Beirut, Gaza, Jerusalem, Amman

Nahöstlicher Grenzverkehr, geschildert von Robert Fisk. Wie lauten noch die Schlüsselbegriffe für’s westliche Ohr? Friedensprozess? Road Map?

The journey from Gaza to Beirut is very much part of that story. By sailing boat it would take about six hours. By road and air it’s going to take me 12. At the Erez checkpoint, we go through the same old routine again. The Hamas lady signs us out and the Palestinian Authority down the road tells the Israelis we are here and then, after all that fencing and wall and those iron doors and flashing green lights – go when the light goes green, stand when it shows red, place your feet on the places marked on the scanner – there is my bag on the security belt and I can’t find my bloody press card until Macintyre smilingly says: „Steady – these places make you lose things,“ and of course it’s there.

„Why are you coming to Israel?“ I’m asked at the booth. Because I’m going to Jerusalem. Halfway to Jerusalem a relieved Macintyre hands me over to an Israeli photographer who is taking pictures of me by the Wall in Jerusalem. It’s a weird experience. Palestinian kids play in the street and I can hear them playing on the other side of the concrete. Cars race up the road but when I turn round, they aren’t there. That’s because they are on the other side too.

Issa Farhan drives me off though the Israeli-occupied West Bank. I can’t drive across the Allenby Bridge without a Jordanian visa in my passport. So I go through the occupied Palestinian Area „C“ up the side of the Jordan river (where my Lebanese mobile „pings“ to tell me that I’m already in Jordan). But to reach the King Hussein Bridge, I have to re-enter Israel.

„Why are you coming to Israel?“ the Israeli girl asks me. Because I’m going to Beirut. Ye gods. No problems at the Israeli side of the Jordan river (or muddy stream) but the Jordanians want to stamp my passport. „No!“ I holler. Then the Lebanese will see where I entered Jordan. So he gives me another piece of paper with a stamp on it and I approach Jordanian immigration.

Captain Mohamed prowls through my bag. „What is this?“ he asks. He suspiciously pulls a book from my bag. It is Helen Gardner’s 1972 Penguin edition of The Metaphysical Poets. „What is it about?“ I tell him I read poetry when I travel. What else can I say? „Wait here.“ I am dreaming now. Wait here. Go into the security room. Wait for the green light or the red light or an iron door or a concrete wall. Stand with your feet apart. Keep them together. Stand on your head. It’s the story of the Middle East. Am I supposed to deliver a lecture on Marvell and Donne? For whom the bell tolls? It tolls for me.

Captain Mohamed is studying the book’s cover with distaste. It shows a woman in bed! It is a detail of John Souch’s Sir Thomas Aston at the Deathbed of his First Wife in the Manchester Art Gallery. Yes. YE GODS!

Noch ein Schlüsselbegriff: Orwell!

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