Is Lebanon Blocking Entry to Israeli-Arab Author?

High Court allowed Ala Hlehel to travel to Beirut for literary prize, but he is awaiting Lebanese approval.

Israeli-Arab author Ala Hlehel, who received approval this week from the High Court of Justice to travel to Beirut to collect a literary prize, is still waiting for approval to enter Lebanon, according to a report in London-based newspaper Al-Hayat.

According to the report, the Lebanese embassy in London, where Hlehel is currently staying, has not yet granted the author an entry permit into the country as he is traveling on an Israeli passport.

Organizers of the Hay Festival Beirut39 have tried to resolve the issue of Hlehel's entry, stressing to the embassy that the festival began on Wednesday. They also requested intervention from the Lebanese culture minister.

In issuing its ruling, the court this rejected arguments submitted by state attorneys on behalf of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Interior Minister Eli Yishai.

Generally, it is forbidden for Israeli citizens to visit Lebanon, considered by Israel to be an enemy state. According to the petitioners, this High Court decision marks the "first time since 1948 that an Israeli citizen is permitted to visit a state defined as an enemy state."

The High Court also instructed the state to provide an explanation as to why it has not established clearly defined criteria to enable visits by Israeli citizens to countries deemed "enemy states."

Hlehel was invited to the Hay Festival Beirut39 last month, yet Netanyahu released a statement on Monday in which he declared that he would not permit the author to travel to the Lebanese capital.

Hlehel is one of 39 Arab authors who were invited to receive an award as part of the prestigious festival. This is the first year in which the event will be held in the Lebanese capital, which was declared by UNESCO as the literary capital of the world for 2010.

"I believe that the High Court ruling, which is without precedent since 1948, will serve as a positive step on all matters regarding our relationship, as Arabs in Israel, with the rest of the Arab world," the author said earlier this week, adding, "particularly with states that Israel regards as enemy states."