Israeli Arab writer to Beirut

High Court orders state to allow author Ala Hlehel to accept prize in Lebanon.

The High Court of Justice on Tuesday overruled a decision by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and granted permission to Israeli Arab author Ala Hlehel to enter Lebanon to receive an award as winner of the “Beirut 39” literature competition.
The event is scheduled to take place between April 14 and April 18. Hlehel arrived in London on Tuesday afternoon and was due to fly to Beirut on Wednesday.
According to Adalah, Tuesday’s decision marks the first time the High Court has ordered the state to allow an Israeli citizen to travel to an enemy country.
Until the last minute, it was not certain Hlehel would be going.
The author was informed that he had won the prize in August 2009 and immediately submitted a request to the Interior Ministry for permission to enter Lebanon. According to the 1948 Emergency Regulations, anyone wishing to enter an enemy country as defined in the Prevention of Infiltration Law must obtain a permit from the prime minister or minister of interior. Lebanon one of the countries classified as an enemy state.
Hlehel did not receive an answer from the Interior Ministry. Finally, in March, attorneys Hassan Jabareen and Haneen Naamnih, petitioned the High Court on his behalf.
The petitioners demanded that Hlehel be allowed to go to Beirut and that the state prepare clear and written regulations and criteria to determine what might qualify an Israeli wishing to visit the countries classified as “enemy” for a permit.
The state refused to issue a permit, replying that the ban on travel to these countries was sweeping and that the only exceptions made were in extreme humanitarian cases. It also informed the court that it had issued 850 permits in 2004 and 2005 and 950 permits in 2006.
During the hearings, the court told the state to ask Netanyahu if he would reconsider the Interior Ministry decision. Netanyahu declined to do so.
On Tuesday, the court handed down an interim decision, calling on the state to explain why it had not established written regulations and criteria to objectively determine who was eligible to visit these countries. Regarding the urgent matter of Hlehel’s request, the court ruled that he must immediately be given a permit to visit Lebanon.
“The state will allow Hlehel to go to Lebanon between April 14 andApril 18 to receive the literary prize he was granted in the ‘Beirut39’ competition,” wrote Justices Esther Hayut, Hanan Meltzer andYitzhak Amit.
They added that “the state said it had no negative information aboutHlehel. We would like to add that the overall policy guiding the stateregarding this matter is reasonable per se. However, in refusing toallow Hlehel to go, the state did not examine all the relevantconsiderations regarding this special and exceptional case.”
According to Adalah, Hlehel, who currently lives in Acre, “is aprolific author, playwright, screenplay writer, lecturer, linguisticeditor and translator. In recent years, prominent publishing houses inthe Arab world have published his books. Some of them have beentranslated into foreign languages.”
He has won the Al-Qattan Palestine Culture Award and the Education andAssociation award three times. He also won the best screenplay award inthe 2004 Adam Flint competition in the Tel Aviv International StudentsFilm Festival. Two of his plays, The Absolutely DedicatedSoldier and Telegram have been performedon the Israeli stage.