So, I am officially back from the dead (the same cannot be said for Yousuf’s stroller, which was mangled at the hands of British Airways baggage handlers on my way to Egypt). It has been a long and much called for hiatus, which involved among other things tropical islands complete with virgin coconut draped beaches, pina coladas, mofungo, and singing tree frogs; fall pumpkin festivals, leaf picking, petting zoos, children’s museums, Eid and Ramadan festivities and so on.
And I think ( I hope) I am ready to get writing, and blogging again-though I likely need a vacation from my vacation.
As an aside-why on earth is it that Iraqis the world over being allowed to vote in their parliamentary elections, but the same allowance was not made for Palestinians-even those with residency permits who were stuck outside because of the then border closure, like myself-in presidential elections last year? Hmm…I wonder if this has anything to do with refugees and the right of return…
Anyway, now that I am back, I can officially report on the “new” Rafah Crossing, which I just passed through two day ago (minus my stroller. Note to self: never cross into Gaza via Rafah without stroller). To backtrack, when I left Gaza in late September, it was amidst throngs of Palestinians clamoring to get out within a 30 hour period, after which the crossing was closed again until last week. A somewhat murky deal was reached whereby the crossing would be Palestinian-Egyptian run, European observed, and Israeli monitored. I’m not quite sure if that’s through cameras or a joint control room or a list of all people who pass through that is handed to the Israelis.
Either way, if one ignores this notable blemish on the arguable sovereignty of the crossing (not Gaza), as well as the blue-bereted somewhat clumsily-clothed European observers trying desperately, but futilely, not to stand out, the crossing is a drastic improvement (on a side note, it was quite amusing to see the limited interaction between the Palestinians and the Europeans, who barely mutter a word to each other, let alone communicate with the Palestinians staffing the crossing.) The Egyptians have also officially opened a brand-spanking new terminal on their side, complete with marble flooring and-*gasp*-computers instead of thick, dusty folders. Now maybe someone can convince them to chance those decrepit buses.
Overall, I was pleased-because for the first time in my life crossing Rafah, I felt like a human being. And in the end, I believe that if you treat people like human beings-if you respect them, they will act in kind, and they will respect themselves and their surroundings. If you treat them like animals, their behavior will begin to deteriorate.
I don’t want this to get too long. There is much to say, as usual. From Fateh pre-election infighting, to Israeli missile strikes in northern Gaza, to the continuing military and economic strangulation of the West Bank. So I’ll stop here.