Israel bars prominent Palestinian artist from traveling to N.Y. exhibit

Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar travels regularly to exhibit and discuss his art. This time, the Israeli army simply said no, you can’t go.

Khaled Jarrar
Khaled Jarrar (photo: Susanne Hakuba, courtesy of Gallery Ayyam)

Khaled Jarrar, a prominent Palestinian artist based in Ramallah, was supposed to be in New York by now for an exhibit at the New Museum, a Manhattan hotspot for contemporary art.

Except Israel isn’t letting him go. Jarrar arrived at the Allenby border crossing at 3:00 p.m. yesterday. Rather than cross into Jordan, as he has done many times over the last few years, he was told he could not exit due to “an intelligence order.” After 10 hours spent waiting, he returned home at around 1 a.m. today.

Jarrar, 38, told +972 that dozens of others Palestinians were turned back while he was waiting at the crossing, though many others were let through. He has no idea why he was refused, as he has traveled regularly over the years to exhibit his work, and has never had a problem. He explained:

After a very long wait and without understanding what was happening, I was informed that there are “security reasons” that will prevent me from traveling until the 1st of August. For now, that means that I missed my morning flight from Amman to New York, that I will miss the opening of the show at the New Museum, and that I will miss my ‘artist talk’ with Lamia Joreige and Charif Kiwan, with Natalie Bell, that was supposed to happen on the 16th of July.

Yesterday was the longest day of my life and a day of humiliation. I felt real racism on the part of the security at Allenby Bridge. When this one soldier was talking to his superior officer,  I understood he called me “zevel” [“garbage,” in Hebrew -NY]. I shouted at him that I was no “zevel” and he was impolite to call me that. No one listened to me, like I did not even exist.

Jarrar's "State of Palestine" postage stamp. Among the countries that printed the stamp were Germany, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Belgium and Norway.
Jarrar’s “State of Palestine” postage stamp. Among the countries that printed the stamp were Germany, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Belgium and Norway.

The Allenby Bridge is the only entry and exit point for the Palestinians of the occupied West Bank. It is controlled by Israel, which often closes it to entire categories of Palestinians. During the search for the three Israeli teenagers who were found dead on June 30, Israel imposed a blanket ban on the exit from Allenby of all Palestinians from Hebron—a move condemned as collective punishment by Amnesty International.

Jarrar is a Ramallah-based multimedia artist well known for his “Live and Work in Palestine” project, which created a  a “State of Palestine” passport and postage stamp he designed as an expression of sovereignty and resistance against the occupation. More recently, he made a 70-minute documentary called “Infiltrators,” about the risks taken by Palestinians finding ways around the wall that separates them from both Israel and much of the West Bank. The film, which has received five international awards, will be featured in the New Museum exhibit. This is the trailer:

Jarrar regularly travels internationally on behalf of his art — for a sense of how often, you can see a list of all the festivals that have shown his film here; he  attended most of them. Israeli authorities granted him a permit to travel to Jerusalem for an interview at the American consulate just last month, and he returned from an exhibit in Paris only two weeks ago.

It’s unclear on what security grounds Jarrar was refused exit via Allenby Bridge, leaving him effectively trapped in the territory. It’s also unclear how and whether the general escalation turned him into a threat in the last two weeks following his previous trip, and why exactly he and the people refused with him will cease to be threats on August 1.

+972 Magazine contacted the Civil Administration — the inaptly named branch of the army that controls Palestinian civilian movement— to ask why Khaled and the dozens of others in his situation were refused exit, but so far they have not responded. I’ll update you if they do.

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