Wednesday, May 08, 2024

Disclaimer: the views expressed here are solely those of the author, weekly Judean Rose columnist Varda Meyers Epstein.

Photos of Rafah refugees fleeing however they might—by car, on foot, by bundle-laden donkey-driven carts—were everywhere yesterday, the unseasonable rain adding a poignant touch of pathos to their plight. The parents looked grim for the photos, while the children seemed cheerful enough, with smiles on their faces. They were leaving Rafah. It was an adventure.

The much-anticipated IDF operation in Rafah had already begun if you count the evacuation of some 100,000 Rafah civilians to a new humanitarian zone created just for them. For the refugees, it would be no picnic, obviously, but there would be “field hospitals, tents, and increased provisions of food, water, medicine, and other supplies,” said the Jerusalem Post.

Some of the refugees attempted to cross into Egypt, to no avail. They were turned away by the Egyptian military, who had beefed up their presence and level of preparedness along the 12-kilometer border between Gaza and Egypt.

You read that right: Egypt shares a border with Gaza. If you look at a map, you will see it is true.

(Red line: border fence between Rafah and Israel. Brown line: border line between Rafah and Egypt.)

But Egypt will not provide a haven for the desperate-to-leave Gazan civilians. Not unless they pay a fee of anywhere from $5,000-$12,000 a head.

Most refugees don’t have that kind of money.

A touching Ynet piece, 'We hate Hamas like we hate Israel': the Palestinians who managed to flee Gaza, shares the stories of various Gazans forced to relocate—in some cases, more than once—as a result of the war Hamas started on October 7:

The procedure of leaving Gaza went on for days. In the first stage, Dr. Mukhaimer Abu Saada, who lived near the upscale Al Rimal neighborhood, was forced to move with his wife Rosanne and his children to Khan Younis where he found shelter at a relative’s apartment. Two weeks later, IDF forces told the area’s residents to move to Rafah where the man, who until recently was head of the department of political science at Al-Azhar University, huddled with his family in a tent in appalling conditions.

Only then did they receive word and the family reported at the border crossing. They waited in line. Someone had made sure to pay $8,000 per person. Only then were they granted a permit to cross into Egypt. “It was a nightmare,” he says in an interview from his new home in Cairo. “We didn’t know until the last minute whether we’d be able to get out of there.”

Despite the upheaval, Dr. Abu Saada is considered one of the lucky ones. Since the start of the war, very few Gazans have managed to leave the bombed and burning Strip. Some only passed via Egypt en route to Europe or Arab countries that had agreed to take them in. Others have settled in Egypt. The transition cost a great deal – amounts of money most Gazans could only dream of . . .

 . . . Since November, when the Rafah crossing opened for around-the-clock activity, 600 Palestinians holding dual nationality have managed to leave the Gaza Strip. Then came the privileged, like Abu Saada, whose people paid for their departure. At the moment, it’s the rich who can get out. At first, they paid $8,000 per person. The price then dropped to $,5000 and it’s now risen to $10,000 (children paying $2500). The permit arrives at night and is only stamped the following day. If you miss that window of opportunity, you have to start the process all over – with increments of thousands of dollars per person. Only a few dozen people have so far managed to get out in this way. . .

 . . . Like Abu Saada, M., along with five family members, managed to make it to Cairo. “We were lucky,” she says, “we only paid $5,000 per adult and $2,000 per child. The price is now twice that.” She doesn’t want to disclose her complete name, and definitely not to an Israeli newspaper. “Yes, I’m in Egypt in a safe place, but I have first- and second-degree relatives in Gaza and I need to think of them.”

The Rafah civilians should be safe in the humanitarian zone created for them by Israel—unless Hamas finds a way to use them as human shields. But the homes they left may very well be reduced to dust. Hamas is behind that—behind all of the death and destruction. The rapists have wormed their way through Gaza every which way: from belowground in tunnels, and from aboveground, too, embedding itself in apartment buildings, schools, and hospitals.

Hamas makes extensive use of human shields, putting civilians in harm's way to shield itself. It’s a very effective tactic from the terrorists’ perspective. Hamas hides behind the civilians, and the IDF holds its fire. In this cruel manner, civilians provide the perfect protection for Israel's real nemesis: the Hamas rapist cowards.

