Ein Schild mit dem Namen des Landes, das man gerade betreten hat, ist meist das einzige, was man wahrnimmt, wenn man innerhalb der EU eine Grenze überquert. Während die EU ihren StaatsbürgerInnen ein sehr hohes Maß an Bewegungsfreiheit ermöglicht, ist das Überschreiten einer Grenze in anderen Teilen der Welt häufig ein wesentlich schwierigeres sowie stark reguliertes, strapazierendes und zeitraubendes Unterfangen. Die Karama-Brücke (auch Allenby-Brücke genannt) zwischen dem palästinensischen Westjordanland und Jordanien ist ein Ort, wo die Bewegungsfreiheit im höchsten Maße reglementiert ist. Bis heute kontrolliert Israel große Teile des Westjordanlandes einschließlich der Grenze zu Jordanien und damit auch die Ein- und Ausreisen an jenem Grenzübergang. Da PalästinenserInnen aus dem Westjordanland häufig die Einreise nach Israel verwehrt wird, ist jene Brücke nach Jordanien meist ihre einzige Möglichkeit, um andere Länder in der Welt zu erreichen.
Die Dokumentation «Bon Voyage!» vom Regisseur Raed Al Helou greift das Prozedere der Reise über diese Brücke auf, indem die Abläufe und alltäglichen Strapazen für PalästinenserInnen an diesem Grenzübergang dargestellt werden. Veranstaltet von der Internationalen Kampagne für die Bewegungs- und Reisefreiheit der PalästinenserInnen (KARAMA Campaign) und dem Palästina-Büro der Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung wurde dieser Film am 2. Juni 2014 im Rahmen einer Filmpremiere im Cultural Palace in Ramallah veröffentlicht. Mehr als 350 ZuschauerInnen besuchten die Vorführung und viele beteiligten sich an einer anschließenden intensiven und konstruktiven Diskussion in Anwesenheit des Regisseurs und Mitgliedern der KARAMA Campaign.
Vor der Veranstaltung sprach Christian Sowa (RLS-Büro Ramallah) mit Fatima Abdul Karim, Koordinatorin der KARAMA Campaign, über den Kontext der Dokumentation und über die Thematik der Bewegungsfreiheit für PalästinenserInnen (siehe unten).
When crossing a border between countries of the European Union you mostly notice not more than passing a sign of the country you just entered. Whereas the European Union enables for its own citizens a very high level of freedom of movement, crossing a border in other parts of the world can be highly regulated, stressful and time-consuming. The Karama- or also called Allenby-Bridge between the Palestinian West Bank and Jordan is a place where freedom of movement is extremely restricted. Israel still controls large parts of the West Bank including the border to Jordan and therewith also the movement at this crossing-point. As Palestinians from the West Bank are not allowed to enter Israel, this bridge to Jordan is their only exit to other countries in the world.
The documentary «Bon Voyage!» by film director Raed Al Helou captures the procedure of this trip including the humiliation for Palestinians and everyday suffering at this border crossing. At the 2nd of June 2014, the International Campaign for the Freedom of Movement of Palestinians (KARAMA) and the Palestine Office of Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung (RLS) launched this documentary with a film premiere at the Cultural Palace Ramallah. Over 350 people attended this screening which was followed by an intensive and constructive discussion with the director of this documentary and members of the KARAMA Campaign.
Before the event Christian Sowa (RLS Ramallah) spoke with Fatima Abdul Karim, Coordinator of KARAMA Campaign, about the context of the movie and the issue of freedom of movement for Palestinians.
Interview with Fatima Abdul Karim (in English)
What is the documentary about and why is it important?
This trip is a trip through a military zone for Palestinians. You could only imagine what this could be like. This is a place where Palestinians take a journey for a very short distance between Palestine and Jordan through an Israeli controlled border crossing over at maximum 5 kilometers through this military area which is only under rules of the military orders, Israelis military orders, which are illegal in the first place.
