When humanity fails: The Rafah Border

This is absolutely ridiculous! Here is some of the footage we taped complied in a short report:

I am writing this and I am REALLY hating it. It has been a while since I’ve blogged, however it seems as though most of my posts are becoming about the Rafah border and all the claptrap around it, and I am not in the slightest happy about it. Might as well change the title of my blog into ‘Rafah yesterday, today, and tomorrow: stinging sameness’!!

Jehan Alfarra

Bravo Israel! The Palestinian Cause in Gaza has become the Rafah crossing, amongst a few other things. The Palestinian cause has become an appeal for basic human rights for Palestinians, such as the freedom of movement, the right to medical treatment, and so on. People have gotten to a certain point where all they think about is an easy life and mere survival. Even on an international level, all the attention has been shifted to the closed crossings of this enclave. The international community are rarely addressing the right of return or the rights of Palestinian detainees nowadays, as Israel has successfully managed to create a crisis they deny on a 360km piece of land that would shift all of the world’s attention away from Israel’s immense crimes and expanding settlements.

Anyhow, I will write about this as it makes me absolutely angry at how ugly the Palestinians here in Gaza are being treated, and how this degradation and humiliation has become the daily life of hundreds of human beings holding a Palestinian passport. I have talked in my previous post about the siege and what opening the border would do or mean, and I have also shown my cynicism over the recent ‘permanent opening by Egypt’ news. On Saturday, (July 2) I went to Rafah myself to see what things are like now and if there is any change. I was feeling very indifferent and wore light purple (a colour I usually very much dislike and wear on bad days). It took us an hour to reach the border, and while in the car we were cracking some jokes and being ironic about Rafah and Egyptian statements in this regard. As we reached there and saw the closed gates, anger started building up inside me, slowly. I kept my cool and smile, and we decided to interview people and see what is going on.

It is bitterly funny how we did not have to go and ask people for interviews, everybody just gathered as soon as we got the camera out of the bag and set it up as though we have winning lottery tickets or something! You could tell from the very first minute we got into the waiting ‘tent’ that everybody just wanted to talk, to scream, and to cry their heads off at this absolute humiliation and injustice!

Whereas I tried to keep my smile on, I couldn’t but feel my mind ripping up and my heart squeezing me so tightly as I listened to some of the stories. One Lybian woman was sat with her husband waiting with all the needed documents, reservations, fee receipts, tickets etc. She has married a Palestinian man who has been living in Lybia for years now, and they came a month ago as they heard the news of an ‘open’ border to visit his family. They have been trying to leave for almost a week now, and they aren’t allowed to. He decided to stay longer if it was easier for her to leave by herself to go and stay with their children that are in an awful situation in Libya now with all the bombing that is taking place, but even she is being hindered and is still going back and forth trying to leave.

Another Saudi Palestinian man had just arrived to Gaza, and as he saw the camera with us, he started calling from inside the car he was in. We went up to him and he told us that he had just got in and came to Gaza to visit his family. He is intending to stay for a month as he is a teacher in Saudi and isn’t allowed over a month off, otherwise he might lose his job. The poor man was freaking out because they told him as he got in that he will at least have to stay here for 4 months before he could get out! He wants to reserve a date from now, but he is unable to!

We have met a few people who had Egyptian passports and were still unable to leave. They have reserved at the ministry of interior, they have bought bus tickets, they have gone through all the necessary procedures, and waited for weeks for their turn, and are now being blocked. A man showed us 3 visas on his passport that are all nearly expired, and he is still unable to get out.

A woman who was waiting for her daughter was telling us how her son in law is not allowed to enter Gaza since he was never issued an ID card, and even after we finished filming her, she didn’t stop talking. She was really desperate and wanted somebody to listen. I couldn’t but hug her and smile and tell her that inshallah something good will happen (I don’t really think something will, but I felt completely helpless and had to keep her spirit up).

