Monday, on the first day of the Third Arab Bloggers Meeting, I learned that as many as 12 Palestinian bloggers were denied visas to Tunisia to attend. According to some of the bloggers, the embassies in Ramallah and Cairo (where one blogger was based) claimed that Nawaat is unlicensed (false) and that the conference was not legitimate (conferences are not required to register in Tunis). Only one Palestine-based blogger, Saed Karzoun, was issued a visa. Another Palestinian blogger, with European citizenship, is also in attendance.
Yesterday, the organizers of the meeting–Global Voices, Nawaat Association, and the Heinrich Boell Foundation–issued a formal statement, and today, a number of participants and friends outside the conference issued a statement in solidarity with our Palestinian friends who were unable to attend.
From my perspective, it’s incredibly disheartening to see a free Tunisia deny visas to our fellow bloggers from Palestine. Some outsiders have suggested that some of the bloggers denied visas are “on the wrong side” so to speak, but frankly, I don’t care. All voices must be welcomed. We’re talking about bloggers, who are bound to not only be extremely opinionated, but also are bound to have a diverse range of opinions, and it’s important for us–and frankly, incredibly important for me, as a sort-of outsider–to hear that range, in order to better grasp public opinion in Palestine, something really missing from the discourse in the US.
As much as I’m glad to be here, I’m sad to be missing our Palestinian counterparts, as well as some of our friends, like Ali Abdulemam, who are unable to attend because of their own governments.