Khaled Jarrar, video still from “Gently I Press the Trigger” (2014) (image courtesy the artist)

With less than a week to go before the opening of two shows that feature the works of Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar, I received a message from him that read: “The Israelis sent me back.” Another soon followed: “No trip to NY.”

Jarrar was to take part in a panel on the opening day, July 16, of Here and Elsewhere at the New Museum, and be present for a separate solo show at Whitebox Art Center that I organized with him, opening July 17. We were excited and planning a further satellite show at Undercurrent Projects. The only thing left to do was pick him up at the airport and start installing when I learned that his departure from Palestine had been blocked.

He phoned me shortly after, detailing his ordeal. Israeli soldiers kept him waiting for hours on end before transporting him, together with a group of others who were denied exit, to a spot further away from the Jordanian border crossing. When they were released, they had no other option but to travel back to Ramallah. It was two o’clock in the morning at that point and he had missed his flight. He had tried to reason with them to no avail. “There is no reasoning,” he said to me. “This is retribution on their part, it is revenge and you can’t reason with that.”

I first met Khaled Jarrar during the 7th Berlin Biennale in 2012, where he stamped people’s passports with a “State of Palestine” seal. He quickly convinced me to have my passport stamped, and did just that before I realized I had planned to fly to Tel Aviv a week later. I felt that the duration of the artwork extended when I entered Israel and went through immigration. I realized I only suffered a fraction of the hassle in comparison to what Palestinian citizens have to go through regularly.

I met him subsequently in Ramallah, Graz, Geneva, and Berlin again. He had no problem traveling to those places apart from the fact that it takes a very long time and often many ordeals in dealing with Jordanian border officials. Palestinians live in a virtual open air prison, and for those residing in the West Bank the only entry and exit point is the Allenby Bridge (also known as the Al-Karameh or King Hussein Bridge) that crosses the Jordan River from the West Bank. From there it is on to Amman, and the airport.

I had thought that the most difficult thing would be for him to obtain a visa. The United States was willing to give him a visa, as all his papers were in order, but to get it, Palestinians must go to the US consulate in Jerusalem, which they are not allowed to get to unless they obtain a special permit. Though he did make it to the consulate and got a visa, exiting to Jordan proved impossible.

Khaled Jarrar sent me the following statement, which is reproduced here verbatim:

“ZE ZEVEL” — “Exit Denied.” That means, “he is garbage.” When I was trying to cross Allenby Bridge as usual, I heard one soldier say this to his superior officer, while they were arguing about me in Hebrew. That was the only word that I could understand from their discussion. Allenby Bridge is my only gate to the world. Amman is the only place from where I can fly to the world. Yesterday I was denied exit from the West Bank. I was surprised, because never before did the Israelis prevent me from traveling. I was shocked that I was sent back and couldn’t cross Allenby Bridge. People tried to help me and reached out to the authorities. Everything was checked, but after a very long wait and without understanding what was happening, I was informed “security reasons” would 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 the artist talk with Lamia Joreige and Charif Kiwan that is 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 and I understood what he said (“ze zevel”), 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. It’s a long story and it’s the story of many people who are being denied from crossing Allenby Bridge for security reasons by order of the Israeli intelligence. On the day that I wanted to cross, it meant that I missed my flight to the USA, my first time traveling there, and my show. Another man, a PhD student, missed his flight to give a talk in Spain. Another man wanted to go to Amman to spend the last days of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr with his family, but he was not allowed.

Khaled Jar
14 July, 2014

The show at Whitebox Art Center, featuring a live Skype chat with Jarrar, will go ahead with a new title — No Exit — on July 24.

Myriam Vanneschi, in-company and independent art advisor, curator and writer is Swiss, was raised in the Netherlands, and went to three different art colleges there. Did applied linguistics in Ireland...

16 replies on “Israel Denies Exit for Palestinian Artist in New Museum Show”

  1. Wow! imagine that! During a time of war travel becomes restricted. Sure rockets are flying around, and planes are bombing,, tanks are rolling, people are dying ; but Khalid is missing his flight! Oh the humanity!

      1. You may not be aware that there are certain political, and social relationships between Gaza, the West Bank, and southern Lebanon that make for a heightened threat level to Israel during a time of war. And even if the rockets are only coming from Gaza right now it still effects border security and air travel for all of Israel. But thank you for the geography lesson.

          1. For whatever crazy reason they have I guess Israel is more worried about Palestinians wanting to kill Israelis than they are about Israelis killing other Israelis.

          2. No bc israeli artists tend not to become propaganda tools of terrorist organizations.

          3. No problem I am biased towards israel I’m neither afraid to say it or embarrassed PROUD supporter .

    1. Historically accurate???? A really cute propaganda tool, but a gross misinterpretation of fact. Right from the beginning when the cartoon refers to “Historical Palestine” you can tell it is going to be a crock. What they are calling “Historical Palestine” was historically a desolate backwater of the Ottoman Empire. You notice they don’t mention historical Israel; historical Judea; historical Galilee?
      It is a tempting notion to address all the half-fact falsehoods contained in this cartoon, but to what point? Shalom

  2. Why is Israel so scared of Palestinians LEAVING Palestine? Is it because words – and art – are more mighty than the bombs?

    1. Considering how long Chapman has been saying inflammatory things on a wide variety of subjects in Hyperallergic comment threads, I think it is highly unlikely that he has any association with Mossad. Sincere or sarcastic suggestions that anyone defending Israeli policy is in collusion with any organs of the Israeli government is not particularly helpful, and only encourages the conspiracy-theorist demographic.

  3. It certainly may be an injustice that Khaled Jar was refused at the border (there is no way any of us can validate his paperwork, but I assume that he should have been permitted to cross).

    Just for the sake of accuracy here though, the expression ‘zevel’ in hebrew does mean ‘garbage’ in the literal sense, but is often used as slang in a way that is different from how it was interpreted here. While again, there is no way of knowing for sure, I doubt that the soldiers meant that Khaled Jar as a person was ‘garbage’, it is a throwaway term that more likely referred to his crossing than to his humanity.

  4. I am sorry to read about your ordeal. Unfortunately Israel’s security policies too often become mixed-up with other more irrational reactions.
    But for the sake of accuracy: “zeh zevel” means “this is garbage” and not “he is garbage” as you claim. Meaning that the officials did not refer to you as a person but to your visa or to the reason you gave them for travelling, as “garbage”. And no, they didn’t try to reduce you to an object, that just doesn’t work in Hebrew. So maybe the racism is bureaucratic rather than personal? Mind you, that doesn’t make it any better…
    My point is: your anger and your frustration are legitimate, and remaining honest and accurate in your report will only make your point stronger.

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