Pales­tini­ans barred — but don’t blame Is­rael

The Jewish Chronicle - - News - BY LEON SY­MONS

WHEN TWO Pales­tinian aca­demics failed to reach a ground-break­ing con­fer­ence in Lon­don on the psy­cho­log­i­cal ef­fects of the Mid­dle East con­flict, Is­rael — for once — was not to blame.

Fu­ri­ous or­gan­is­ers of the con­fer­ence at Birk­beck Col­lege, Sites of Con­flict: Psy­cho-po­lit­i­cal Re­sis­tance in Pales­tine-Is­rael, held Bri­tish con­sular of­fi­cials in Jerusalem and Amman re­spon­si­ble for de­lays span­ning six weeks which left the two un­able to travel.

A third aca­demic se­cured his visa on the eve of the con­fer­ence, held last Thurs­day and Fri­day and at­tended by 120 aca­demics from Bri­tain, Europe, Is­rael and Pales­tine.

Or­gan­iser Lynne Se­gal said: “I wrote three let­ters on be­half of Dr Samah Jabr, who ap­plied for her visa about six weeks be­fore the con­fer­ence. Bri­tish of­fi­cials kept ask­ing who was pay­ing for their flights and ac­com­mo­da­tion. But they would not give us an an­swer about why they wouldn’t is­sue a visa.”

Rateb abu Rah­meh, who teaches in the Depart­ment of So­cial Work at Al Quds Open Uni­ver­sity, trav­elled to Amman to try to speed up the process but to no avail, said Ms Se­gal. “An­other col­league, Basam abu-Omar, gave up try­ing to get a visa when he saw what hap­pened to the other two,” she said.

“We just could not un­der­stand what was go­ing on. It was very dis­tress­ing and spoiled some of the pan­els. Other Pales­tini­ans travel here without any prob­lems at all yet th­ese of­fi­cials seem to have put up all sorts of ob­sta­cles.”

Bar­bara Wood­ward, UK Bor­ders Agency’s in­ter­na­tional di­rec­tor, said: “We are looking in to the cases raised by the JC. The UK Bor­der Agency’s aim is to fa­cil­i­tate le­git­i­mate trade and travel — while pre­vent­ing en­try to the UK from those who do not meet our en­try cri­te­ria.

“We sup­port cul­tural and po­lit­i­cal ex­changes and ev­ery year work closely with or­gan­is­ers of events in the UK to help en­sure that in­ter­na­tional par­tic­i­pants are clear about the UK’s visa ap­pli­ca­tion process.”

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