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July 3, 2013

Where is Palestine?

Reuel S. Amdur

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On May 15, the blog "Window into Palestine" carried a story about a Palestinian-Canadian who found a strange government form on the internet. The Canadian Adult Simplified Renewal Passport Application asked place of birth, and the answer was to be chosen from a drop-down menu. For Palestinians born in the West Bank, the entry was "West Bank of Jordan-Jordan."

On behalf of the Canadian Charger we e-mailed the media relations contact site on the passport office window to ask why.  No response.  An e-mail to media relations for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) resulted in the same non-response.

At the Nakba commemoration on Parliament Hill on May 21, Dr. Their Elrefai, whose family was forced to flee Palestine in 1948 when he was a child, was asked about this designation for the land of his birth.  Here is his reply.

“I am a Palestinian.  Under the British Mandate, it was Palestine.  Before that, under the Ottoman Empire, it was Palestine.  Before that, under the Byzantine Empire, it was Palestine.  Under the Greeks and Romans, it was Palestine.”

As the expression goes, having dealt unsuccessfully with the monkeys, I went up the ladder to the organ grinder in charge, with an e-mail on June 4 to the office of John Baird, Minister of DFAIT. 

On June 10, an e-mail from a DFAIT spokesperson popped into my Outlook Express.  “Good afternoon.  In response to your question, this has been updated and reflects Canadian government policy.”  That internet form no longer has a drop-down menu.  In its place is a blank for the applicant to fill in the country of birth.

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