And this is a trip of humiliation. There is no documentation for the exact steps of this trip. For Palestinians it’s a nightmare. Now, as the summer is coming closer and the vacation season is also coming closer, it’s a disaster to be able to cross the bridge. If you are lucky, those 5 kilometers would take you 10 hours, if you are really lucky. There is a system of Israeli approach on this border crossing that is not captured by film before, it is not captured by footage or by photography or by any specific novel except for very few. So this documentary is very unique, because it captured the feelings and the magnitude of this trip, the negative magnitude. So this is why the film is important.
Why do we need it here in Ramallah and in Palestine? Why do we need to show it to people? Because it’s important to start lobbying within. So why is this important? Because we need to cause a general feeling that somebody is working for this cause. And we think that the pressure that KARAMA has exerted through the past 5 years has yield something and I think something big is on the way, something very important is coming on the way very soon. Because this is a situation where Israel carries out series of serious violations every day. It is violating human rights of Palestinians and their dignity on a daily basis. But in fact, this is something that I think Israel is not able to bargain with anymore. This border crossing to Palestinians is known as Karama Border Crossing which means in Arabic “dignity”. This is a place where your dignity is exposed and stripped off. You are stripped from your dignity. KARAMA is working to pressure Israel as much as it could in order to stop this, because this is one of the most complicated cases Palestinians could work on. Not only because it is dealing with the Israelis, but you know what it is to be speaking about the borders. The next thing that makes it also a very difficult case is that this is also a case with Jordan. Jordan, Palestine and Israel, all three parties consider this area a matter of sovereignty, so it’s a really highly politicized issue. This makes it even more difficult for us to deal with it. And the only thing that could change politics is people`s pressure, people`s awareness, people combating such situations because this cannot be tolerable anymore.
What is the general role of the Allenby- or Karama-Bridge in the context of freedom of movement?
When the KARAMA Campaign was launched 5 years ago our goal came as a reaction from the situation on the bridge itself. It was a social initiative initiated by a few individuals, where we addressed the question: what can we do to make this trip less disastrous? So the initiative came at a first phase addressing the Karama Bridge. And our goal was to alleviate the suffering of Palestinians through this bridge, because this is a place that is controlled by Israeli military orders and is shut down or opened any minute without announcement by the Israeli authorities. And this is the only access and exit point for Palestinians to the world.
Do you know of any place in the world where a border is shut down, in that you have specific working hours for the borders that are similar to working hours of any regular employee’s working hours? Can you think of anywhere like that? I cannot. I don’t know if there is anything like that, but I highly doubt that there is anywhere in the world a place where borders work like half working hours or like regular working hours. Had the bridge been open 24 hours, every day of the week, at least such a jam and traffic on the bridge during the summer would be avoided. This is one way to put down, to minimize the pressure on Palestinians. But no, why would Israel want to make the pressure less on Palestinians?
Do you know that the borders on Fridays and Saturdays are opened for three hours only? Thousands cross the bridge everyday in both directions into and from Palestine to Jordan. The latest report by the Palestinian Border Control said that on Friday about 2400 people crossed, in 3 hours. The day before, Thursday, almost 5500 people crossed the bridge. But this was a very easy day for Palestinians. I am trying to show you the numbers to give you an insight on what it could be like when ten thousand people cross the bridge in 3 hours or are forced to cross the bridge. The bridge does not take into account travelers’ special circumstances, like incidents related to death, or sicknesses and this is where the Israelis control the big prison that we are in.
If I were the Israeli Authority and I decide to close the bridge down now, then ok fine, I will give my staff a break and Palestinians can go to hell even if they are sick, even if they are going abroad for medication or for treatment, or for holiday or as a student for university or school or if you had a business trip. You can look at this specific point, the Allenby- or Karama-Bridge as a dot, as one thing of a huge system of Israeli control over the Palestinians. Israel`s systematic control over the Palestinians is a trend of an apartheid system. And it is very evident. You can see it not only between Palestinians and Israelis or settlers in the West Bank, but also on the bridge. For example you can see it between the treatment of Palestinians and non-Arab tourists who come and cross the bridge.
