The King Hussein / Allenby bridge is the only exit point to the outside world and back for West Bank Pslestinians. The old wooden bridge is long gone and its concrete replacement links Jordan and what should be Palestine as it straddles the Jordan river. Calling it a river glorifies it. It is almost a trickle. But on the Palestinian side the border is completely controlled by Israel.
Holders of the Palestinian Authority passport can’t travel directly to the Allenby bridge. They gather at Istirahet Ariha (Jericoh Service station), where a quasi border exists between The PA areas and Israel.
Busses take Palestinians and their luggage to the exit point of the Allenby bridge where their documents are processed and if permitted to travel, and some are denied this right by Iseael, have to locate their luggage and catch another bus to the Jordanian border post, where their documents are processed and luggage searched.
Palestinians from Jerusalem (holders of the blue Jerusalem residency card) can travel abroad through Tel Aviv airport, but in terms of Arab countries they can only fly to Cairo and Amman. Travel to most Arab countries is through Jordan. They travel directly from Jerusalem to the bridge either in a private taxi or share a bus ride. Both type of vehicle carries yellow Iaraeli number plates.
So there are two types of Palestinian here a Jerusalem Pslestinian and a West Bank Palestinian. The third type, Palestinians from Gaza are not allowed to travel via Jordan. Their only exit point is the almost permenatly closed Rafah crossing to Egypt.
To complete the story, a fourth type of Palestinian, those who are Israrli citizens can travel to Jordan and Egypt but not to other Arab countries. Members of the same family can hold different travel documents and be separated at border controls on that basis for processing.
It is truly astonishing that one people living in their homeland can have such different circumstances in their every day life but also when they travel.
On my recent trip to Palestine / Israel, I experienced this first hand. My initial entry point was Tel Aviv airport, where I was processed and admitted quickly. In the past I had endured long waits of two to three hours and some intense questioning. I was joining my wife and son who had travelled before me for a holiday with my in laws.
I had reasons to spend a few days in Jordan. We took a taxi to the Allenby bridge and we were separated because my wife holds a Jerusalem ID card and my din and I hold Britush passports but no Jerusslem ID.
We were processed reasonably quickly and were on our way to the Jordanian side. Again we were separated and had to cart the luggage around between processing points. The whole crossing experience took about three hours.
The return journey was truly upsetting and humiliating. It took about six hours from start to end.
The facilities on both sides are inadequate for dealing with the huge numbers crossing in both directions, particularly during the summer holidays. The bridge us now open for extended hours but we encountered great overcrowding.
The immediate impression is that the Israelis treat the Palestinians as a lesser people. They shout at them in their broken Arabic to push them back in the various queues. If their papers are not completely in order, they send them back as if they are sending back animals. It was truly upsetting.
I heard people round me saying how humiliating the experience is. How the ‘yahud’ or Jews humiliate them as they return to their homeland. ‘When will this end’? I heard a woman ask. ‘The Yahud enjoy this’, I heard another say.
My own experience was bearable. My son and I were separated from my wife on the Jordanian side because of her Jerusalem ID, whereas we have British passports and are regarded as tourists. We were treated very well by the Jordanians, but the facility was very crowded.
Busses took us from the Jordanian to the Israeli side. Boarding was chaotic. There were a couple of waits on the Israeli side before we were allowed off. Then there was the chaos of taking the luggage off the bus and checking it through to the other side.
The personal security check took one hour due to the shear numbers. Again Israeli officials often shouting ‘Rukhi’ or go back in their broken Arabic.
An hour later we got to passport control. My wife was allowed through but my passport and Adam’s were sent to the back office. I was called an hour later and asked of my relation to my wife!
The delay and then mild interrogation were unnecessary but seemed to be designed to show Palestinians with other citizen ships who is boss, the occupier!
“What is your father’s name? Where were your parents born?” As it happens they were both born in Jerusalem. The next question was expected. “Do they have a Jerusalem ID”? No, they never did. A question repeated on two other occasions. The reason for asking the question is that if either dud, they would want to take it away, in their efforts to reduce the number that gave residency rights in Jerusalem. Again what is your father’s name, he asked?