When, however, Gaza civilians do get caught in the crossfire and subsequently die, it's a win-win proposition for Hamas. There’s nothing quite like photos of dead Gazans to demonize Israel and further Hamas aims. The photos are framed in such a way as to take the onus off the true culprit, Hamas, for  the Gazan death and destruction, while shifting the blame onto Israel. 

The AP and Reuters, of course, just lap this stuff up. It’s what their audiences crave most: Israel as murderer without mercy, the Gazans as poor innocent lambs. That’s the media narrative and they're sticking to it. And it is this narrative that continues to empower and embolden Hamas, who holds not only Israelis hostage, but the people of Gaza, too.

One might have thought, if one were inclined to think, that among the 22 Arab nations, there’d be one or two that might take pity on the people of Gaza, and absorb and resettle at least some of them, and on their own dime. They share a common language along with the same culture and religion as the fleeing refugees. Yet, not one of these 22 Arab countries will let them in. That’s a lot of places that might extend a charitable hand to the Gaza refugees, but fail to do so.

Of course, one cold-hearted country stands out from among the rest in regard to its lack of concern over the plight of its Gazan brethren, and that country is Egypt. Egypt shares a border with Gaza. And all Egypt has to do is open its gates and heart to its Arab brothers and sisters—the ones who will die if it doesn’t.

But it won’t.

There are many reasons why Egypt won’t take in its kin—won’t take in its own. But we won’t go into that here. Instead we will talk about the shame of it. How shameful it is that Egypt won’t take in its own people.

Confronted with this truth, those plugging the anti-Israel narrative have a rote response at the ready, "What does Egypt have to do with any of this—this Hamas war with Israel?"

Actually, quite a lot. Beginning with the fact that many if not most Gazans are of Egyptian heritage.

"Masri” is slang for "Egyptian" and according to “Palestinian Tribes, Clans, and Notable Families,” a prominent surname in Gaza:

Notable Families

The third clan-like grouping in Palestine in the urban elite notable family, a social formation typical throughout the Arab lands of the Ottoman Empire. Many of the most well known and prominent Palestinian families come from this notabsle, or a’yan, social class: Husayni, Nashashibi, Dajani, Abd al-Hadi, Tuqan, Nabulsi, Khoury, Tamimi, Khatib, Ja’bari, Masri, Kan’an, Shaq’a, Barghouthi, Shawwa, Rayyes, and others. These are extended families that dominated Palestinian politics until the 1980s, and are still relatively prominent today.

The preponderance in Gaza of the surname “Masri” (also “al-Masri” and other variations), betrays the Egyptian origins of a large number of Gazans. They’re the same people of the same stock; they’re Egyptians. But Egypt shares more than blood ties with Gaza. Egypt shares a border with Gaza, something the stupid don’t know when they talk about Gaza being an “open-air prison”

There are TWO ways in and out of Gaza, two shared borders. One with Israel and one with, Egypt, from whence the people of Gaza come. The Egyptians are their family, their kin.

But kids these days. These ignorant protesting dummies on college campuses, so drunk with genocide cool aid, that they haven’t even looked at a map. How could we expect them to do a bit of digging, apply some critical thought to the idea that they're fighting for—to look at the clues contained in the surnames of the people they claim are subject to Israeli genocide? It's their own family who won’t let them in!

Smart people know better than these campus idiots because they bother to look at a map, and investigate the facts. They see how shameful this is, how Egypt, only steps away from Rafah, should be ashamed of itself. That’s what intelligent people know to think when they see photos in the media of the sad and grim refugees set to wandering yet again. 

It’s what we should all be thinking and asking out loud: Why won’t Egypt give refuge to its brethren? Why won’t it save its own people? Why has Egypt trapped the people of Gaza in an open-air prison even now, when it counts most, when the homes and lives of the Gazan people of Rafah, lie in the balance?

History will not be kind to Egypt for its despicable behavior toward the people of Rafah. All will be noted and recorded, a new black mark on the reputation of Egypt, the country that once oppressed the Jews and now oppresses its own.

It's a shameful thing, a shonda

For shame, Egypt. 

For shame.

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