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10 décembre 2013 2 10 /12 /décembre /2013 01:15

Message to Kerry: Negotiations Focus on “Bettering” the Occupation, Not Ending It

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Published on Friday, 06 December 2013 10:41

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 Right to Enter Campaign

On September 8 US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that "the Allenby Bridge [crossing between the West Bank and Jordan] is now going to be open 24 hours a day, five days a week, and will greatly facilitate movement back and forth." 

This announcement suggests that negotiations are once again being limited to minimal, symbolic improvements in living conditions for Palestinians under continued Israeli military rule rather than any serious attempt to end Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. 

Of course, for Palestinians in the West Bank who are not allowed to travel abroad except through the Allenby Bridge, longer opening hours will, no doubt, be welcomed; perhaps there will be a reduction in the number of hours one can expect to wait, particularly during summer months when an average of 11,000 people use the bridge daily and frequently find themselves waiting for hours to make the crossing. 

No mention has been heard, however, of the humiliation, questioning, and searching of private belongings and electronic information that regularly takes place at Allenby and the delays these will continue to cause.

Moreover, no mention has been made of Israel putting an end to its arbitrary (and unlawful) denial of entry of foreign nationals of Palestinian and non-Palestinian origin, or the often conditional and restricted nature of their permission to enter when granted despite repeated protests from the US, EU and others.

Before celebrating extended hours at Allenby, Secretary Kerry and anyone else tempted to claim this a victory of any significance, would do well to remember that:

Nearly 40% of the Palestinian population in the occupied Palestinian territory cannot use the Allenby Bridge at all; Palestinians in Gaza are prohibited from using the bridge, and cannot reach Jericho, Jerusalem or any other destination in the West Bank, with rare exception.

For over 4,800 days and still counting (since June 2007), Israel has blocked nearly all movement of people in and out of the Gaza Strip and restricted goods to a trickle relative to need – one that it turns on and off at its discretion, regardless of the welfare of the over 1.7 million Palestinians living there. Lest we forget, Gaza has been under increasing levels of closure since the early 1990s.

The Israeli regime of permits and movement restrictions, greatly expanded and consolidated in the 20 years since the Oslo Agreement, means that all Palestinians living in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), with exception of those holding Jerusalem IDs, (i.e. over 90% of the Palestinian population of the oPt) are prohibited from ever travelling to Jerusalem, without Israeli-issued permits which restrict entry for specific purposes and times and which most Palestinians have never had the “privilege” of securing.

For 2.7 million Palestinians residing in the West Bank, the same Israeli regime controls all movement of people and goods into and out of individual population centers through  the Wall, hundreds of military checkpoints, roadblocks and physical barriers, settlement and other areas closed off by the military and a network of roads and tunnels controlling and diverting Palestinian traffic; this formidable physical infrastructure is underpinned by a complex system of movement, residency and visitor permits

Let’s be clear that this regime of movement and access restrictions makes mockery of any form of territorial integrity, let alone a viable Palestinian state, which ostensibly remain objectives to which the US, the Quartet (and the Palestinians) continue to express a clear commitment. 

It’s worth remembering that back in 2006, Kerry’s predecessor, then US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice also claimed US efforts led to improved living conditions for Palestinians:

“…I personally worked with parties to create an opportunity – an Agreement on Movement and Access, to help the Palestinians travel more freely and transport their goods to market. It is important that we continue to work so that Palestinians and Israelis can implement this agreement.”[3]

With no substantive or enduring improvements witnessed since Rice’s endeavor, Kerry appears to have adopted even more restricted objectives for the latest round of “peace talks” than his predecessor.

The Right to Enter Campaign reminds the US and those who would engage in the latest round of “negotiations” that attempts to appease Palestinian demands for basic human rights by a few cosmetic improvements in the prison-like conditions that characterize Palestinian life under continued Israeli military occupation are wholly inadequate. It’s time for a regime change.

At the very least, let us agree that any meaningful attempts at “improving conditions on the ground,” let alone ensuring basic human rights for the Palestinian people requires a recognition that the current regime – a matrix of Israeli control rendering the right to freedom of movement the exclusive and conditioned privilege of a select few at best -- must be ended.

No amount of tweaking the regime and no amount of window dressing will lead to “improved conditions on the ground” of a significant or enduring nature. 

As long as this regime persists, the daily reality for Palestinians in the oPt will continue to be one in which the most basic of human rights -- going to school, work or place of worship, seeking health care, farming one's land, choosing where to live --  are regularly denied.

Right to Enter is a grassroots campaign defending the rights of access, movement and residency in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory.


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