Munthi Fahmi
Munthi Fahmi Photo by Daniel Bar-On
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Leading Israeli authors Amos Oz and David Grossman have added their support to efforts to head off the deportation of an East Jerusalem bookstore owner whose shop at the American Colony Hotel specializes in works about the Arab-Israeli conflict and has been a major destination over the years for diplomats and foreign journalists.

As reported a week ago in Haaretz, the bookshop owner, Munther Fahmi, who was born in East Jerusalem, became subject to deportation after his status as an Israeli resident ended because he had spent about 20 years living in the United States and received American citizenship. Fahmi has filed a request with the inter-ministerial committee authorized to grant exceptions to the denial of residency rights.

He began returning to Israel on his American passport, generally on a tourist visa, and would leave and reenter to renew the visa. About a year and a half ago, the Interior Ministry informed Fahmi that it would no longer renew his visa even though he has lived here for 17 years or so, running the bookstore and although his family also lives in Jerusalem.

Most Palestinians from East Jerusalem, including Fahmi, never opted for Israeli citizenship and were instead given Israeli residency rights.

A petition urging the government not to deport him has garnered 1,500 signatures, among them publishers and writers, including most recently Oz, Grossman British historian Eric Hobsbawm and British author Ian McEwan, the winner of this year's Jerusalem Prize for literature.

Among the other signatories on the petition on Fahmi's behalf are Helena Kennedy of the British House of Lords and the Jerusalem-based literary agent Deborah Harris.