Egypt’s complicity in the criminal blockade of Gaza
(Redress Information and Analysis) -- By Uri Avnery --
...Until recently, the Egyptian government had been sticking to a solution that exemplifies the 6000-year old Egyptian political acumen. It participated in the blockade but closed its eyes to the hundreds of tunnels dug under the Egyptian-Gaza border, through which the daily supplies for the population were flowing (for exorbitant prices, and with high profits for Egyptian merchants), together with the stream of arms. People also passed through them – from Hamas activists to brides.
This is about to change. Egypt has started building an iron wall – literally – along the full length of the Gaza border, consisting of steel pillars thrust deep into the ground, in order to block all tunnels. That will finally choke the inhabitants.
When the most extreme Zionist, Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotinsky, wrote 80 years ago about erecting an “Iron Wall” against the Palestinians, he did not dream of Arabs doing just that.
Why do they do it?
There are several explanations. Cynics point out that the Egyptian government receives a huge American subsidy every year – almost two billion dollars – by courtesy of Israel. It started as a reward for the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. The pro-Israel lobby in the US Congress can stop it any time.
Others believe that Mubarak is afraid of Hamas. The organization started out as the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, still the main opposition to his autocratic regime. The Cairo-Riyadh-Amman-Ramallah axis is poised against the Damascus-Gaza axis that is allied with the Tehran-Hizbullah axis. Many people believe that Mahmoud Abbas is interested in the tightening of the Gaza blockade in order to hurt Hamas.
Mubarak is angry with Hamas, which refuses to dance to his tune. Like his predecessors, he demands that the Palestinians obey his orders. President Abd-al-Nasser was angry with the Palestine Liberation Organization (an organization created by him to ensure Egyptian control of the Palestinians, but which escaped him when Yasser Arafat took over). President Anwar Sadat was angry with the PLO for rejecting the Camp David agreement, which promised Palestinians only “autonomy”. How dare the Palestinians, a small, oppressed people, refuse the ”advice” of Big Brother?
All these explanations make sense, yet the Egyptian government’s attitude is still astonishing. The Egyptian blockade of Gaza destroys the lives of 1.5 million human beings, men and women, old people and children, most of who are not Hamas activists. It is done publicly, before the eyes of hundreds of millions of Arabs, a billion and a quarter Muslims. In Egypt itself, too, millions of people are ashamed of the participation of their country in the starving of fellow Arabs.
It is a very dangerous policy. Why does Mubarak follow it?
The real answer is, probably, that he has no choice.
Egypt is a very proud country. Anyone who has been in Egypt knows that even the poorest Egyptian is full of national pride and is easily insulted when his national dignity is hurt. That was shown again a few weeks ago, when Egypt lost a soccer match with Algeria and behaved as if it has lost a war.
“Consider that from the summit of these Pyramids, 40 centuries look down upon you,” Napoleon told his soldiers on the eve of the battle for Cairo. Every Egyptian feels that 6000 – some say 8000 – years of history look upon him all the time.
This profound feeling clashes with reality at a time when Egypt’s situation is getting more and more miserable. Saudi Arabia has more influence, tiny Dubai has become an international financial centre, Iran is becoming a far more important regional power. Contrary to Iran, where the ayatollahs have called upon families to limit themselves to two children, the Egyptian birthrate is devouring everything, condemning the country to permanent poverty.
In the past, Egypt succeeded in balancing its internal weaknesses with external successes. The whole world considered Egypt as the leader of the Arab world, and treated it accordingly. No more.
Egypt is in a bad situation. Therefore, Mubarak has no choice but to follow the dictates of the US – which are, in fact, Israeli dictates. That is the real explanation for his participation in the blockade...MORE...LINK
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