Expressing its utmost concern at the continuing escalation of hostilities which has already caused hundreds of deaths and injuries on both sides, extensive damage to civilian infrastructure and hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons …

Calls on Israel and Lebanon to help ensure humanitarian access to civilian populations and the voluntary and safe return of displaced persons …

The above are two excerpts from the recently approved United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701. Due to the political and military situation, I feel rather confident that the displaced Lebanese (and certainly the Israelis) will be allowed to return to their homes (though the condition those homes will be in — if they are even still standing — is another matter).

Nevertheless, I thought of the issue of displacement as I was traveling across the Jordan River from Amman to Ramallah using an international crossing point that bears three names; Jordan calls it the King Hussein Bridge, Israel calls it Allenby Bridge and the Palestinians call it Al Karameh Crossing Point.

I am not going to talk about the 3.5 million Palestinians who, along with their children, are registered refugees since 1948, or the 770,000 Palestinians displaced in 1967. I am just talking about the Palestinians legally allowed to live in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip but have no access to the rest of the world except through two tightly controlled crossing points.

These border points are actually points of long and continuous suffering, especially during the hot summer days. Thousands of Palestinians spend long hours, often with their children, waiting to cross this temporary border between areas controlled by the Israeli army and Jordan. After the capture of an Israeli soldier in June, those living in Gaza can no longer use this location but are obliged to use the Rafah crossing point, which has been largely closed for over 50 days.

The Jordan River bridge is open for a few hours in the morning and afternoon, which adds to the overcrowdedness and sufferings of individuals and families. While a few cosmetic changes have occurred since 1967 to speed up the travel proceedings, the journey from Jerusalem/Ramallah to Amman or the return trip, which used to take a little over an hour, can now take up to 12 hours. No Palestinian is allowed to make the entire journey in his or her car or any other vehicle.

An improvement occurred during the first years after the Oslo Accords when Palestinian police along with Israeli officials were located at the Israeli-controlled point and the bridge was allowed to be open around the clock. But after the outbreak of the 2000 intifada, the Palestinian police were kicked out by the Israelis and the hours were reduced.

Now the crossing is run entirely by Israeli military and civilian officials and workers with little concern for or interest in the Palestinian people they have to process. The young male and female reserve soldiers at these posts, who are themselves not too pleased with being at this temporary job, often treat the ordinary Palestinians they encounter with arrogance, and even racism.

The expense of travel across this Israeli-controlled point is also unbelievable. The total amount, for permit fees and exit tax, can reach up to $80 per person. For a big family, this plus the cost of transportation easily tops $100 per person. Out of this amount at least $15 per person of the exit tax is earmarked for the Palestinian Authority, but these funds have not been turned over to the Palestinian Authority since last January’s parliamentary elections.

Those not wanting to wait for hours in the hot summer sun can use a special V.I.P. service that is nothing less than highway robbery. To be allowed to bypass the long lines of buses, a van service charges a hefty $82 per person to make the three-kilometer journey between the two banks of the Jordan. A family of five would have to pay up to $800 in travel costs, travel fees, exit tax, V.I.P. service and travel costs on the other side to make the entire 90-kilometer journey from Jordan to the West Bank. Of course, all this depends on having the acceptable travel documents and the Israeli border police permitting you and your family to enter or leave.

I certainly hope that our Lebanese friends will be allowed to return despite the presence of Israeli soldiers in areas south of the Litani. I would hate to think what would happen to them if the Israeli presence, God forbid, become permanent and they would have to go through what Palestinians, adter 39 years of occupation, have been going through.


Daoud Kuttab

Daoud Kuttab, a journalist and columnist, is director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al Quds University, in Ramallah and a founder of, the Arab world's first Internet radio station.