Sajil! Ana ‘arabi. Please.

My birth certificate and my parents’ wedding certificate are laid out on the table in front of me along with a transcription I’m working on for a professor. I could translate the certificates myself, given that I transcribe Arabic to English as a Research Assistant on a regular basis, but we need an official translation, stamped and all, to maneuver the bureaucratic process of getting a Jordanian ID and passport. This process has been the following: energetic me running in place to no avail, people claiming to help me, grown-ups failing to understand why I want such identification in the first place.

After all, I am a privileged American. Who needs a Jordanian ID and passport when you have the much more valuable US versions? Besides, am I not Palestinian? At the expense of sounding like a victim, I find it important to point out what being a ’48 diaspora Palestinian means. It means all we have left on paper of our Arab identity is Jordanian citizenship. It means the Palestinian Authority hardly recognizes me as a human being, let alone a Palestinian one. It means the only concrete ties I have in Palestine are distant relatives in Ramallah and my grandfather’s abandoned house near al-Lydd. It means when, if ever, I enter Palestine, I am compelled to enter as an American tourist. It means the PA will only recognize me if I climb Mount Everest or win Arab Idol. So let me have my Jordanian citizenship in peace, or find me a way to get the Palestinian one.

I was reminded of my standing in Beirut’s airport. “Where are you originally from?” “I’m American; you see my passport.” “No, but where are you originally from. Your parents?” I hesitate to say it: “Jordan.” I am as proudly Palestinian as they come, but on paper my parents are Jordanian. And what am I on paper? American. The customs officer continues in his Lebanese dialect: “do you have the passport?” “No, just my American one.” He seems unimpressed. I resist blurting out all my angst at him: do you think I’m happy with this? Do you think I’m proud of myself for not having an Arab passport or that I think I deserve special treatment? I yearn for any sort of Arab identification, but the world is making it impossible!

Sajil! Ana ‘arabi. Write down! I am an Arab.*

A similar situation took place at a Dead Sea public beach. I really am not cheap, but it pains me to have to pay the foreigner’s admission fee (as opposed to the Jordanian fee) in Amman. After a fruitless attempt to convince the cashier to let me pay the native admission price, using the best Jordanian dialect I could muster, I sucked it up and paid as a tourist. Immediately upon entering, I stormed WhatsApp to chastise my parents: “why don’t I have a Jordanian ID? I hope you are happy I just paid more than double what I should have.” This wasn’t about the money, but I don’t know if they realized that. It was resentment I felt deep inside, a frustration that I had been kept away from the lands in which I belong then treated like a tourist when I returned to them.

When I thought about going to get the ID myself, I couldn’t do it without my parents’ help. I need the Family Notebook, which we need to either find or start. In the meantime, I will continue to insist that such identification is worth attaining, despite the sentiments I feel are surrounding it.

“You silly girl. You think you’re going to live in Amman or something? You would never survive there. Why do you think those before you left in the first place?” No, of course no one is crude enough to say this, but I see it in their eyes. Or maybe it’s a paranoid reflection of my own subconscious.

*Reference to Mahmoud Darwish’s poem, “Identity Card” (1964).

Serene Darwish

Serene Darwish is a Palestinian college student residing in the United States. She was part of the founding of Beyond Compromise and was an editor at its conception. She can be reached by e-mail at


  1. you have my heart-my empathy-my hunger for justice..

  2. Miss Aida says:

    While what you say it’s true, and I can perfectly understand how hard it must be not having any right to visit your homeland besides the right all of us internationals get…. the truth is the PA is not allowed to give any kind of ID to any Palestinians of the diaspora, be them refugees or simply people who left Palestine, internally displaced palestinians, or Palestinians displaced in 1948 or displaced in 2012…. The PA can only give IDs after Israel aproves them, and they will never accept any passports, permits or IDs for diaspora Palestinians.

    Not saying the PA is extremely concern with diaspora Palestinian, because it’s not, but the power to help them by handing out IDs or passports is not in their hands.

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