Written by: Ziyad Abu Ziyad

I do not know who suggested naming the King Hussein Bridge (Allenby) the Karama (Dignity) Crossing because this Crossing has become a symbol and witness to the insulting circumstances that Palestinians are subjected to while passing through it. Thus, the Karameh Crossing (Dignity) can be referred to as an “Insulting” Crossing. Today, everyone is protesting, while the official Palestinian and Jordanian authorities are talking about solutions that I see as "cosmetic" and do not resolve the issue. While a voice comes from the far north of Africa, i.e., Morocco, talking about "Moroccan mediation" to persuade Israel to extend the working hours of the Crossing to around the clock.

The truth is that the crisis at the “Insulting” Crossing cannot be resolved by online pre-registration, nor by closing it for ten days because the crisis will become more violent and complex than it was. But the solution is to search and identify the roots of this crisis and resolve them. In order to return to the use of the name Karama (Dignity) Crossing, citizens must be able to travel with a sense of human dignity and value, rather than like a dairy cow that everyone wants to milk, even if its milk turns into blood.

In order to reach a radical solution to the problem of the crossings, I propose, as soon as possible, the formation of a joint committee of Palestinian citizens, chosen popularly, and of Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli officials, along with the participation of the United Nations to develop a binding plan of action in order to put an end to the continuous suffering and humiliation that Palestinians encounter when traveling through this Crossing. It must be emphasized first that if there is a sincere intention to resolve this problem, then the concept of the Crossing and the way it is managed must be changed.

I would not be exaggerating if I say that the suffering on crossings has begun to gradually increase since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, instead of fading away. Before the establishment of the Authority, there were two crossings operating from the beginning of the occupation until the early nineties. There was a Damieh Bridge dedicated to the northern West Bank and the King Hussein Bridge (Allenby) to the southern West Bank and Gaza. However, the occupying authorities closed Damieh Bridge and restricted entry and exit to King Hussein Bridge. Now, in light of the stifling crisis we are facing, what is required as an immediate measure is to rehabilitate and activate the Damieh Bridge for the residents of the northern West Bank.

The problem did not exist before the VIP service was created, but the presence of this service transformed the traveling citizen into a target for exploitation. Unfortunately, this service is disguised exploitation in unofficial clothes aimed at achieving extreme wealth by exploiting people's needs. These days, for example, the daily income for this service is about one hundred thousand dollars or more. In the same way that I blame those in charge of this service, I blame travelers because if they had a sufficient level of awareness, they would boycott this service in rejection of the exploitation they are exposed to. Recently, before Eid, we saw that the VIP service would charge each passenger $110, and then put the passengers on buses to travel like those who traveled without this service. I also learned that many travelers resorted to giving bribes to some workers in this service to enable them to travel before others. This was possible due to the absence of passenger numbers on a screen that everyone can see and a commitment to these numbers. The time has come to cancel this service and allow everyone to travel on an equal basis. And I am certain that if a radical reform of the travel procedures was carried out on the crossings, everyone would find that there was no reason or justification for the existence of this service.

Thus, I suggest the following:

1.     Since the second intifada and the closure of the bridge in the face of the Palestinian liaison and the prevention of the police and Palestinian Liaison from being inside the bridge, the Palestinian Authority has been forced to introduce registration procedures for passengers, whether departing or arriving. These procedures double the time spent by the traveler. Therefore, the return of the Palestinian Liaison to the bridge terminal and enabling the Palestinian side to access the arrival and departure restrictions leads to the cancellation of registration in the rest stop, whether upon exit or return. This would save the traveler about an hour of time. It is necessary for the international community to pressure Israel to return to this procedure, which is part of the crossings and borders agreement that Israel committed to and then reneged on.

2.     The use of large buses forces passengers to wait longer inside the bus, as there is no fixed timetable. Also, the buses are requested to pass through the crossings very quickly, forcing them to commute even if there are not enough passengers. If some say that this process barely exists, then the response to it is that the waiting period for passengers for buses or waiting while they are inside them should be shortened. This is not possible unless the operating companies are assigned to transport passengers across bridges using minibuses, the number of which does not exceed 12 passengers each.

3.     Reviewing the bureaucratic procedures related to the transportation of passengers and their baggage, and shortening all the routine procedures that serve no purpose but to suggest to the traveler: “We are here.”

4.     It is necessary to stop the financial burdens that are placed on the shoulders of travelers, which increase their devastating financial exploitation of them. The traveler from any airport, including from the Israeli airports, does not pay any fees, while the Palestinian traveler is obliged to pay a permit fee of approximately fifty dollars for each person, including children. There is also a distinction in payment between the Palestinian ID holders and Palestinian Jerusalemites, who hold Israeli IDs. In addition to paying on the Palestinian/Israeli side, every Palestinian is obligated to pay ten dinars on the Jordanian side. The time has come to stop this exploitation on both sides by all parties.

I am not exaggerating when I say that traveling for Palestinians is a crisis. If the Crossing is open 24 hours a day, Damieh Bridge opens for the people of the northern West Bank, minibuses were used to transport passengers, a timetable for buses was set, travelers were humanely treated, the VIP service was canceled, financial exploitation was stopped and fees were removed, then we would breathe a sigh of relief and perhaps go back to calling it the Karama (Dignity) Crossing.

The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the opinion of the Association or donor.