In politics one’s brother could easily and quickly turn into enemy while yesterday’s enemy could, as easily and as quickly, turn into a beloved brother. Case in point is the case of Gaza Palestinians. They used to be the brothers of previous Egyptian ruling regimes, and the Egyptian frontal defense line against its enemy; Israel. But now, Palestinians have been made, by the present Mubarak’s Egyptian regime, an enemy, while Israel, who was Egypt’s (and all Arab’s) enemy had been turned, by this same Egyptian regime, into a beloved brother.
After the savage Israeli occupation of western half of Palestine and severing the Gaza Strip off its Palestine mother land in 1948 Egypt sponsored the Gaza Strip and its Palestinian residents and refugees and treated them as its own equal citizens. In 1967 Israel expanded its occupation to cover all of Palestine including Gaza Strip, Egyptian Sinai Peninsula, and reached Suez Canal.
The Suez Canal needed to be open for international trade. The Egyptian forces achieved this goal in the October War of 1973 against Israel. This led to peace negotiations between the two countries that eventually culminated into the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty of March 1979 signed by Egyptian Anwar Sadat and Israeli Menahem Begin and overlooked by U.S. President Jimmy Carter. Through this Peace Treaty Egypt, seemingly and not actually, regained sovereignty over Sinai Peninsula but abandoned the whole Gaza Strip to Israel. Since then the Gaza Strip seemed to be treated as part of a foreign country by Egyptian successive regimes; first by Sadat’s then by Mubarak’s.
In June 2007 the democratically elected Hamas regime foiled an American/Fatah-sponsored coup attempt led by chief security forces Mohammad Dahlan, and purged Gaza from Fatah rogue elements. Hamas regime rejected and sought to rectify the American sponsored demeaning and unjust old Abbas’ PA/Israeli agreements. It, thus, was considered a hostile entity by Israel and a terrorist group by the all-mighty Bush administration. This led to the Israeli siege of all Gaza Strip and the withdrawal of international observers and PA Fatah personnel from the Rafah crossing on the Gaza side.
Egyptian Mubarak’s regime chose to partner with Israel in its blockading siege against Gaza and closed its side of Rafah crossing except occasionally when under international pressure. The regime claimed that it cannot violate the 2000 Crossing Agreement that allowed the Palestinian Authority to administer the Palestinian side of the Rafah Crossing under the supervision of EU supervision and the strict Israeli monitoring through video cameras. This was an annual self-renewable agreement. Yet this crossing was closed most of the year under Israeli security justifications.
It is worth noticing that Egypt was not part of the agreement at all, and closing its side of the crossing has nothing to do with violating any agreement. Egypt should have kept the crossing open and administered it the same way it administers its border crossings across other countries such as Libya and Sudan. Instead Mubarak’s regime chose to close the last link of the Israeli blockading siege against Gaza under the claims of self defense against terrorists and protecting national security. These are the same claims Israel uses to justify its terror attacks against Palestinians.
Since then the hostility of Mubarak’s regime against Gaza Palestinians has been gradually increasing until it culminated recently with the erection of the most sophisticated surveillance equipment on the border, the erection of Israeli-like watch towers, the construction of a port anchorage on Gaza sea border for patrol boats, whose job is to block the sea route into Gaza, the building of the underground steel wall, and giving orders to shoot Palestinian civilians demonstrating against it.
The Gaza tunnels were not originally a problem to Egypt. On the contrary, Egyptian business men profited immensely from selling goods in high prices to Palestinian smugglers. It was only after Israeli siege against Gaza that Egypt was put under pressure to close the tunnels when the US and Israel accused Mubarak’s regime of smuggling weapons into Gaza. Mubarak’s regime started demolishing the tunnels on its side, and then recently started building the underground steel wall and a network of water pipe lines aimed at flooding the tunnels.
