Bidoun Tashira – Mea wa Ushroun Saa fi Al-Ard Al-Muhtala (Without Visa - 120 Hours in the Occupied Land) by Mohammed Hesham Abiyya, Al-Masry Publishing, 2017 pp. 114
Through the front cover, the book’s author was keen to profess his standpoint of support towards the central Arab issue, namely the Palestinian cause. This cause was raised high on the agenda of Egyptian writers and intellectuals since the signing of the Camp David Treaty between Egypt and Israel in 1978.
The sweeping majority of Egyptians condemned it and refused all forms of normalisation with Israel. Peace with Israel remained cold and restricted to diplomatic circles. We can safely say that the slogan of refusing normalisation succeeded in isolating Israel, the occupier, but didn’t stop the aggression, killing and repudiating of agreements between it and the Palestinian Authority since the signing of the Oslo Accords.
The book has two titles. The main title is “Without Visa” through which the author asserts his opposing stance towards normalisation with Israel, and that he visited Palestine upon receiving an invitation from the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah to participate in “Palestinian Youth Week” in November 2012.
He travelled to the Jordanian capital Amman, then via the King Hussein Bridge, carrying an authorisation from the Palestinian Authority and returning through the same route without the Israeli authorities stamping his passport. Despite the fact that Israel controls all the crossings and can block the entrance of anyone. Many times it has closed these crossings just to demonstrate its full authority as an occupying military power.
As for the subtitle, “120 Hours in the Occupied Land,” it denotes the period of the visit through which the writer spent a week inside occupied Palestine in support of the Palestinian people's suffering from daily abuse, detention and captivity in the prisons of the occupation. He also confirms that he visited an Arab country under occupation and he didn’t visit the Israeli enemy.
Here, his standpoint in refusing normalisation doesn’t concern Israel as much as backing the Palestinian Authority, that endures an unjust occupation and strangulating isolation, as well as the occupation authorities’ repudiation of the Oslo Accords.
The writer travelled as a journalist to record and publish what he saw firsthand. He has spent a week in a number of West Bank cities and witnessed — wherever he went — manifestations of the military occupation through which Israel confirms its racist expansionist nature. Ambushes, checkpoints, tanks and heavy weaponry are everywhere. Many a time occupation authorities close roads and cut off West Bank cities.
The separation wall, the clashes, shooting demonstrators or protestors or detaining them and throwing them in the occupation's prisons, as well as building settlements in the heart of West Bank cities in order to change the land’s demographic and geographic nature and impose a new reality, in spite of international treaties and UN condemnation of these measures — all these are but egregious manifestations of a daily reality the writer elaborates, records and details.
The book is comprised of two sections. The first stops at the crossing built on King Hussein Bridge, separating the Jordanian and occupied Palestine borders, where the delegation crossed into Palestine. The second, and the lengthier, section is devoted to visiting occupied cities, which were supposedly — according to the Oslo Accords —signed in 1993, to be under the control of the Palestinian Authority.
However, the situation is extremely complicated, for the currency is Israeli, electricity comes from the Israeli occupation's power stations, and settlements are tearing through Palestinian lands. For instance, when the Oslo Accords were signed, the number of settlers didn’t exceed 105,000. Some 20 years later, the number reached 650,000. The bigger disaster has been inter-Palestinian division, where Hamas imposes its influence on Gaza while the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation) enforces its authority on the West Bank.
The writer has a keen and sensitive eye, capturing and recording details. At the same time he provides authenticated and accurate information backed by historical incidents and events since 1948 — ie since the establishment of the racist occupation state on the ruins of the Palestinian people’s land.
There remains a question: if this visit happened in 2012, why the writer waited five years before publishing his book?