2nd try: Ali Abunimah's notes

Abu Nasr abu-nasr at SPAMusa.net
Wed Jun 14 11:29:53 MDT 2000


Dear Everybody!

I apologise for the faulty posting.  My e-mail is causing great trouble right
now.  I will attempt to send the same message again, but if it again fails,
I'll try later.

Revolutionary greetings!

Abu nasr.
---------------------
Here is a vivid account of his recent visit home by Ali Abunimah, an
exceptionally articulate Palestinian based in Chicago. If you want a feel for
what daily life is like under the rule of the Zionists and their so-called
"Palestinian Authority" read on:

Revolutionary greetings!

Abu Nasr

Ali Abunimah's Notes on a visit to Palestine follow:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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June 13, 2000

Dear Friends,

I am still on my travels, but I thought I'd share with you some notes from
my recent visit to Palestine.

best,

Ali Abunimah
ali at abunimah.org
http://www.abunimah.org


A Brief Exchange of Views

I had resolved to be as meek as necessary to ensure that the Israeli
officials did not stamp my passport. But I could not and did not try to
hide my grim face as I stood in line to be greeted by the Israeli security
officials, after coming off the bus that brought me across the Allenby
Bridge from Jordan. The atmosphere is oppressive, but far less so for me
traveling as a "tourist" on a foreign passport, than for Palestinian
residents of the occupied territories, who have to go through a separate
terminal. When my turn came, the officer directing people through the
metal detector and x-ray, a young woman, said without any discernible
warmth, "Welcome to Israel, why don't you smile?"
I answered simply, "I am not in Israel."
Officer: Oh, where do you think you are?
Me: You know that we are in occupied territory.
Officer: You should visit Israel, then. It's a lovely country.
Me: I know that, its my country, after all.
Officer: Is it so terrible to pass by Israelis? You could at least smile.
Me: I wish I had a choice. If I want to come to the country, I have to
pass through you. Perhaps when the country is free it will be easier to
smile.

They let me through with no difficulty. Gone are the days when Israel
cared what you say. After all Yasir Arafat and Sheikh Yasin live with them
today saying what they like. I wait on the other side for my cousin Z. who
has to go through the Palestinians-only terminal, since he is a West Bank
resident. In that terminal, Palestinians first pass their documents to a
Palestinian Authority official. Behind the PA official is a one-way glass
window. The PA officer says to my cousin, "Face the mirror so she can see
you." "She" is the Israeli officer standing unseen behind the glass. The
PA official then passes the travel document under a slot in the glass,
where it is inspected by the Israeli, who actually decides if he can enter
or not. This is the fiction of Palestinian "authority" in action.

Shake Down City

After going through Israeli security at the bridge, we board a bus which
brings us to a place optimistically called "al-Istiraha" (The Resting
Place), on the edge of Jericho, within the Palestinian Authority's "self
rule" area. A less restful place is hard to imagine, consisting as it does
of a vast concrete plaza covered with a corrugated steel roof. There are
rows of wooden benches, filthy latrines, and a snack bar with over-priced
Israeli-made chips and sodas. Noise and heat reign as arriving travelers
struggle with suitcases, boxes and children, and look for the friends and
relatives who have come to receive them. Traders strap impossibly high
towers of boxes of goods brought from Jordan to the roof racks of beaten
yellow taxis. As soon as we get off the bus a man thrusts his hand at me
with a ticket and demands "wahad shekel" (one shekel). What for? Jericho
municipality demands one shekel for each piece of luggage or parcel
brought into the "Istiraha," where all travelers must make a compulsory
stop. All cars arriving to pick up passengers must pay 10 shekels (3
dollars) for the privilege of entering the Istiraha.

There is a profusion of uniforms: PA "customs" officials wear old US
Desert Storm uniforms, the police wear blue fatigue pants and T-shirts
which say "Palestinian Authority" in Arabic. Others, their allegiance
unclear, wear traditional olive colored uniforms. I see one man with no
uniform but with a 9 mm automatic pistol shoved into the back of his
jeans, barking orders at travelers. Some officials hurry about, others
lean lazily in pairs or trios smoking and passing the time. The sense of
order and linear progression that exists in the Israeli terminal is
totally absent at the Istiraha. My cousin Z. tells me that before 1990,
cars could go right up to the bridge terminal, making the bus fare, the
mandatory stop and all the various little charges unnecessary.

Coming into the West Bank is one thing, but going out is much worse. In
addition to all the little charges for cars and luggage, all Palestinian
travelers must pay a "departure tax." This amounts to 115 shekels ($ 40)
for every man woman and child, even newborn babies. This revenue is split
between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli occupation authorities.
In addition, travelers pay another 35 shekels which goes only to the
Israelis. Needless to say these charges are an enormous burden on
Palestinian families, especially those with many children who are
traveling to Jordan to visit relatives. As a "foreign tourist," I pay only
a $32 "transit fee" to the Israelis when I go through the separate
"tourist" terminal on the way out.

The cars coming and going from the Istiraha tell the story of rich and
%

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