Erecting a barrier along the Egyptian/Gaza borders was originally an Israeli plan going back to 2007 when Israel drew a plan to dig a wide and deep water barrier canal extending from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea inland along the borders. The American military engineers revived this plan with underground steel wall and a network of flooding pipe lines. The steel plates are manufactured in the US and delivered to Egyptian government-owned “Arab Contractors” company, who builds the wall under the supervision of the American military engineers. The strange fact here is that two countries; US & Israel, planed to control the borders of a third country; Egypt, in order to wipe out the citizens of a fourth country; Palestinians. What is stranger is Mubarak’s acceptance of compromising and surrendering Egyptian national security and sovereignty to foreign powers, and of executing this genocidal plan.
Where Israeli gun boats had blocked all “Break the Siege” humanitarian boats in the sea Mubarak’s regime had created all kinds of land obstacles to block international humanitarian aids to besieged Gaza citizens especially after the December 2009 Israeli onslaught. Peace activists and foreign parliamentarians were prevented from entering Gaza. Food and medicine aids were stored in Egyptian desert warehouses until spoiled and then burnt. Egyptian thugs and police attacked international aid convoys, such as “Viva Palestina”, injuring activists and damaging their donated aids. George Galloway, a humanitarian hero, whose humanitarian convoys to besieged Gaza shamed all Arab leaders for lack of action, and focused the light on Mubarak’s role in choking the Palestinians in Gaza, was labeled 'persona non grata' and kicked out of Egypt. Recently the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, declared from Washington on January 9th that Egypt will not grant any humanitarian aid convoy entry to Gaza through Rafah Crossing. Humanitarian aids should be delivered through Egyptian controlled Red Crescent, he declared.
Egyptian officials, pro-regime religious clerks, and regime’s mouth piece media accused Hamas of smuggling weapons and drugs into Egypt, of endangering Egyptian national security by cooperating with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood to topple down the regime, of being subservient to Lebanese Hezbollah and to Iran, and of having Al-Qaeda base in Gaza. Hasan Isa, once the Egyptian ambassador to Israel, had the audacity (stupidity) of accusing Hamas government, in a televised interview, of smuggling Russian prostitutes into Gaza through the tunnels.
On the other hand Israeli leaders had become Mubarak’s good friends. His palace and Sharm El-Sheikh resorts are wide open to all Israeli war criminal leaders, who are received with welcoming hugs and warm handshakes. Mubarak had opened Egyptian borders wide for the Israeli goods, many of which are exempt from any taxes. Egypt is exporting its goods to Israel in large quantities and cheap prices especially cement that is used to build the Israeli separation wall, while Palestinians in Gaza cannot rebuild their destroyed homes due to lack of building materials.
Egypt, through its East Mediterranean Gas (EMG) company, is selling its natural gas to Israel for ridiculously cheap prices. Where the market value of one square meter of gas is $12, Egypt sells it to Israel for merely $2. According to a 2005 agreement Egypt is obliged to export 1.7 billion square meters of natural gas annually to Israel for 20 years. When Israeli citizens and military industry are enjoying the cheap Egyptian gas Egyptian citizens, themselves, are facing cooking gas crisis. House wives stand in very long lines for the whole day waiting for gas supplies that never come. The price of a cooking gas canister had reached $12.50. Police officers are dispatched to gas dispensaries to quell public violent rioting. Gaza Palestinians and the rest of Arab countries would have paid more than $2 for square meter of gas and Egypt would have gained higher revenue for its impoverished economy.
Egypt had released the Israeli spy Azam Azam from prison before completing his sentence, yet Israel, in return, did not release any of the many Egyptian prisoners jailed in its prisons.
Egypt allows, and welcomes, Israeli tourists to visit Egyptian Sinai resorts, and to visit any of the old Jewish synagogue locations across Egypt, while Israel does not allow Egyptian citizens, Moslems and Christians, to visit their holiest places in Jerusalem.
