In the West Bank, passport stamps come before statehood

A Palestinian man has taken it upon himself to design a passport stamp for the 'State of Palestine' that he offers to people entering the West Bank.

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    A rendering of the unofficial Palestinian passport stamp.
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• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

With Palestinians still pursuing a statehood bid at the United Nations in September, one West Bank resident has taken matters into his own hands. Standing outside the Israeli-controlled Qalandiya checkpoint, where most foreigners and Palestinians enter the West Bank, Khaled Jarrar offers a passport stamp to those arriving.

“It’s making people aware of our right of freedom,” Mr. Jarrar says, adding that the stamp is part of a wider art project called Live and Work in Palestine. “In Palestine we have no right to decide who we let enter. The Israelis decide, though it’s our land.”

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Bearing the words “State of Palestine” in English and Arabic – as well as a Palestine sunbird feeding on flowers – the stamp symbolizes national aspirations. Two decades of foreign-backed peace talks have failed to produce an independent Palestinian state. Leaders in Ramallah indicated they will go directly to the United Nations in September to ask for statehood. President Obama warned against such a move, saying negotiations are the only way.

“But while we negotiate, they build the settlements,” says Jarrar, echoing the complaint of many residents here.

In the meantime, Jarrar is offering the stamp to those arriving to the West Bank, as well as via a local listserv used by foreigners.

“I can stamp your passport with the State of Palestine stamp as a symbol of having independence for the Palestinians,” he offers. “With this stamp you can tell your friends and have your first stamp from Palestine.”

Since he marked the first passport in April, he says 25 foreign nationals and one Palestinian have taken him up on his offer in a show of solidarity.

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