Palestinian scientist in key slot at Israeli ministry describes pros and cons of dual identity

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A scientist from East Jerusalem was appointed to a senior position at Israel’s science and technology bureau Sunday, becoming the highest-ranking Palestinian without Israeli citizenship in an official government post.

Dr. Tarek Abu-Hamed at the Aravah Institute in southern Israel. / Jewish Agency for Israel

Dr. Tarek Abu-Hamed at the Aravah Institute in southern Israel. / Jewish Agency for Israel

Tarek Abu-Hamed of Sur Baher, who specializes in the field of chemical engineering, was named as deputy chief scientist of Israel’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Space, the state body responsible for setting national policy on issues such as international scientific collaborations and research and development funding. …

Like most residents of East Jerusalem, Abu-Hamed does not hold Israeli citizenship, but he does have an Israeli identification number and permanent residency status. When Israel annexed the capital’s eastern side in 1980, it offered all its residents full citizenship. However, only a fraction took up the offer.

Abu-Hamed received his BSc in chemical engineering from Ankara University in Turkey and studied for his post-doctorate at Rehovot’s Weizmann Institute of Science in collaboration with the University of Minnesota, focusing his dissertation on oil substitutes for public transportation and renewable energy sources. …

In an interview with Israeli journalist Eliezer Yaari in a yet-to-be-released novel detailing the Sur Baher neighborhood, Abu-Hamed spoke of the “schizophrenia” and dual identity that many East Jerusalemites experience on a daily basis. “The Arabs of East Jerusalem have a number of advantages,” Abu-Hamed said. “You travel the world with a Jordanian passport, you can visit Arab states and leave the country with Israeli travel documents,” he said.

“The dual passports hold a mirror to our schizophrenic situation: We don’t want Israel, but we really do want it.”


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