“Is there an end to this suffering?”

July 5, 2002

In the beginning it was impossible for Palestinians to travel between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Slowly the restrictions have tightened; travelling to Nablus, Tulkaram, Jenin, Hebron and Ramallah is something that used to happen. Villages only six kilometres away are remembered fondly – inaccessible to all.

The latest attack on Palestinians is the total Israeli reoccupation of most of the West Bank and the accompanying 24-hour curfew confining people to their homes, only allowing them to leave their homes for a few hours, every few days.

When the curfew lifts it provides a few hours to stock up on necessities, see families and friends – to remind oneself we are humans, and the world is larger than the our homes and apartments. It also provides a window of opportunity for those who need to travel overseas to leave the Palestinian areas through the only way open to them – the bridge to Jordan.

Students returning to study overseas, people who were visiting family and most importantly those seeking medical treatment overseas are prevented from leaving. The numbers are small enough on a daily basis, however after two weeks it all adds up, and currently hundreds of people are waiting at the Israeli side of the Jordan/Israeli border, forbidden from leaving, unable or unwilling to turn back. Tents have been set up, and people, including the ill and aged, wait and wait.

After arduous detours and journeys on back roads, forbidden to cross checkpoints or even be transferred from ambulance to ambulance, people reach the bridge to find their way blocked once more, as if they need to be reminded of the Israeli occupation and total Israeli control on most aspects of their lives.

However at this point there is one way to leave; if you are too ill to wait your turn, if you will miss your flight, or if you cannot stand the oppressive heat (at the lowest point in the world temperatures soar to 50°C in summer) the flies, dirt and dust it is possible to leave with a ‘VIP’ car. The Israeli firm providing the ‘VIP’ bus service, which charges $US 90 per person to facilitate the Israel/Jordan journey, is the only company providing such a service at the bridge – a monopoly in other words. Simply put if one is unable to pay, one cannot travel.

As Dr. Barghouthi commented, “this is a form of corruption. However it is unfortunately more than that. Hundreds of people are waiting to cross to Jordan and are not prevented from doing so – and some of their lives depend upon treatment they can receive overseas – and it is denied them. This is nothing more than another example, if we really require it, that the policies practised by the Israeli army have nothing to do with security – rather it is just an example of their racist behaviour towards Palestinians, to increase further increase their misery. It makes one ask is there an end to this suffering?”

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