Senior Palestinian official says she was refused US visa

Veteran negotiator Hanan Ashrawi, who has in the past met US leaders, describes denial as ‘pettiness.’

PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi
Hanan Ashrawi has been a longtime aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas [File: Getty Images]

A senior Palestinian official has said she was denied a United States travel visa, amid worsening relations between the two sides.

Hanan Ashrawi, a longtime aide to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, announced on Monday that she had been turned down without receiving a justification.

“It is official! My US visa application has been rejected. No reason given,” Ashrawi said on Twitter.

Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee and former minister, has been involved in Palestinian politics for decades and has won multiple awards for her work.

She said she had been invited to a series of speaking engagements at think tanks and universities in the US and also planned to visit relatives living there.

Ashrawi, 72, has previously studied in the country and typically visits several times each year.

“This administration has decided I do not deserve to set foot in the US I just hope someone can explain this to my grandchildren & all the rest of my family there,” she said in a tweet.

“I’m over 70 and a grandmother; I’ve been an activist for Palestine since the late 1960s; I’ve always been an ardent supporter of nonviolent resistance.”

Asked whether the visa denial was political, she told The Associated Press news agency: “Of course,” calling it “pettiness and vindictiveness.”

A US State Department official told Reuters News Agency: “US law does not authorise the refusal of visa based solely on political statements or views if those statements or views if those statements or views would be lawful in the United States. Visas may be denied only on grounds set out in US law.” 

Strained relations

Relations between the US and the Palestinians have been strained since President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017.

The Palestinians see the eastern part of the disputed city as the capital of their future state and cut ties with the Trump administration in response.

Since then, the Palestinians have seen cuts to US funding that have contributed to economic distress in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Trump is expected to release a long-delayed peace plan in the coming months.

In a recent tweet, Ashrawi referred to Trump’s peace envoy Jason Greenblatt as a “self-appointed advocate/apologist for Israel”.

In February, Greenblatt tweeted that Ashrawi was “always welcome” to meet him at the White House. A month later, after Ashrawi condemned Israeli military raids in Hamas-ruled Gaza, he tweeted at her: “Stop hurting Palestinians w/bad judgement”.

Last month, Omar Barghouti, a Palestinian leader of an international campaign to boycott Israel, said he was refused a US travel visa as “part of Israel’s escalating repression”.

Source: News Agencies