What impact has this restriction of freedom of movement on Palestinians?
I don’t have exact numbers or figures on that but I can speak about the general psychological feeling. Israel treats the West Bank like a big prison and the Palestinians in the West Bank like prisoners. It is a big open air prison but Israel is the party controlling all the keys to any access points. If somebody says he can’t afford getting sick it does not always mean the financial aspect. You can also not afford it because you cannot move from one place to another. Although the entire system runs now by the Palestinian Authorities it is controlled, in fact, by Israelis from behind. For access of goods, for example, there would also be a huge impact on merchants and of course in a circle it affects the entire market and the Palestinians as well. But that is also another singular aspect, let’s say, within the impact of the closure system on the Palestinians. However this closure system, which is the best term that I think describes the movement and access policy by Israel against Palestinians, makes you feel that you have a soldier at the edge of your nose, staying there at all times, to remind you that you could be banned from anything at any point, particularly between Palestinian areas as towns like Ramallah and Nablus.
There are closed roads for 10 years now. For the trip between Nablus and Ramallah Palestinians have to take now a very much longer alternative road because the main road between Ramallah and Nablus 466 is closed to Palestinians even though we recently as KARAMA Campaign and Jerusalem Legal Aid Center received a court order from the Israelis that this road used to be opened, but of course there are stalling time at the moment. This is time consuming, it’s a lot of energy, it’s a lot of financial burdens on Palestinians who have to go round and round in order to find a way to enter the city, or to move from your house to your school or to your university or to the hospital or to your workplace, or to your mosque or synagogue or church. And this is controlled by Israel. This is a system that Israel super-imposes on Palestinians.
If you go through the roads between Palestinian cities you will see checkpoints. There are over 600 checkpoints across the West Bank, but some of them are now empty. The Israelis had a huge propaganda about it, but in fact you will see that one thing has never ended within those checkpoints: it’s the watching tower. There is always somebody at the watching tower. Now to make it easier there are cameras as well. So this is an entire, a comprehensive closure system that makes you feel that occupation stands right at the edge of your nose. And you are really burdened. You feel like you are an infiltrator in your own country, in your own land.
How could this situation be changed? And what is the role of the international community in this context?
The role of the international community is to simply accept rules or to pressure Israel to set the rules that it only accepts for its own citizens. It is completely wrong for any European or any Western country or any free and independent country to accept that Palestinians should be able to cope with or accept living under these abnormal conditions. What is normal is normal for everybody. This is why we say the human rights are universal and that equality applies to all. Otherwise nobody can claim that human rights are universal and that all humans are equal.
What are we trying to do? We are trying to get the attention and the work of the people here, the Palestinians to help and to assist the Palestinian Authority in its effort to enhance this situation on the bridge and push for better circumstances with our target and long term goal driving your car through the borders normally like any person at any time of the year, through identified borders with needed security without humiliation. We are trying to lobby for the right of Palestinians to use the bridge 24 hours, 7 days a week, every week of this year, without complicating our lives even further. And of course this is a three way setting where it’s the Palestinians, the Israelis and the Jordanians. And both, the Jordanians and the Israelis, must cooperate with the Palestinians. The international community and the signatories of the Geneva Conventions should work for these demands, and now is the time for that.
Interview: Christian Sowa, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Ramallah
About KARAMA Campaign:
KARAMA Campaign is a public, national and independent campaign, launched in the summer of 2008 with the aim to alleviate the suffering of Palestinians while travelling within and outside of Palestine and ensuring the freedom and dignity. KARAMA is registered as a Palestinian non-governmental association at the Palestinian National Authority since April 2012. While KARAMA Campaign is fully aware that the fundamental solution to the freedom of movement and travel of Palestinians is by ending the Israeli occupation and for Palestinians to achieve their freedom and independence, the campaign works for the right of Palestinians to travel with dignity, devoid of financial and psychological burdens which are caused by the exhaustive routine procedures of the Israeli authorities, and without prejudice to their rights and human dignity.