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Justice for Palestine Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Bahjat, Palestine Sep 9, 2006
Human Rights , Poverty , Peace & Conflict , Justice & Punishment   Opinions

  

Palestine is considered a strife-torn region of the world. It's also known as the largest prison in the world. Since 1948 Gaza and West Bank have become home to many Palestinian refugees. In Gaza about 1.4 million people live in an area only 40 km long and 10 km wide, the settlements occupy 20% of the land. In the West Bank about 3.5 million live in about 5641 sq km and the settlements occupy 50% of the land.

When the Israeli government unveiled a plan in December 2003 to evacuate twenty-one settlements from Gaza and four settlements in the northern West Bank, the prison became bigger. But on the other hand the plan called for continuing of settlements activities and construction of the apartheid wall in the West Bank. In Gaza, people felt very happy because the occupation had gone, but they did not know that controlling the border, restricting peoples movements and goods would be worse than occupation.

So the result is that the disengagement plan doesn’t represent an unprecedented opportunity for the people of Gaza. Israel, Egypt and Palestine made special arrangements through an agreement to open the terminal of Rafah (a border-crossing city between Gaza and Egypt) but free movement across this terminal has so far not been realized. I have never heard about a homeland torn into two pieces: one in the west (Gaza) and the other in the east (West Bank). Palestinians can't move freely between Gaza and West Bank.

I believe the questions of border controls and the linkage between the torn parts of our territories could shape the relations between Palestine and Israel. If Israel doesn’t allow safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza there will be no chance for peace in the region and no establishment of a Palestinian state.

For example, when I want to visit my relatives in the West Bank I have to exit through Rafah terminal, travel across Sinia desert and the Suez Canal to Cairo, and then fly from Cairo to Amman to cross through the Allenby Bridge from Jordan into the West Bank then from there to Ramallah or elsewhere. By contrast, if I travel directly from Gaza to the West Bank it takes less thank two hours by car.

Gaza airport was destroyed by Israeli bulldozers when the second Intifada, or uprising, came into existence. The seaport is also not constructed until special arrangements are made. So we are under control from the air, from the earth and from the sea. What is left for the Israelis to control is the air we breathe.

Gaza is still suffering from an economic crisis and it will continue to be if the Israelis still control the borders. The situation has deteriorated to such an extent that over two-thirds of the population are currently living below the poverty line. The economy in Gaza is based primarily on trade and agriculture, but both of these elements have been destroyed. The economy needs free movement of goods export and import, and agricultural production needs large areas. Since the second Intifada the Israeli bulldozers destroyed a hundred thousand trees.

Israel must understand that unless the Palestinians have control to their borders, and access to the outside world there will be no chance for peace in the region.





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