A Palestinian Refugee — From Hamastan
From Al Arabiya:
Mounis Hammouda and Hisham Shaban were stranded in Honduras, penniless after being ripped off by a smuggler who was supposed to get them to Mexico so that they could arrive at their final destination, the United States.
The Palestinian men had traveled across the world to escape bloodshed and torture in their homeland, and desperately phoned a friend in Canada to wire them money so they could finish their trek.
When they showed up at the U.S.-Mexico border in November 2014, Hammouda remembers seeing the American flag, and feeling relieved.
Related coverageSeptember 19, 2016 6:32 am
“I know that America is a country of freedom. It’s a country of opportunity. It’s a country of democracy. Everybody knows that America is a country that helps the world,” he said.
They presented themselves at the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales, Arizona, claiming asylum. The FBI cleared the men and said they didn’t pose a threat, and they were turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
After spending over a year in a detention center, Hammouda posted bail with the help of a fundraiser and Shaban remains.
“Thank God things are good. I finished with the detention and I have freedom,” Hammouda said.
From which homeland were they escaping bloodshed and torture?
Hammouda, 30, said he fled Gaza in 2011 after members of Hamas, the Islamic political party, tortured his father because he worked for Fatah, a rival organization. He said his family was targeted.
He said he had to drop out of college and quit his pursuit of a law degree. He was blacklisted and couldn’t find work.
Relatives helped him find money and a visa to leave Gaza in 2011.
The US accepted him as a refugee because of the danger of his returning to his home — to Hamas-controlled Gaza. He is a true refugee.
His friend did not flee because of fear of Hamas persecution, and the US is trying to deport him as a result:
Shaban, 32 also grew up in Gaza. He said his family lived next door to a Hamas operative who was the target of a bombing that left Shaban’s family home destroyed. None of his relatives was injured, but he said he felt unsafe.
After two years of studying social work, Shaban saved up money and left in 2010. He lived in a government-funded apartment before losing funding and moving to the camp in Kofinou, in the Greek-controlled part of Cyprus, he said.
He met Hammouda there, where the men bonded over being unable to work as the economy tanked and their government aid shrunk. There was no work for the men and nothing for them to do, they said.
While Hammouda has been released, Shaban has been denied asylum and has been ordered removed from the country, but the government hasn’t found a place to send him because Palestine is not an officially recognized state.
ICE spokeswoman Yasmeen Pitts O’Keefe said the agency is still working with Saudi Arabia, where Shaban was born, to obtain travel documents. But Shaban said that the country won’t accept him because he is not a citizen.
Shaban was born in Saudi Arabia, but Arab nations do not allow Palestinians born on their territory to become citizens.
You can learn a lot from reading these stories carefully. The official UN definition of a refugee is someone who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.” This definition is what the US used when choosing to extend refugee status to Hammouda and not to Shaban.
And it is a definition that doesn’t apply to millions of fake Palestinian “refugees” who are stateless because of policies like Saudi Arabia’s — policies of clear discrimination against them.
The real Palestinian refugee in this story, the refugee from Hamastan, shows the stark difference between the million of real refugees worldwide and the millions of fake Palestinian “refugees.”