Having pre-approved orders to open fire, last January 6th Egyptian border patrol opened fire at Palestinians peacefully demonstrating against the steel wall, while on the Gaza side, injuring 35 and killing 2 of them. When one of the Egyptian soldiers was shot by friendly fire during the incident, Egyptian officials, religious clerics, and regime-sponsored media raised the issue of national security and harshly attacked Hamas government accusing it of terrorism. Yet none of these so-called patriots said one word against Israel, who had shot, in cold blood, 16 Egyptian soldiers across the border during the last five years. Nor did they demand to take Israel to international court for the documented massacres of Egyptian soldier prisoners, in cold blood, during the wars of 1956 and 1967.
Mubarak seems to consider himself a guardian for the safety of the Israeli military. It was reported that, last June and July, Israeli missile boats had crossed the Suez Canal en route to the Red Sea, rather than sailing the long route around Africa, on their way to the Persian Gulf. In one case the boats were accompanied by an Israeli submarine. This month on February 6th two more Israeli missile boats passed through the Canal again following the same route. Mubarak’s regime had adopted the strictest security measures to ensure the safe passage of the Israeli vessels, such as preventing any other vessels from passing through the Canal at the same time, and the halting of all vehicular traffic on all the roads leading to the Canal. Mubarak has saved the Israeli military time and money on the expense of the Egyptian national budget.
Being cut off from all means of survival, dehumanized, criminalized, besieged and tightly cornered, by foe and by brother, without any way out Gaza Palestinians are driven into tunnel smuggling trade to obtain their necessities of life such as fresh and canned food, baby milk, school materials, heating fuel, automobile gas, clothes, house cleaning liquids & soaps, home appliances such as ovens, cooking pots and many others.
In January 2009 an estimated 700 thousand starved and desperate Palestinians forced their way into Egypt across the border to purchase food. They all went back to Gaza without any violent or criminal incident. They did not threaten Egyptian national security. They did not smuggle weapons into Egypt for they need weapons to fight the Israeli occupation. They did not smuggle drugs into Egypt for their farms can hardly produce enough food. As for being loyal to Hezbollah and Iran, Palestinians would be very friendly to any Arab country, especially Egypt, if they would support Palestinians politically and militarily.
With the fully pre-meditated intent to close Gaza tunnels, the blood life to Palestinians, with the underground steel wall, Egyptian officials emphatically claim Egypt has the legal right to build the wall on its own land. Minister of State for Legal Affairs, Moufid Shehab, stated in a report released to the press, that the wall is a legitimate national defense mechanism against arms smuggling and terrorism.
Although Egypt has the full legal right to protect its borders, yet such right must not infringe on the liberty and livelihood of its neighbors. Such infringement could be construed as an attack. Diplomatic arrangements with the neighbors, not steel walls, are the civilized international norms of avoiding such misunderstanding, and of protecting one’s national security against smugglers and terrorism.
Rather than wasting money building walls Mubarak should have invested this money building homes for the hundreds of thousands of homeless citizens, who live now in grave yards. He should rebuild and repair the deteriorating infrastructures of Cairo, where stinky waste water is flooding many suburbs and contaminating drinking water. Mubarak could have been the humanitarian champion of the Arab World by opening the Rafah Crossings for normal traffic and trade. He would have abided by the Arab League Resolution calling for breaking the Israeli siege.
One should make a clear distinction between the 28 years old dictatorial Mubarak’s regime and the Egyptian regular citizens, who oppose Mubarak’s policies including the erection of the steel wall. University students of Mansura University demonstrated against the wall last Monday February 8th. Yesterday, February 13th, activists from different political affiliations gathered at the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate in protest against the wall. Further protests against the wall are planned for the rest of next week including lectures and film screenings. Former diplomat Ibrahim Yousry raised a lawsuit against the state’s erection of the wall.
Similar protests are taking place at the same time in Beirut, Lebanon targeting the offices of “Arab Contractors” company, who is building the wall. Also a protesting march organized by “Filasteen Hurra” or “Free Palestine” targeted the Egyptian Embassy in Beirut.
Mubarak’s genocidal policies towards Gaza has a clear statement to Palestinians; “Die so that Israel can survive”. Choosing to partner with the criminal Israeli leaders against his brother Palestinian Arabs, Mubarak should be judged as a genocidal criminal.
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|Allen L. Jasson|