Aug 18 2016

Need for a paradigm shift

Published by at 10:07 am under Articles,Palestinian politics

Jordan times logo

By Daoud Kuttab

One of the reasons the Palestinian conflict continues without resolution is the fact that the people affected by the Israeli occupation have no democratic power to change their occupiers.

Palestinians can protests, use violence or resort to totally non-violent resistance, and yet nothing happens.

The reason is simple: nearly 4 million Palestinians under occupation cannot vote to change the Israeli government that controls the basic features of their lives.

This paradigm must change in one of two ways: either Palestinians can vote in the general Israeli elections or they are allowed independence and vote for their own sovereign government.

As Palestinian thinker and political strategists professor Sari Nusseibeh put it: “We need to either share the power or share the land.”

At present, Palestinians have neither access to power sharing, through elections, nor share the land by means of the two-state solution. Occupation is the worse option possible.

To put the issue in practical terms, one only needs to look at the travel restrictions, harassment, delays and frustrations every Palestinian is faced with when travelling within the West Bank, between the West Bank and Gaza (practically impossible today) or between the West Bank and Israel (1.8 million Palestinian citizens of Israel have friends and relatives in the West Bank).

However, perhaps, the biggest travel restrictions, harassment and delays happen when a Palestinian in the West Bank wants to travel abroad.

Gazans do not even have that option because of the illegal Israeli siege and the Egyptian apathy to Palestinian’s right to leave and return to Gaza.

The only travel port available to Palestinians in the West Bank to travel anywhere in the world is through the King Hussein Bridge, but the bridge hours are controlled by Israel, which has refused repeated Palestinian requests to have this important port opened 24 hours.

During the hot summer months, travellers — many coming from around the world to spend their vacation in Palestine — have to suffer for as much as 10 to 12 hours to make the two-kilometre crossing. 

The reason, by and large, is simple: there is not enough Israeli staff to pass these huge numbers through.

In any normal country, if there is a problem that affects people, complaints produce results because politicians know that they will not be re elected if they anger their constituency.

But our situation is different. The people under occupation do not vote and, therefore, the political leadership that makes decisions (or refuses a simple request like opening the bridge 24 hours a day) simply does not care and there is no political punishment that will result from this inaction.

Israelis of course do not travel on the same roads and certainly have never suffered through an eight-hour wait at the King Hussein Bridge. They travel by way of the Lod airport, which is denied to Palestinians.

The Palestinian government, which can technically do something about this problem, is trying to help, but with little result. 

Most Palestinian officials fail to understand the depth of this problem because, for the most part, they use the special VIP route and get through the bridge crossing in less than half an hour.

The VIP service, which runs for $150 a person, is not affordable to most Palestinians who have to wait in the bus until the Israelis give the green light and allow the bus to move.

Neither have Palestinian officials been able to solve yet another problem, namely the difficulties and restrictions imposed by Jordan on Palestinians of Gaza origin living in the West Bank. 

This group, which counts about 40,000 people, is literally stuck.

After gaining official change of residency to the West Bank, they cannot return to Gaza, yet Jordan asks that they apply for permission to travel to or through Jordan.

This permission, which in the past was given automatically, has left many Palestinians unable to travel for business, study or vacation because of an unspecified condition. 

It is hard to believe that a Palestinian who received a visa to travel to The Netherlands or the US is not allowed to enter Jordan for, say, security reasons.

Palestinians have been living for 50 years under an unjust and illegal occupation. Every possible effort to change their travel paradigm has run into a brick wall. 

Without being able to choose the individuals who govern them and their lives, the people living in the West Bank and Gaza will continue to stay in this vicious circle.

No responses yet

Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.