Thursday, June 2, 2011

Rafah: a return to the status quo?

By Laila El-Haddad,
May 30, 2011

The big story of the week has been the much-acclaimed re-opening of the torturous Rafah Crossing.  It had been operating intermittently, if at all, and for limited categories of people for more than 4 years now.  For what seemed like eternity, the Mubarak regime- الله لا يردهم -, colluding with the United States and Israel to keep Gaza closed, had “conditioned” the re-opening of the crossing on a Fateh-Hamas reconciliation agreement, the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, and a return to the much-maligned US-brokered AMA (Agreement on Movement and Access),  in which European monitors and live-video streams acted as proxies for Israel, who ultimately retained control over the crossing.

There were some dark, dark times over the course of those four miserable years, and beyond, during which I and tens of thousands of others were prevented from entering our own homes over and over again, during which we were beaten and detained, humiliated and abandoned, when I wondered how would it ever end? How on earth could we as Palestinians find a way out of even this smallest and seemingly inconsequential dimension of our struggle, Rafah, this sole gateway, this portal, in and out of tortured little Gaza? How could such a routine aspect of life, movement, have become so impossible, yet made to seem so threatening, its stifling designed to seem so ordinary and justified? And why could no understand we we were mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, lovers, students and teachers…and we were tired like ordinary human beings get tired, of this miserable, hell. How could the status quo finally change? I can honestly tell you the last thing I expected was for an epic overthrow of Mubarak.

But back to Rafah.  Not to be a buzzkill or anything, but I think its time to break down the facts here. Its true that the crossing has been open on a more regular basis (6 days a week) and to a greater number of Gaza residents for visa-free travel (unless you happen to fall into the dreaded 18-40 “male security threat” age-range), and as anyone who has suffered long hours (or days or weeks or months) in the punishing heat or bone-numbing cold of this little corner of the world awaiting entry or exit can attest, this news should be celebrated.