Sep 23 2010

Reality Check in Palestine/Israel

Published by at 12:21 pm under Articles,Palestinian politics

(This was published in September 23rd, 2010)

By Daoud Kuttab

Just when one thought that the direct peace talks might be able to produce a breakthrough, one got an awakening jolt.

Crossing the bridge over the Jordan River must be the world’s worst gift that keeps giving. This gift has been giving grief, anger, frustration and an overall realisation of what the occupation is all about.

September 18 is a case in point. Palestinians, and others, wishing to cross the nearly dried up river into the West Bank faced over 10 hours of unnecessary wait. Women, men, senior citizens and infants were caught up in this 44-year-old continuous drama.

If ever there was a case for the end of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and people, it is in the confrontation between an apathetic but well-armed, small Israeli military force that holds up thousands of Palestinians simply wanting to go back home after a summer break or a short trip to Jordan.

The Israelis succeeded, over decades of the brute force of occupation, to tame the Palestinians into accepting the unacceptable. The sight of families waiting in long lines after having been cooped up for hours in buses without much of a murmur shows clearly the victory of the gun over human dignity.

While Palestinians may not have been totally defeated, they seem resigned to the reality of occupation and the near impossibility of change.

The problem facing nearly 4,000 Palestinians who were at the Israelis’ mercy to let them in could be solved if one were dealing with one’s own governmental powers. But Israel’s is not a government interested in the well-being of the people. Making people wait demonstrates the utter lack of humanity of a foreign military occupier that has no care for the well-being of the people it has found itself responsible for.

The act inhuman, especially as Israelis say that this week is the week of holidays. Yom Kippur had been celebrated a day earlier with a total closure of the bridge, barring hundreds who had arrived from Queen Alia International Airport. The day after Yom Kippur is usually a little bit busy, so what if people have to wait?

The holidays, that include the week of Sukkoth, mean that the Israeli staff at the bridge is very thin. A few Druze and non-practising Israelis can be found to man various positions, but the numbers, the Israelis admit, are much lower than normal or needed.

Ironically, Israel has no problem increasing the security points but is unwilling to put up enough staff to make the only entry point for all Palestinians move quickly.

Asked if the issue was money, I was told by the person in charge of the bridge that it is enough to cover the expenses. An East Jerusalemite pays NIS360 ($100) every time he or she leaves the bridge. West Bankers pay NIS140 ($40) each time.

Israelis would never think of reducing the airport staff at Ben Gurion or at any other locations serving them, but this is King Hussein Bridge, a crossing point that serves unimportant, less than human, individuals. A skeleton staff is all that is going to be made available, and let the “natives” suffer.

Such callous behaviour can be seen replicated all over Palestine, whether at checkpoints like Qalandia or in settler arrogance and unbridled thuggery, or in the various other restrictions that Israelis place on the Palestinians. No attempt is even made to make the connection between peace process and the situation on the ground. During previous peace efforts, Israel would make some goodwill gestures, such as releasing prisoners or relaxing restrictions.

With such a disconnect between the peace process and the reality on the ground, one has to believe that peace, if it ever arrives, will not be an incremental process. Things will not improve gradually, rather, if anything does come out of the talks, change will most probably be sudden. In other words, there is no possibility of making the occupation pretty. A foreign military occupier along with a colonial racist settler policy cannot reconcile with peace and human dignity. There is no compromise on the need to end this ugly occupation.

Palestinian and Israeli negotiators know very well what the outline of any peace agreement will be. What is needed is not months or years to negotiate, but the political will to make the difficult choices that will result in the end of the occupation and the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

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