On 24 March 2010, Adalah submitted a petition to the Supreme Court of Israel on behalf of the author Ala Hlehel, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, to visit Lebanon to receive the prestigious literature award "Beirut 39".
According to Israeli law (emergency regulations pertaining to leaving the country), Israeli citizens and residents are banned from visiting states defined as an "enemy state" (Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Yemen, Iran) without a permit issued by the Interior Minister or the Prime Minister.
Adalah argued in the petition that the failure of the Interior Minister and the Prime Minister to issue a decision on Mr. Hlehel's request for a permit to visit Lebanon violates his constitutional right to leave the country and his rights for freedom of employment and freedom of expression as well as his due process rights for a fair hearing. The petition was submitted by Adalah Attorneys Haneen Naamnih and Hassan Jabareen.
Ala Hlehel, 35 years-old, is a Palestinian Arab citizen of Israel. He was born in the village of Jish in the Galilee in the north and lives currently in Akka (Acre). He is married and a new father. Mr. Hlehel is a prolific author, playwright, screenplay writer, lecturer, linguistic editor and translator. In recent years prominent publishing houses in the Arab world have published his books; some of his books have been translated to foreign languages.
In August 2009, Mr. Hlehel was declared a winner of the prestigious literature competition "Beirut 39", held for the first time in Beirut. The competition is part of the Beirut World Book Capital, an event that takes place as an initiative of UNESCO. "Beirut 39" is supported by The Hay Festival, the Lebanese Culture Ministry and the British Council. The Hay Festival is a world known entrepreneur in the field of culture and literature.
Mr. Hlehel is highly regarded in literary circles in Israel, as well as in the Arab world. He has received many prizes and awards, including the "Al-Qattan" Palestinian Culture and Education Association award, which he won three times (2000, 2003, 2005), and the best screenplay award in "Adam Flint" competition in the Tel Aviv International Students Films Festival in 2004. He was also one of the four finalists in a prestigious literary competition of the Swiss firm, Rolex, in 2006. A short play that he wrote, "The Absolutely Dedicated Soldier", ran in "Tzavta" theatre in Tel Aviv. Currently he is writing a script for a film that will be directed by filmmaker Hiam Abbas, and working as a program manager with the Palestinian TV channel "Mix".
Immediately after learning that he had won the “Beirut 39” prize, Mr. Hlehel approached the Interior Minister and Prime Minister and requested that he be granted a permit to travel to Lebanon to receive the award. He did not receive any reply to his request.
Requests to visit to states defined as "enemy states" have previously been submitted for various reasons and in various contexts. Many Arab citizens of Israel ask to travel to these countries to visit family members; political leaders seek to attend political conferences; Druze religious leaders request permits to go to Syria to hold religious ceremonies; and journalists, authors, and intellectuals wish to foster cultural connections with the Arab world.
"Regulation 5 of the emergency regulations is a sweeping and draconian order, and therefore clear criteria for exercising the authority to restrict visits to enemy states must be set, while verifying that decisions on these issues are taken in accordance with fair procedures," stated Attorneys Naamnih and Jabareen.
Mr. Hlehel stated that, "For me, Beirut is an integral part of my cultural and creative past, present and future. As a member of the Arab nation, it's my right to be part of its cultural and creative circles. From my point of view, the state is the side that should solve this contradiction with the law, not me".
Case Citation: HCJ 2390/10, Hlehl v. The Minister of the Interior (case pending)