My Way to Ras Al-Aain

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I had to cross the Jordan River to enter Palestine. This time not through the Sheikh Husain-bridge in the north but the Allenby bridge. I was standing in line waiting to show my Dutch passport to an Israeli woman guarding the borders of what has become known as “Israel”. She seemed like she wanted to let me pass. Probably she hadn’t read the visa, which clearly stated that I was heading to Nablus, a Palestinian city situated in the northern part of occupied Palestine. While she signed approval and I already had my luggage on the X-ray machine, an Israeli security officer ordered me to come to him. He asked me my passport and ofcourse I let him, eventhough my passports states very clearly: “the bearer of this passport may pass it to a third party only if there is statutory obligation to do so”. Usually I ask for a legal obligation, but this time I forgot.

Immediately after he opened the document (which doesn’t say much about my identity) and skipped the first page (“In the name of Her Majesty the Queen of the Netherlands, Princess of Orange, etc., etc.”) he started cursing the security-woman (who initially wanted to let me through) in hebrew. I partly understood the words he said, due to my regular checkpoint experience. I heard “Shechem” (which is what the Israelis call Nablus) and knew immediately that I was not going to take the bus to Tel-Aviv. He ordered me to come and sit aside the crowd that was waiting in line, and told me to wait patiently. While I sat there I was remembering “A Million Suns in my blood”, a poem by Tawfiq Zeyad.

Another Israeli soldier came sitting next to me, without saying a word.

Another Israeli in a suit, obviously “mukhabarat” came over and started to ask me questions: “for my own security”, as they say. Questions like where I came from (Jordan, tab’an, of course) and where I was heading, what I was doing there and with whom and for what (actually these where my major philosophical questions, to which after more than a year in Palestine I couldn’t find an answer yet) and whether I had contacts with political organizations (what do you mean?) or terrorist groups (what do you mean?).

“Did you ever meet anyone who is a member of a terrorist organization?”, he asked me without a change in his voice. “Maybe”, I replied stupidly. “What do you mean, maybe?”. “Well, first of all it depends on your definition of terrorism”, I replied even more stupidly. “What do you mean?”, he said. “Well”, I said, “some might consider some organizations as terrorist, while others might consider them liberation movements or just political parties, or perhaps even charitable organizations.”

Didn’t I want to just pass that border and continue my way to my apartment in Ras al-Ain in Nablus and unpack my luggage, have some diner, visit my family, and relax? Or did I really wanted to enter a debate with this undercover agent, who probably already had blood on his hands, serving in the Israeli occupation forces, or was I just tired of the whole humiliating treatment of Palestinians at any border in the world?

“Besides”, I said, “it might be that I met persons who are, according to your standards, members of such an organization, but if they were, obviously they won’t tell me”. That was of course stupid, that is, if I wanted to just pass the border quickly. It was honest though, but it won’t help you in a situation with panicking soldiers and nervous security officers around you, having their fingers near the trigger of the gun they are holding.

So, he started all over again. “What do you exactly do?”, “where do you live?”, “do you have contacts with the local population?” (What? If I have contacts with the local population? Of course,  I live in a city, I do my groceries there, I have neighbors, friends and most of all family, it’s not only the local population, it’s the native population of this whole country, which you have uprooted, dispossessed, expelled, occupied and eventually humiliated!).

The author is a Dutch-Palestinian political scientist, human rights activist and is affiliated to the the Palestine Right to Return Coalition (Al-Awda).

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