Palestinians Must Reject Renewed Israeli Control Over Rafah Border Crossing

16 June 2014

By Khalid Amayreh

I really cannot understand why Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas seems so eager to reinstate Israeli control over the Rafah Border Crossing.

This week, it was reported that Abbas said during a press interview that arrangements at the Rafah Border Terminal ought to follow the 2005- agreement which effectively granted Israel ultimate control over the Gaza Strip's sole gate to the outside world.

According to that disgraceful agreement, operations at the crossing cannot be conducted in the absence of European observers who must be stationed on site, e.g. inside travelers' halls.

However, since the observers themselves must commute to the border crossing from Israel, where they are based, the Israeli occupation authorities had a virtually total control over their movement.

Indeed, all that Israel needed to do to close the crossing and consequently strangulate the entire coastal enclave, with its 1.7 million residents rather hermetically, was to prevent the observers from reaching the site by denying them access to it.

This was routinely done by declaring the access road to the site a closed military zone. Very often, a makeshift Israeli army or police roadblock would simply turn the observers back to the nearby Israeli settlement where they were stationed. And the European Union wouldn't dare voice its displeasure as Israel imposed its will on all parties involved, the PA, the Egyptians, the Americans and the EU.

Similarly, every Palestinian or non-Palestinian traveler had to be thoroughly screened and the videoed screening process had to be relayed in real time to Israeli monitors across the border. In other words, the Israelis were able to know everything from A to Z, even the color of the underwear worn by Palestinian travelers.

Very often, Palestinians were barred from traveling through the crossing for unexplained "security reasons."

Needless to say these hateful and dishonorable arrangements had a tragic toll on Palestinians. Many ill Palestinians seeking badly-needed medical treatment in Egypt and whose lives could have been saved, had to die unnecessarily.

Israel deliberately kept them waiting for prolonged periods or didn't allow them to travel due to the usual security justification, a mantra Israel always invokes to justify its most diabolical whims against and criminal treatment of its Palestinian victims.

It is really hard to describe the pain and agony Gazans had to endure during that bleak period. Unfortunately, the Palestinian leadership of Mahmoud Abbas viewed these scandalous arrangements as more than acceptable as evidenced by the plethora of statements made by the Ramallah leadership, demanding the reinstitution of the 2005-agreement.

Indeed, the indescribable suffering meted out to our people traveling through the Rafah border crossing meant very little to Abbas and those around him. This eventually led to ousting of Abbas's militias from Gaza in 2007.

Once again, it is difficult to fathom Abbas's insistence that Palestinians had to sacrifice their freedom as well as personal and national dignity to satiate the Israeli thirst for tormenting and humiliating our people.

Does he want to obtain another certificate of good conduct from them? Does he want to demonstrate to Israel and her guardian-ally, the United States that the PA does abide by signed agreements even though Israel doesn't?

Or perhaps he wants to play the sycophancy card by showing that he is more sensitive to Israel's security whims than he is to the safety, security and honor of his own people!

To conclude, Abbas and those around him must understand that the Palestinian people's right to respect and to a dignified treatment at border crossings overrides whatever "duty" he feels he is bound by to appease and please the Israelis and their western backers.

He must also understand that thousands of Palestinians paid with their blood the price for the relative freedom from Israeli intervention and interference at the Rafah terminal.

For God's sake let us not bring back these black days.

Israel, after all, is supposed to have left Gaza for good. It has absolutely no right to exist at the Rafah terminal, an exclusively Palestinian-Egyptian crossing.

Finally, I would like to add the following: If Abbas succumbed to Israeli blackmail on this relatively minor matter, wouldn't he capitulate to the Zionist arrogance and insolence on the more paramount issues such as Jerusalem and the right of return?

Khalid Amayreh is a veteran Palestinian journalist and political commentator living in occupied Palestine



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