Palestinians Offer Gaza Flotilla Participants Honorary Citizenship

Activists inclined to turn down offer in wake of Haaretz report stating that PA is preventing passports from being issued to individuals affiliated with Hamas.

Participants in May's Turkish-sponsored flotilla to Gaza have been offered "Palestinian citizenship" as a gesture of thanks. But after learning that the Palestinian Authority is refusing to issue passports to some Gaza residents, most of them decided to decline the offer.

A Hamas policeman checks passports at Rafah

The offer was made about a week ago in an e-mail sent out by a member of IHH, the Turkish group that organized the flotilla. The email told participants they had been invited to "obtain Palestinian citizenship" by receiving a Palestinian passport. Haaretz has not learned who in the PA made this offer to IHH.

But while a lively debate ensued among the participants over whether to accept the offer, many ultimately decided against it, after reading Haaretz's report on the shortage of passports in Gaza and the fact that PA intelligence was preventing passports from being issued to certain individuals - usually either people affiliated with Hamas or people falsely accused of such affiliation.

Some of the participants were evidently unaware of the fact that there is no such thing as "Palestinian citizenship," since there is no Palestinian state, and that receipt of a Palestinian passport would therefore not confer such citizenship. Nor would such a document actually allow its holder to enter the West Bank or Gaza, since Israel, the occupying power, still determines who is permitted to become a "new" resident of these areas.

Hamas granted "diplomatic passports" to participants of the first three flotillas to Gaza, in the summer of 2008, but the holders later discovered the documents had no value beyond the symbolic. Three years ago, the PA issued a Palestinian passport to Israeli conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim as a gesture of appreciation, but this document, too, had only symbolic value.