Egypt’s disturbing actions in the Gaza Strip
By Ray Hanania
The Egyptian Wall is nothing like the Israeli Wall, but they are designed to achieve the same purpose. Except while Israel controls it’s Wall, Egypt is merely a pawn enslaved to the changing political dynamics of a Middle East and the fast weakening of once proud Arab nationalism.
The Israeli Wall is called a “fence” by Israel, a creative PR strategy to minimize the ugliness of building any concrete walls; it is called a “barrier” by news media, which is too afraid to challenge Israel’s domination and influence over the mainstream American media.
In places where Palestinian populations are concentrated, the Israelis build a 24-foot tall concrete wall with gun turrets and watch towers, and buffered by shorter fencing and metal pylons. In areas with less populations, the concrete wall is replaced by a tall fence with a wide girth, moat, razor wire and electrical wiring.
The Wall is not built on Israel’s 1949 armistice line between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but rather deep into the West Bank, effectively placing more occupied Palestinian lands under Israeli control, and stripping Palestinians of their access, ability to farm or to manage.
Not coincidentally, the Wall also snakes around all of the major water wells in the West Bank, placing those under Israeli control, too, and denying access to Palestinian farmers.
Like the settlements, that Israel long ago claimed were “temporary” and intended to “provide security,” the Wall is spun the same way. Of course, half of the settlements Israel built in the West Bank have become “permanent” and the Israelis now refer to “illegal settlements” as those “outposts” built by settler militants without Israeli government authority.
I understand why Israel built the Wall: Israel is in a conflict with Palestinians and is seeking to expand its land base by annexing through settlements and the placement of the wall land it failed to occupy in 1948 but did occupy in 1967. It’s a political land grab that exploits the security issues.
But I don’t understand the Egyptian Wall and how Egyptians can even live with it.
The Gaza Strip was enclosed in a Wall by Israel. The control of the Gaza Wall was later turned over to the Egyptians.
Few people really paid attention to the Egyptian Wall, mainly because the focus was on the larger Wall inside the West Bank.
It is similar in height, in some places, to the Israeli Wall, and mainly concrete at the official crossing and checkpoints, like at Rafah.
Israel controls the Gaza Strip’s water and electricity and has placed the Palestinians under siege in response to the firing of homemade Qassem rockets across Gaza’s northern border with Israel.
Last month, in an act that defied their imprisonment by Israel’s government, Palestinians broke through the Egyptian Wall with bulldozers. It wasn’t an invasion of Egypt, but a flood of Palestinians desperate to find food, water and gasoline for their cars.
They weren’t attacking Egypt. They just wanted to live. They wanted to survive Israel’s inhumane official policy of collective punishment, a violation of the International Rule of Law that Israel’s government frequently flaunts.
Rather than target Palestinian militants and members of the Hamas terrorist organization, which falsely claims it is the legitimate government in the Gaza Strip, Israel is punishing all of the Palestinian civilians by cutting back water, electricity and movement. The policy stymies the ability of Palestinian civilians to live. In a real sense, Israel’s “collective punishment” is a slow form of terrorism that ends up murdering innocent people.
This week, Egypt’s government, acting like a pawn of the Israeli government, closed the passages, and began forcing Palestinians back into their human cage. Back into an oppressive environment that is reminiscent of World War II’s inhuman Warsaw Ghetto siege.
What Palestinians want is peace. They don’t want more violence.
But all they get from Israel are clever public relations sound bites, such as, “We withdrew our forces from the Gaza Strip and the Palestinians still continue to fire rockets at us.” Of course, the sound bites don’t explain that since Israel withdrew, the civilians in the Gaza Strip have been imprisoned like animals and continue to live under Israeli government control.
What the Palestinians need is a stronger secular government to undermine Hamas, the “mini-me” of the extremist Islamicist movement which seeks Islamic rule throughout the Middle East and the World. They need to also reconcile with the fact that they have no alternative but peace based on compromise with Israel, and an end to all forms of violence against Israeli civilians, a terrorism that is just as immoral and inhumane and illegal, too.
What Palestinians need from Egypt is the return of a once powerful and proud Arab ally who stood up to the dictates and power politics of Israel in the past and demanded the formation of Arab Nationalism throughout the Middle East.
Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat did sign a peace accord with Israel in 1978, but that Israel’s Prime Minister at the time, former terrorist Menachem Begin, violated, reneging on the most important provisions of that peace process requiring Israel to open direct negotiations with the Palestinians. Israel avoided that until the first Palestinian Intifada forced them to sit down with the PLO and sign an agreement in 1993.
Egypt today is a shameful dictatorship. It’s people live in an imprisonment of their own where free speech is regularly denied, the government is subservient to extremist American foreign policy driven by billions of dollars in handouts and aid, and they have lost the greatness that didn’t begin with secular Nationalist Gamal Abdul Nasser, but with true Egyptian patriots going back into the 18th and 19th Centuries.
What Egypt has traded in exchange for American financial aid, was its right to freedom and its Arab pride. Today, Egypt is less of a leader of the Arab World, and more a politically shackled slave of Israeli regional power.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and author. Copyright Arab American Writers Group Syndicate, http://www.ArabWritersGroup.com )