.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Egypt besieges Gaza, Arabs blame Israel

Ma'an has a fantastic example of doubletalk in an article by Laila el-Haddad, "a Maryland-based freelance journalist, author, political analyst, and parent-of-two from Gaza."

She pretends to write about exactly what is going on at the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt. This is a topic I am very interested in, but the article bends over backwards to try to ensure that the reader believes that Israel is somehow responsible for Egypt's actions in Rafah.

One thing is obvious: Israel has no control over Egypt, no control over Hamas, and no presence - direct or indirect - at Rafah. But to el-Haddad, Israel manages to somehow control the crossing anyway.

So far successive Egyptian governments have adopted the Israeli principles governing the crossing, even though Israel itself no longer manages it.

Simply put, those principles are that only Gaza Palestinians listed in the Israeli-controlled population registry are permitted to use the crossing. Visitors and non-resident Palestinians – even Palestinians from the West Bank – are still forbidden from entering Gaza, and this includes the spouses of resident Palestinians. Moreover, most young males face great difficulty in passing in or out and are often denied permission outright by Egyptian authorities.
Is Egypt forced to use the "Israeli-controlled population registry"? Of course not, but that small fact has no place in an article filled with half-truths.

Of course, in an article that supposedly is meant to talk about Rafah today, el-Haddad must spend lots of time talking about when Israel did have a presence in Gaza and when it had an agreement with Egypt about entry into Gaza - because she apparently has a quota to ensure that more than half the article has anti-Israel content.

But if you manage to get past her constant anti-Israel rhetoric, you can see that Egypt is the one making every single decision to limit Palestinian Arab access to Rafah:
It's true that the crossing has been open on a more regular basis and to a greater number of Gaza residents. However many of the traditional restrictions remain in place: males 18-40 still require pre-approval, find it difficult to obtain entry visas to Egypt, or are banned altogether. To put things in perspective, they constitute about a quarter of Gaza’s population.

Moreover, it should be noted here that in order to get to the Rafah Crossing to start with, Palestinians need first to enter Egypt. This of course requires an Egyptian visa, which is often denied, especially to young people or those without a foreign residency of some sort.

A cousin of mine – a brilliant young scholarship student from Gaza currently studying in Mississippi – has been trying for three years, to no avail, to obtain an Egyptian visa in order to go visit his family in Gaza and return home. He is one of thousands in a similar situation. As recently as this month, my parents, both in their late 60s, were denied Egyptian entry visas en route back to Gaza from a US visit. All of them hold Gaza residency cards.

Nevertheless, as anyone who has suffered long hours (or days or weeks or months) in the punishing heat or bone-numbing cold [apparently, those are the only temperatures in Gaza year-round - EoZ] of this little corner of the world awaiting entry or exit can attest, even this limited opening of the crossing was news to be celebrated.

But with access still limited to certain segments of society, and, critically, to the Palestinians in Israeli-controlled population registry, the so-called re-opening of Rafah Crossing is simply a return to status quo of years past: only Palestinians carrying an Israeli-approved Gaza ID card can use Rafah Crossing.

In other words, Palestinians from the West Bank or East Jerusalem, Palestinians in refugee camps outside the OPT, 1948 Palestinian citizens of Israel, or Palestinians living in diaspora, are all still not allowed passage to Gaza through Rafah.

This includes Palestinian families, such as my own, where one spouse possesses an ID but the other does not. It also includes internally displaced Palestinians who live in Gaza but whose IDs were never approved by Israeli authorities and who are not allowed to exit. These cases number in the tens of thousands.
But even this information may be inaccurate.

Asharq al-Awsat had an interview with Hamas deputy Musa abu-Marzouk, which included this exchange: (h/t Ian)
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Has the problem regarding the Palestinian refugees who fled Syria and who are trying to return to Palestine been resolved?

[Abu-Marzuq] We have secured the entry of many of the Palestinians who fled Syria for Egypt into the Gaza Strip. A limited number remain in Egypt due to certain problems and issues, such as studying. They may remain in Cairo for up to one year, and then we will work to secure their entry into the Gaza Strip following this.
If Abu Marzouk is telling the truth and Syrian Palestinians have managed to enter Gaza through Egypt, then Laila el-Haddad is not being quite truthful (unless they are being smuggled through tunnels.)

Meanwhile, Egypt has struck another blow against Gaza.

Earlier this week:
Hamas has prepared a working paper on the establishment of a Rafah joint free industrial trade zone linking Egypt with the Gaza Strip, Palestinian news and information agency WAFA said Monday.

According to WAFA, the area would be supervised by an Egyptian-Palestinian commission that would work to attract investors to the region and give the private sector on both sides of the border the opportunity to build infrastructure and facilities.
But now Al Quds al Arabi is reporting that Egypt has formally denied the idea of a free-trade zone that would have helped the Gaza economy so much.

And, like el-Haddad, they are quick to blame - Israel! You see, the free trade zone would indeed benefit Gazans, but it would benefit Israel too, and that is something that cannot be tolerated.

So once again we see that Egypt is besieging Gaza, and will continue to do so.

And as always, the Arabs will bend over backwards to blame the Jews.