There was one man who made my tears roll down uncontrollably, he is called Mohammed Zohd. He talked for about 10 minutes and in the end he couldn’t help his tears. He even said, do they want us to cry like women? There is no dignity left for us. This man’s wife is in Jordan now and is giving birth to a little girl soon, and he is unable to go. He got all the documents and papers he needed, the visa, a special permit from Jordan, and a ministry of interior reservation. He waited for weeks to be able to cross, and as soon as he got the stamp from the Palestinian side and reached the Egyptian hall, they canceled his stamp and sent him back as ‘a listed person’. He asked to see intelligence officers or anybody who could tell him why he is ‘listed’, since he has never done anything wrong or was ever involved in any criminal activity, but he was not granted any of that and only got sent back with two words, ‘you’re banned’.

I did cry much, but I also laughed much when we met the tea man. This man is called ‘Fat-hi’, and he has been selling tea for almost seven years now at the Rafah Border. A journalist, Jayab Abusafeya, had written an article about him and his teapot, and made him a fan page on facebook as well, and so when we saw him, he sent a thank you message to Jayab. He poured us some tea from the teapot he carries around, his main source of income, and made our day brighter with his unceasing smile.

Nothing has really changed at the Rafah border, not even the tea man. I don’t know how a border is said to be ‘open’ when people have to wait for weeks, spend a lot of money on fees here and there as well as transportation going back and forth, go through a hell lot of nerve wrecking conditions, watch people with special coordination with the Egyptian authorities or a VIP status pass a lot more easier, only to be later sent back and told to go through those procedures all over again. When I left to Egypt in January, I went with my mother who works for the UN and can go out relatively easier than others, and to tell you the truth I do not feel happy about it. I feel bad and guilty knowing I can pass faster and easier than hundreds of people who are in desperate need for travelling.

4 responses

  1. Kayla Roe

    This is sickening. Israel and Egypt must be held accountable for their crimes against the Palestinian people!

    Love from Texas

    July 12, 2011 at 4:09 pm

  2. tired of arab dissemblers

    The “Palestinian” People did not exist until 1948

    August 4, 2011 at 1:56 am

  3. When we got the rafah crossing open, we had EU monitors at the crossing, and CCTV and data links between Israel and Rafah. We averaged about 1000 a day in each direction.

    We did not get much going with goods, we did get four trucks out, but nothing in. Israel made us do the three part entrance from egypt to Kaerm Sholom, change trucks and then on into Gaza. This was a big sticking point back then, but it was a big help when the would periodically shut down the Erez crossing.

    Corruption was an issue, I turned a blind eye to it, because to have corruption at least commerce was on going. It may now be that it has reached to high a level. Normally it is the other way around corruption reduces as more commerce is made. Dahlan, I think was getting a cut, as was the Egyption head off Intel, but this is pretty normal all over the Mid east at border crossings, actually at border crossings all over the world.

    The list was another issue, Israel wanted to only use their list, and we had a really good guy in Gaza back then that could get things like this done with Israel. But he was Fatah, and has fled to Egypt, and Hamas just does not work well with Israel. But the list is given by Israel to Egypt, with the folks they do not want to travel.

    Sometimes this is nothing more than a person they want to co-opt to working for them, other times a person will let somone stay at their home that is considered a terrorist by Israel, One case a person lent his cell phone to a friend that made a call, that flagged the IDF, and he was then on the list.

    Other problems with the list, are births, marriages and such. If Israel is not getting along with Gaza at the time, the list is not up dated, and then when Israel gives Egypt the list then there is a problem.

    Lastly, Egypt, they play games with the list themselves.

    We had a number of marriage problems when I was there. But the EU took the UN view that separating a married couple was a hardship, and would over rule the IDF. If it is just Israel and Egypt then, I can see the problem again.

    Really this is when the UN should step in again. Or they need some good negotiators on the Gaza side. When Fatah was in charge, we had some folks that could make it work more often than not. Hamas does not do well at this.

    Hope this helps, let me know if I can do anything. Keep up the good work, it is the youth that will make this happen, and make the most of it.

    As I tell my friends over there. Come up with plans, and when an opportunity presents itself then use them. If you do not have very flexible plans ready, you will often miss the opportunity.


    August 8, 2011 at 8:37 pm

  4. Your perspective is so useful for those of us in America trying to understand, and especially to *see* what is mostly kept out of view over here. Thank you for your work.

    September 24, 2011 at 4:00 pm

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