Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Gazans "treated like animals" at Egyptian border

Writer and editor Ramzy Baroud is hardly reliable, but this article in his Palestine Chronicle is interesting:

Governed by political and cultural sensitivities, most Palestinian officials and public figures refrain from criticising the way Palestinians are treated at the Rafah border.

However there is really no diplomatic language to describe the relationship between desperate Palestinians - some literally fighting for their lives - and Egyptian officials at the crossing which separates Gaza from Egypt.

"Gazans are treated like animals at the border," a friend of mine told me.

Having crossed the border myself just a few days ago, I could not disagree with her statement.

The latest "permanent" reopening has come with its own conditions and limitations, involving such factors as gender, age, purpose of visit and so on.

I was one of the very first Palestinians who stood at Rafah following the announcement of a "permanent" opening.

Our bus waited at the gate for a long time.

I watched a father repeatedly try to reassure his crying six-year-old child, who displayed obvious signs of a terrible bone disease.
I'm not sure how obvious a bone disease can be from the outside, but anyway....
"Get the children out or they will die," shouted an older passenger as he gasped for air.

The heat in the bus, combined with the smell of trapped sweat was unbearable.

Passengers took it upon themselves to leave the bus and stand outside, enduring disapproving looks from the Egyptian officials.
Disapproving looks. This is terrible!
Our next task was finding clean water and a shady spot in the arid zone separating the Egypt and Palestinian sides.

There were no toilets.

A tangible feeling of despair and humiliation could be read on the faces of the Gaza passengers.
So far this sounds just like passengers around the world on airplanes that are delayed on the tarmac.
No-one seemed to be in the mood to speak of the Egyptian revolution, a favourite topic of conversation among most Palestinians.

All Palestinians are treated very poorly at the Rafah crossing and they continue to suffer even after the toppling of Mubarak, his family and the dismissal of the corrupt security apparatus.

The Egyptian revolution has yet to reach Gaza.

When the bus was finally allowed to enter about five hours later, Palestinians dashed into the gate, desperately hoping to be among the lucky ones allowed to go in.

The anxiety of the travellers usually makes them vulnerable to workers at the border who promise them help in exchange for negotiated amounts of money.
Notice what he doesn't say - whether these workers are Egyptian or Palestinian. Since he hasn't yet crossed the border, it sounds like the latter.
All of this is actually a con, as the decision is made by a single man, referred to as al-Mukhabarat, the "intelligence."

Some are sent back while others are allowed entry.

Everyone is forced to wait for many hours - sometimes even days - with no clear explanation as to what they are waiting for or why they are being sent back.

The very ill six-year-old held onto his dad's jacket as they walked about, frantically trying to fulfil all the requirements.

Both seemed like they were about to collapse.

The Mukhabarat determined that three Gaza students on their way to their universities in Russia were to be sent back.

They had jumped through many hoops already to make it so far.

Their hearts sank when they heard the verdict.

I protested on their behalf and the decision was as arbitrarily reversed as it was originally made.
Our hero!
Those who are sent back to Gaza are escorted by unsympathetic officers to the same open spot to wait for the same decrepit bus.

Some of those who are allowed entry are escorted by security personnel across the Sinai desert, all the way to Cairo International Airport to be "deported" to their final destinations. They are all treated like common criminals.

The Israeli siege has choked Gaza to the point of near complete strangulation. Egypt is Gaza's only hope.

"I beg you to open the crossing... You brothers of Egypt have humiliated us for so long. Isn't it time we had our dignity back?" said Naziha al-Sebakhi, 63, one of the many distressed faces at the Rafah border.

As they crossed into Egypt, some of the passengers seemed euphoric.

The three Russian students and I shared a taxi to Cairo.

Despite everything, the young men seemed to hold no resentment towards Egypt.

"I just love Egypt. I don't know why," said Majid pensively, before falling asleep from sheer exhaustion.
People having to wait at an international crossing and being subjected to the laws and procedures of the land as to whether they can enter another country. Awful!

(h/t Israel Muse)