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Living Without Your Name

My friend’s wife was accepted to a PhD program at McGill University in Montreal.

They decided to move to Canada with their two children at about the same time that I was offered a fellowship at Princeton and decided to move with my family to New Jersey for a year.

Hoping to rent out our apartments while we’re away, we both posted ads on the most popular website in Israel.

I received about five calls a day and found a tenant within a couple of weeks.

My friend received only three calls in four weeks, and none of the people who called came to look at his flat.

A few days ago he removed his ad from the website and posted a new one, only this time he changed his name from Hussein to Rami. Rami is an ethnically indeterminate name – it can be either Jewish or Palestinian – but there are no Jews called Hussein.

Within three days ‘Rami’ received about thirty phone calls, and six people came to look at the flat. He expects to sign a lease with one of them tomorrow.

In Israel, if you are a Palestinian and want to rent a flat, at times, to misquote Arthur Miller, you have to live without your name.

Neve Gordon is an Israeli activist and the author of and author of Israel’s Occupation (University of California Press, 2008). He can be contacted through his website www.israelsoccupation.info

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Neve Gordon is a Leverhulme Visiting Professor in the Department of Politics and International Studies and the co-author of The Human Right to Dominate.

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