Israel on April 21, 2020. (Photo by Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

When Khader Abu Alia, an English-language professor at Al-Quds University, boarded United Flight 90 from Newark to Tel Aviv, he had no idea that he wouldn’t be able to return home. He had traveled to the United States for a family emergency and was returning April 14 after a one-month stay. Upon arriving at the passport control of Ben Gurion Airport, he was told he is not an Israeli citizen and he was being deported. He showed them his Jerusalem residency card, his Israeli driver’s license and a returning resident visa valid until 2022. However, he was deported back to the United States on the same plane before having a chance to contact his employer or a lawyer.

Abu Alia has not been the only Jerusalemite who has found himself in a legal blackhole. Palestinian university students from Jerusalem with valid Israeli-issued residency documents were barred from boarding a plane back home. They were separated from Israeli citizens who were allowed to board an Israir Airlines flight back to Tel Aviv. Another group of students trying to return from Turkey were also not allowed to board their flight. In all cases, they were asked if they had an “ishur,” a permit issued by the State of Israel that takes precedence over any travel documents. No such permits were asked of Israeli citizens.

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