For 47 years the bridge connecting the West Bank with Jordan has been a source of hardships, humiliations and extremely long and unnecessary delays, not to mention cumbersome and exaggerated body and baggage searches. This nightmare has to end.
What happened on Monday morning is a symptom of the occupation versus occupied paradigm that must come to an end. A 38-year-old Jordanian father of two and a sitting judge in Amman’s Court of First Instance, attempted to travel to Nablus like many Palestinians and Jordanians of Palestinian origin. His altercation with Israeli soldiers that ended with his death must be a warning flag that this injustice and humiliation cannot continue.
Anyone who crosses the King Hussein Bridge knows very well how the Israelis have for decades forged a shameful occupier-occupied relationship with the power of their guns. The Oscar-winning film Twelve Years a Slave, perfectly illustrates the way that the oppressed absorb all kinds of humiliation simply in order to survive as they wait for salvation.
Raed Zuaiter, the Jordanian judge, like any other human being, apparently walked into this mess without the added shield of years of humiliation and he couldn’t accept it. For their part, the Israeli soldiers, brainwashed to suspect every passenger as a potential “terrorist,” viewed the rebellion against accepting the occupier-occupied paradigm as enough proof that the rebellious person must be a terrorist. As they say, the rest is history.
Anyone who crosses the King Hussein Bridge knows very well how the Israelis have for decades forged a shameful occupier-occupied relationshipDaoud Kuttab
The Israeli spin machine quickly went into action. The often repeated defence was that Zuaiter went for the soldier’s gun. Later it was adjusted that he went for his throat, attempting to strangle him. The “terrorist” label also required some audio. So again the spin machine fabricated that the judge yelled Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar before lunging for the soldier’s gun (or throat), thus confirming that he was a terrorist.
Of course much of the speculation as to what happened and when could easily be put to rest if footage from the most camera-covered spot at the bridge (the first few metres into the Israeli controlled area) is made available.
But alas, the camera is now said to have been inoperative that day. How convenient. But there is a tiny fact that is hard to refute. How did the bus carrying Zuaiter enter the Israeli occupied territories. A metal bar and four metal pistons make it impossible for any vehicle to enter until someone presses a remote-controlled button. The buttons are located in a windowless room with lots of cameras that show the operators who is coming, what licence plate they hold and so on.
Naturally, addressing the problem that caused the untimely death of an innocent Jordanian is currently focused on the logistics and mechanics of what happened, but there is a need to look at the context of what is happening and how to avoid the recurrence of such trigger-happy acts.
In the negotiations about the implementation of the Oslo Accords, the Palestinians insisted that even during the interim period no Israeli soldier should have any face-to-face contact with passengers. The Israelis designed a plan where they sit behind one-way mirrors and control the bridge from this vantage point. The plan, which included the presence of unarmed Palestinian police, was operational for a short time at the end of the 1990s but was scrapped when the second Intifada broke in October 2000. Since then the call to return to the pre-October status throughout the occupied territories and on the bridge has been made repeatedly but no action was taken. The roadmap included a section for the return of the Palestinian police to the bridge, but this was never implemented.
In addition to the need to keep brainwashed, heavily armed young Israeli soldiers as far away from travelling civilians as possible, there are other decisions that can help reduce the tension on the bridge. For example the crossing should be open around the clock in order to ease the long waiting period that add to the anger and frustration. Israelis say that they can’t cover the cost of 24-hour staff but many Palestinians think that they don’t care while others believe that this is deliberate to maintain the occupier-occupied paradigm.
The best and most effective way to reduce the tensions and tragedies such as the murder of the Jordanian judge, is to end the occupation and totally remove the unwanted Israeli occupiers from Palestinian territories. In the meantime, people of goodwill must agree that the current status quo on the King Hussein Bridge is untenable. Serious and deep changes are required in order to guarantee that what happened on March 10 to an innocent Jordanian will not take place again.
This article was first published in the Jordan Times on March 12, 2014.
Daoud Kuttab, an award winning Palestinian journalist who resides in Jerusalem and Amman. Mr. Kuttab is the director general of Community Media Network a media NGO that runs a radio station in Amman (al balad radio 92.4fm) a newsweb site ammannet.net and a TV production operation in Palestine Penmedia (penmedia.ps) which is producing the Palestinian version of Sesame street. You can read his blogs on DaoudKuttab.com and find him on Twitter @DaoudKuttab