Relationships between Palestinian refugees have deepened where previously they lacked a unifying entity for three decades. The Arab Spring has restored and strengthened this bond. Adel Abdel Rahman, supervisor of "New Egyptians" page on Facebook said: "we made up the page last march, through which we appealed for the first peaceful protesting event calling for the right of all Palestinian born Egyptian mothers to acquire Egyptian nationality in accordance with law No.154 of 2004." He added:
"despite the fact that this law has been approved since 2004, we had no hope of being granted Egyptian nationality during Mubarak’s reign, and consequently we didn't think to claim our rights. Following the downfall of Mubarak’s regime we acquired Egyptian nationality. Days before, we celebrated the wedding of the first couple whose acquaintance with each other was via the "New Egyptians" page. We hope more social interaction will take place among the Palestinian families."
Perhaps the most important act carried out by the new recipients of Egyptian nationality is their demand for fees to obtain their university certificates to be suspended over the last ten years. M. K. (cannot disclose their identity) said: "before we got the Egyptian nationality, the Egyptian authorities used to treat us as foreigners and impose on us high university fees which most of us couldn't pay. As a consequence our graduation certificates used to be suspended until we paid off the fees, which was impossible for many. But now we went to the relevant authorities in the Tahrir administrative compound to acquire letters directed to university administration stating our acquisition of Egyptian nationality so that we would be exempted from the payment of fees". She added: "those who are still students among those who got the letters were exonerated form the new semester's fees; as for graduates, they are still waiting for a reply that we hope to be positive".
As for the participation in the Egyptian parliamentary elections, L. N. said: “whoever acquired the nationality and was able to get the National Number Card before September was able to cast his vote as any other Egyptian, because the law allows them to; as for those whose cards were delayed due to the huge number of applications submitted, they weren't able to participate". He added: "our participation in the Egyptian election doesn’t mean we will dispense with our Palestinian identity, and we headed to the [Palestinian] embassy and demanded our Palestinian passports. We got the preliminary consent of Said Abu Ali from the Ministry of Interior in Ramallah, but he told us that scrutiny of such a decision is the prerogative of the central authorities and have to be endorsed by president Mahmoud Abbas in person". He added that 40% of Palestinians who acquired the Egyptian nationality by means of their birth to Egyptian mothers are originally holders of Palestinian passports, and what remains is waiting president Abbas' decision". Meanwhile, N. A. said: "after we obtained Egyptian nationality we are keen on strengthening ties between the Egyptian and the Palestinian people and to change the distorted image of Palestinians which had been portrayed by the Egyptian media under the former regime; our first step is to open a branch for the Egyptian-Palestinian Friendship Society, and we embarked on the process of acquiring the approval of the Ministry of Interior. We requested that the location of that society be in Gaza and managed by the Egyptian expatriate community there, while its other branch would be here in Egypt".
Jubilantly, S. A., who recently acquired the Egyptian nationality, said, "at last, we can visit Gaza after we obtained our Egyptian nationality, our access to Gaza has become easier: Now all we have to do is go to the concerned authorities in the Tahrir compound and acquire the necessary entry permits to Gaza Strip. As for me, the cause is simply that I am of a Palestinian origin, and this cause is sufficiently important now to the Egyptian authorities following the Egyptian revolution". S.A. adds, "We won't be satisfied with just visiting Gaza, we have many projects in mind, including the organization of travels to Gaza that would also include Egyptians, in order to acquaint our Egyptian brothers with the suffering of their brethren in the Gaza Strip as a result of the siege imposed on them over the past five years".
L. A, said that despite the suffering of the Palestinian Refugee in Egypt under the former regime, it doesn't mean that all of the Palestinian community in Egypt was living under dire economic conditions, but we have many Palestinian businessmen on whom the former regime put restrictions and deprived them of the possession of land and the establishment of big projects and were to participate in the development of Egyptian, let alone Palestinian, economy. He added," we now have a sizeable number of businessmen who have acquired the Egyptian nationality, and we have vast expectations and aspirations and future plans to establish shared projects in order to increase the volume of investment between the twin countries".
On the political level, the New Egyptians, as they like to call themselves, hope to interact with each other and to work in promoting reconciliation and to end the Palestinian split.
The treatment of Palestinians in the Egyptian airports and crossings has improved. The divisive feelings caused by the former regime have changed. Moreover, the Egyptian authorities have granted their approval to the opening of the Friendship society in Gaza, a society that would provide services to the Gaza residents of those who acquired the Egyptian nationality. Statistics show that 30% of those who applied for Egyptian Nationality by birth to Egyptian mothers are residents of the Gaza Strip.
Volume 2, issue 1, Spring 2012, Third Edition Journal of Palestinian Refugee Studies