Stamping Art Into Passports (VIDEO)

Around 100 countries wordwide recognize Palestine as a sovereign state, and the same amount of nations even maintain diplomatic relations with its government.  This September, Palestine plans to declare itself an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, naming East Jerusalem as its capital, and it has been asking the UN for support and approval.

Yet until then, Palestine is still an occupied territory, meaning it holds no rights to set up foreign controls.  Foreigners visiting the West Bank and Gaza Strip are ushered through Israeli checkpoints instead, and their passports are only given Israeli entry stamps.

On the other side of the Israeli checkpoint in Ramallah is Khaled Jarrar, a 35-year-old Palestinian art student who offers tourists another stamp he created to represent the territory they’re about to enter. 

“I thought that there is no stamp for the state of Palestine, no one is stamping the people who are coming to the state of Palestine,” he explained.  “So, I thought that I would do it, and start stamping passports.”

His design is small, just a round imprint bordered with the phrase “State of Palestine” in both Arabic and English.  In the middle is his drawing of the Palestinian Sun Bird flying near a patch of flowers.  Jarrar also created an accompanying Facebook page for the project called “Live and Work in Palestine.”  The page has harnessed over 1,500 fans, 500 of which joined it within its first 24 hours.

“I believe in art that makes a difference, that talks about change,” Jarrar said.  “My art is making a political statement.”

While a few tourists refuse out of fear of getting harassed by Israeli authorities, most have been very receptive and more than willing to hand over their passports.

“I’m very supportive of the Palestinian cause, and I think this is occupation,” said Morjana Benedetti, a tourist from Italy.  She had Jaffar stamp page nine of her passport because it’s her favorite number.  “So I find it outrageous that they don’t have the right to have their own authority.  So I think this is a symbol of them, it’s silly, but it’s like a country.  I get a stamp of Israel but I don’t get a stamp of Palestine?  Like this, I have a stamp of Palestine.”

“I decided to have my passport stamped, the Palestinian stamp, because I believe this land belongs to the Palestinians,” said Zanet Stepian, a tourist from Poland.  “And my Israeli stamp is on a separate sheet of paper which I can throw away later.”

Yet it’s not just foreign tourists who are eager to spread the message, but travelers who have citizenship ties to Israel as well.  “Luckily, I had the perfect place for the stamp, ” Alison Avigayil Ramer, who holds both an American and an Israeli passport, wrote on her blog.  “Directly above my Israeli immigration ID, which Israeli immigration required me to put in my American passport.”

Will Jarrar’s stamp succeeds as a catalyst for change?  It’s still too soon to tell.  Yet its greatest strength is in pushing the boundaries that diplomacy has failed to negotiate in the first place.  The Palestinian stamp is more than a piece of political art, it’s also an intervention, one that demands dialogue in its questioning of negotiations, occupation and who has a say in immigration and border patrol.

“In regards to the question of statehood, I think I have sent the message,” Jarrar said.  “I think I have done what I can.”

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Photo courtesy of ninasaurusrex via Flickr


Dena Elsaffar
Dena El Saffar6 years ago

Haters are gonna hate. I, however, am going to "like" this on Facebook!

Marie W.
Marie W6 years ago

Palestine is not and never was a State.

Beth S.
Beth S6 years ago

The vast majority of Palestinian Arabs who are not Israeli citizens are hell bent on the complete annihilation of Israel, and since most of Arab Islam has been Nazified (Muslim Brotherhood and the Nazis collaborating in WWII and after), the stated objective is annihilation of worldwide Jewry.

(Israeli Arabs have more rights in Israel than Arabs in Arab countries.)

Elizabeth Koenig
Elizabeth Koenig6 years ago

Unfortunately, any state of Palestine will be used as a launching pad for Jihad against Israel, just as Gaza has. It is not just Hamas that refuses to recognize Israel, but Fatah as well.

As for those hated checkpoints, they are the only thing keeping Israel safe from suicide bombers. Since the security fence and checkpoints went up, very few terrorists have gotten through.

Tourists who are frustrated by the bureaucracy and delays should remember they have the terrorists to blame.

I imagine artist Khaled Jarrar and the travelers receiving his stamp mean well, but Palestine--unless it changes fundamentally--will not be a peaceful state.

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L6 years ago

Just one more thing, I think Palestine should keep Jarrar's stamp. Very pretty and very appropriate.

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L6 years ago

There are two main things preventing peace between Palestine and Israel, 1. Israeli settlements and 2. the refusal by Hamas to recognize the State of Israel.

I think it would be wise for the UN to give Palestine the recognition it deserves as a State. But I think there should be conditions for all concerned and they should be hammered out by the UN with the representatives of Israel and Palestine. Those conditions should be the immediate hault to any new settlements, the swap of agreed upon land and a demand that Hamas recognize Israel and stop all bombings, etc., towards Israel.

There has been enough blood spilled on both sides, too many sons and daughters who's lives have been take and will never realize their future. There is also enough blame to go around. For the future of their children both sides should be willing to come to the peace table and work out an agreement. Any leader who is unwilling to do this for the children should be put out of office.

The answer is two states with Jerusalem the capital of both. Jerusalem should be spilt with the Israeli populated area as Israel's capital and Palestinian populated area as Palestine's capital.

Ellen Mccabe
Ellen m6 years ago

Kudos to Jarrar! This is exactly the type of small yet effective way to not only raise awareness, but to peacefuly garner support for a cause he and millions more believe in.
My words hold caution also, that Jarrar doesnt get to close to that checkpoint. I'd hate to see him and his art "dissapear"

myra d.
myra d6 years ago

Interesting. Hopefully this story will have a happy ending.

Marilyn Arnest
Marilyn Arnest6 years ago

I would like to see Palestine as a Sovereign State. Maybe I sound like a Pollyanna but I believe that tensions between Israel and Palestine can be worked out if real peace is to be obtained in that area. Both sides really need to set forth a peace plan as Sadat and Carter had hoped to formulate. The Palestinian people should have a modern society just as Israel has. When people REALLY want peace, surely they can find plans to achieve it.

Marianna B M.

thanks for sharing