Any way, 20 minutes later we had our visas and took transport home.
A car journey which used to take one and a half hours door to door through open borders before 1967 now can takes up to half a day and lots of humiliation.
Crossing the bridge is ultimate humiliation not only because of the testament they receive but the fact that they are reminded that Israel controls their lives, almost every aspect of it. Most do not speak to Israeli Jews except at checkpoints, to seek permits for various matters and then at the Alkenby bridge.
Israel must realise that the occupation and the humiliating interactions Palestinians have with Israeli Jews add to the hatred and do not bring acceptance.
Separation breeds mistrust and fear of the other. It is time this ended, for everyone’s sake.
شاركت في برنامج العربي اليوم بتاريخ ١٣/٨/٢٠١٥ عن حملة مقاطعة اسرائيل وتضمن النقاش فرنسا وبريطانيا والمغرب. وتطرقنا لتاثير الحملة على الاقتصاد الاسرائيلي.
I joined a discussion in Arabic on the BDS movement, which covered the UK, France and Morocco. It also looked at the economic impact on Israel.
Pro Israel organisations recently launched a vile attack on the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the charity Edukid for developing a resource pack for teachers which depicts the reality of life under Israeli occupation for Palestinian children.
The subject used to tell the story is ten year old Saleh, a Palestinian child from Alkhalil, Hebron. Adults and children in this occupied city suffer terribly from the actions of the Israeli occupation army and the settlers who deliberately make the lives of Palestinians miserable. Both the army and the settlers are there illegally. Hebron fell to the Israeli occupation in the six-day war in 1967. Reports on the attack can be found here, here, here and here.
One objection to the use of Saleh is that he is pictured in a Facebook post holding a gun. This is an Eid present, a toy gun. See below Jewish settler children holding real guns.
Where is the outrage form pro Israel extremists?
I wrote letters to the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Express in response and the main content is reproduced below. Neither has as yet been published.
Dear Editor I am concerned as a Palestinian that the aim of this viscous attack on the National Union of Teachers, mounted by pro-Israel groups is to discredit the work of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and EDUKID simply for accurately portraying the lives of Palestinian children under occupation by Israel.
We Palestinians did not choose our occupiers. Zionists chose Palestine for their state, and created it through violence and against our will, the indigenous people of the land. The telling of our story troubles Israel’s apologists because it exposes the oppressive, occupying state they have worked tirelessly to promote as a democracy and a startup nation. The world is seeing through this hasbara and they will now attack anyone that is determined to demonstrate solidarity and tell our story.
By providing real life case studies for teachers, of children that suffer through no fault of their own, the NUT and EDUKID are helping children understand the world beyond their bubble. Children are not stupid, they will engage in a discussion and will learn tremendously form this. It is true to say that Palestinians refer to their occupiers as ‘the Jews’. Are the agitators against the NUT claiming that the Israeli Defense Force is not overwhelmingly made up of Jews?
In almost all cases, the only Jews the children see are soldiers. Furthermore, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu himself works tirelessly to claim Israel is a Jewish, not a secular state. It is also important to note that Israelis almost always refer to Palestinians as ‘Arabs’ in order to deny their national identity.
Instead of this disgraceful assault on the NUT and EDUKID, those behind this attack should invite teachers who joined delegations to Palestine to talk to their constituencies about what they saw first hand. I can guarantee that they would not accept for their children what Israel, through its occupation army and its illegal settlers subjects Palestinian children to.
Better still, they should go and see the situation for themselves. They should visit Alkhalil, Hebron and see the impact on the children of the occupation and the illegal settlers. They should see how settler children throw rocks and excrement at Palestinians, protected by the army. They should see the checkpoints the children have to cross to get to school. They should experience the raids in the early hours to abduct children or their relatives for interrogation. They should experience a house demolition and the terror the children experience. It is Palestinain children that are on the receiving end of extremism. The telling of their stories is not! Further, he Senior Conservative MP, Alan Duncan, called those who support the settlements as extremists. Your readers will find that many among those that have attacked the NUT support the settlements and Duncan’s label fits them well!