Oct 04 2006

How I smuggled a “terrorist” into Israel and the US?

Published by at 6:42 am under Blogs

By Daoud Kuttab

An editorial note before I answer this question, I need to make a note that the word terrorist is put within inverted comas signifying that this is not my description.

To begin with I have to tell you the story of Haroon Abu Arra.  I met Haroon in 1996.  He was a student at Al Quds University’s nursing college.* The nursing school was chosen as the location of Al Quds Educational TV because it was within ,what was thought then- sovereign Palestinian territory.Haroon originally from the Jenin area, would hang around the studio and when we needed someone to man the nightly broadcasting of our educational station, he volunteered.

Later after graduation with a BA in nursing, he threw away his degree and joined our station full time.  He literally worked his way up learning all aspects of the electronic media.  Until one day in 1999 the Israelis arrested .  We had known Haroun very well since he was practically living at our TV station.  I remember writing an article calling for his release. As an employee of ours we also hired a lawyer and fought hard to get him out.  The Israelis had nothing on him. They said one of his friends had confessed that he had helped arrange chairs for a public event of the Islamic movement.  Haroon was innocent and after two months detention he was released without any charge.  But his name must have become part of the Palestinian, Israeli and Jordanian intelligence services.His name would be forever tarnished.

Fast forward ten years later.  By now Haroon is the deputy director of Al Quds Educational TV, he is married to his college sweetheart Kawthar and they both have a lovely one year old girl.  He has not had a single run in with any political or security group or authority.

In the spring of 2006 Haroon notices an ad for a mid career fellowship in the States.  He applies and is accepted, his fellowship is due to begin October 1 at Chicago’s Northwestern University.  Late in September with help from the US state department he is set to get his visa from the Jerusalem Consulate.  They call him up and ask him to come for an interview.  Of course as a Palestinian with a West Bank ID he is not allowed into Jerusalem without a very hard to get Israeli-issued permit.  He asks if they can interview him in Ramallah, they can’t.

Early on Tuesday, I call up the US consulate and tell them what happened and ask if they can interview Haroon in Ramallah.

I called Haroon, told him to get all his papers we are going to Jerusalem.

Haroon later tells me he waved to stop but when you waved to him he kind of waved to go.

We were in, Haroon tells me he has not been in Jerusalem in five and a half years.

Within less than an hour, Haroon had made his interview, got his visa and started walking outside the consulate when he noticed a group of Israeli soldiers.  He walks the other direction and calls me on my cell saying he got his visa but that he had to go the other direction in fear that he is caught.

Driving back to safe Ramallah, I get a call from the US, they had found out that we had gotten Haroon the visa.  I tell my American friends the good news.  I was a hero, I say half jokingly.After I hang up, Haroon who knows the risk I had taken, confirms that we had really made a risk.


No responses yet

Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.