KAWASMI: New Organization Works to Improve Movement for Palestinians August 16, 2009

Allenby Bridge sign

by Hazem Kawasmi – The Palestine Telegraph – 15 August 2009

Travelling to Jordan from the West Bank takes two hours directly by car. My father tells me that, before 1967, he used to go to Amman from Jerusalem early in the morning, see the family and do some business, and get back the same day or late that night.

However, today, and due to Israeli inhuman measures, it takes very long hours reaching to 8-12 hours of humiliation and suffering, as if one is travelling to Thailand by plane.

There is no reason why Palestinians living in the West Bank cannot travel to Jordan using their own cars!

Palestinian Jerusalemites can travel to Jordan using their own cars. But the stupidity of the Israeli measures is that they force Jerusalemites to go to Tiberia through Sheikh Husein Bridge in order to go to Amman, which is 400 additional kilometers, in addition to the high costs. There is no reason why Jerusalemites cannot travel to Jordan using Allenby/King Husein Bridge!

Today, a Palestinian living in any city in the West Bank has to wake up at 1:00am or may not sleep that night, in order to reach the Bridge early. If you live in Jericho, you can see West Bank cars travelling to the bridge around 2:00 or 3:00am. However, the Bridge does not open until 8:00am, meaning that people go early only to reserve a place in order to be able to enter the bridge that day. This is for normal people and does not apply to ministers or PA officials who have special VIP treatment and do not have to go through the suffering that normal people do.

The worst nightmare for West Bankers is that they do not go directly to Allenby/King Husein Bridge, but first for something called Rest, or in Arabic, “Istiraha”. Nobody knows why they have to go to this humiliation point, but people do not know where to go to complain about it or about anything else. The way people are treated and the way their bags are thrown is only a sign of humiliation and neglect. This place is under the control of Palestinian Authority and they are definitely doing a bad job, and they cannot justify it by Israeli occupation. The PA in this place is only adding to the misery of their people and to the humiliation that the Israelis are inflicting on them throughout the rest of the journey.

On their way to Jordan, moving from one point on the bridge to another, from one Palestinian station, to another Israeli station, to another Jordanian station, Palestinians pay the hell of money, face the hell of obstacles and humiliation, and are treated in total contradiction of international or human law. While a passenger from Amman pays only 9 dinars to get to Damascus, the same passenger pays hundreds of shekels to get to Jerusalem, although Jerusalem is much closer to Amman than Damascus. Jordanians travel to neighboring countries like Syria or Lebanon with very minimal rates, while Palestinians who are poor people and living under occupation have to pay the hell of money to the Palestinian Authority, and to the Israeli government and to the Jordanian government, only to travel to Amman. The three governments care only about milking the poor Palestinian citizen and nobody cares about him. It is not understood why the Jordanian government recently imposed a ten dinar fee on Palestinians when they enter Jordan though the bridge.

The worst is that it does not stop with the huge fees that Palestinians pay when travelling to Jordan. Palestinians face the hell of measures and are treated as prisoners of war when they travel through the bridge. People are forced to stay in closed old buses for six hours, without water or toilets or anything. They are not allowed to open the windows because of the air conditioning, while the air conditioning is not working. They are not allowed to get out of the buses, and the children keep crying because they want water or fresh air and the elderly or the sick or anybody who has a weak heart or came out of a surgery has to suffer and nobody cares about these humans, because they look at them as slaves.

It is normal to see on the Israeli side of Allenby bridge only one police lady doing the work for 7,000 Palestinians. And when I asked to see the manager of the bridge and talked to her, she told me that it is Saturday holiday and we cannot bring more than one employee, and of course the hell with the people who are waiting for hours with their kids. She says this because she knows that nobody cares about Palestinians, while she knows that even on Saturdays border terminals, including Ben Gurion Airport, is open 24 hours without closing one minute, and always full of staff. Allenby/King Husein Bridge should be open 24 hours all days of the week including Fridays and Saturdays.

With the technology today, and with the security machines that the U.S. has bought for Israel, that can check a bus in few minutes scanning, why people have to get out of the bus and then in the bus, and then out of the bus again, and likewise all the time with their children or disadvantaged people or sick people. A bus should leave any city in the West Bank and go directly to Amman, while being checked as is by this modern machine for few minutes when passing by the bridge, without the need for people to leave the bus at all, and there is no need to throw the luggage out of the bus in the dirt and dust. They can pay ten Jordanian Dinars, or 15 dollars, before they leave Nablus, for example, and should not pay anything along the way. We are not making magic here or dreaming about miracles. This is done in neighboring countries, and this is done in Israel, too. If one wants to travel outside Israel from Jerusalem, he pays 10 dollars transport to the airport, and then goes to the plane without paying any additional fees. There is no tax for leaving Israel; they cancelled it. Why is it only imposed on the Allenby Bridge to Amman on the poor Palestinians? Why do Palestinians in Jerusalem have to pay hundreds of shekels for a permit, and then hundreds for tax on this permit?

There is no logic with everything that is going on the bridge, when travelling to or from Amman to Jerusalem or the West Bank. People are fed up with the procedures and the extremely high costs of travel. They will not stop travelling, because they have to visit their sisters, brothers and families and friends in Amman. Students go there for study, sick people go for health reasons and hospitals, business people go for trade, and many people travel to other countries through Jordan, as it is the only transit corridor for Palestinians in the West Bank. Today, Palestinians decided they will no longer accept slavery.

KARAMA, a new “campaign for the freedom of movement of Palestinians” has been launched on the 25th of July this year, and aims at working on each and every obstacle, physical or financial, in order to allow the Palestinian people travel freely and with dignity. KARAMA has established three committees, namely: legal, economic and PR and communication committee that will investigate the current situation concerning the movement of Palestinians across different borders and crossings. Travelling to and from Amman through Allenby/King Husein Bridge is the first case KARAMA will be working on, but it will not be the only case.

Palestinians today are not able to move in the West Bank because of hundreds of Israeli military checkpoints. They are also not allowed to travel to the Gaza Strip or Jerusalem, and the same for the Gazans who live in a big prison. Books can be written on the misery and humiliation that Palestinians face when moving from one point to another – that is if they managed to get an Israeli permit to move.

The World Bank and many international organizations working in Palestine have emphasized in all reports the importance of freedom of movement for Palestinians in order to get some progress on the ground. But all consecutive governments never listened to international organizations or to anybody. The question now: Will the KARAMA campaign, with its strong start and well-known figures, be able to mobilize all international efforts needed to change things on the ground?

LINK: http://www.paltelegraph.com/palestine/west-bank/1845-new-organization-works-to-improve-movement-for-palestinians

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