Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding

Opinion Editorials, August 2009


Al-Jazeerah History


Mission & Name  

Conflict Terminology  


Gaza Holocaust  

Gulf War  




News Photos  

Opinion Editorials

US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)




The Gaza Siege:

Who benefits from this crime against humanity?

A Statement By the International Movement to Open Rafah Border, August 5, 2009

The Egyptian authorities have transformed the Sinai Peninsula between Gaza, Israel and the Nile, in a military camp to protect the Zionist state but they have a counterpart: the financial exploitation of the Palestinians under siege.
Following the signing in 2005 of the Free Movement and Access (AMA), between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the European Union, shameful agreement that allowed the opening of the Rafah crossing under European and Israeli supervision, Egypt began to develop the road infrastructure which would support economic activity linked to this, by starting the construction of a four-way between Ismailia and Rafah.
But in January 2006 after the Hamas victory in parliamentary elections, however, regarded by all as a democratic, Israel imposed an embargo on the Palestinian Authority, the United States and the European Union froze the aid supplying and Egypt closed the Rafah crossing, set up dozens of checkpoints across the Sinai, with the construction of road infrastructure and economic development and has developed industry tunnels.
Mainstream media generally link tunnels with the smuggling of weapons into Gaza when they are used, mainly, to  supply commodities to the beleaguered Gazans and to make richer the Egyptian businessmen and authorities.
And this is under the eyes of the Egyptian authorities, the Zionist army, US, UN and European observers.
When one spent some time in the northern Sinai and at the Rafah crossing, we can see clearly why Egypt is not in a hurry to open the Rafah crossing and why the statements of the Quartet, the Union European and United States are mere hypocrisy.
Any observer, even without knowing the language, can see it.
First, there are the external signs of wealth: big cars, new pickups nothing to do with what can be seen elsewhere in Egypt.
Indeed, hundreds of these flashing pickups, blue, green, red, ply routes between the Suez Canal and Rafah. They carry all equipment or commodities that the Gazans will pay 7 times their price.
A local activist told me that according to their colors, one could recognize the businessman who heads the network, in general, a Sinai Bedouin dignitary and this traffic is necessarily well-known to Egyptian authorities, given the large number of checkpoints placed on this road and the presence of intelligence on these checkpoints.
These vehicles plied the streets of Rafah, where they blithely pass the dozens of police checkpoints set up in the city and move smoothly in front of the United Nations observation post.
They also spend on a daily basis in front of the international forces based in the Sinai, 25 km from Rafah, from which the American troops convoys come every day at Gate of Rafah to monitor that the blockade of Gaza is well maintained.
This really shows the hypocrisy of the world leaders and the Quartet when they call Israel to lift the Gaza siege.
The problem is not just the general hypocrisy about the tunnels, but also the organized racket of Palestinians attempting to enter or leave Gaza.
Any Palestinian who was fortunate, for whatever reason, usually a medical problem, obtains an authorization to leave Gaza from the Palestinian Authority and thus, consequently, from Israelis and Egyptians, is granted a limited period to his stay in Egypt or abroad.
But if he tries to return to Gaza after being stuck for days or weeks in Egypt due to the closure of the border, he must pay a "delay" fee to the Egyptian authorities, this is added to 90 EGP (11.5 ) that everyone must pay to enter Palestine.
I would say that to return to Gaza, it is better to be a member of Fatah and coordinate with the representative of the Palestinian Authority in Al Arish, of course, always against a certain sum of money.
To better trap the Palestinians, the Egyptian authorities do not provide information on the procedures for entry into Gaza and announce the dates for the opening of the border only a few days before.
Indeed, according to an agreement between Hamas and Egypt, the border should be open 2 days per month, which is also a shame because when the border is open, thousands of people are flocking to the Rafah Gate and the entry into Gaza is a mess in the most complete. (Today, there is 1 month the border has not been opened and no dates have been announced by the Egyptian authorities!)
To deal with this overflow of people, the Egyptian authorities deploy these days hundreds of riot police who do not hesitate to beat Palestinians and prohibit vehicle access within 500 meters of the border.
Again, the Palestinians are victims of racket. In order to carry their heavy suitcases up the border, they must pay the same Bedouin renting a cart at an exorbitant price.
And these days, while increasing, even the location of a taxi from Al Arish, which can go from 30 EGP ( 4) to about 300 EGP (40 ).
If a Palestinian Egyptian leases a vehicle to enter in Gaza the goods he bought in Egypt, he must pay 125 EGP (16 ) per person to the Egyptian authorities managing the Rafah crossing.
I have not speak, of course, about the price stays in hotels of Al Arish where everyone was obliged to stay until the opening of the border, which benefits the local hotel industry.
During my stay in the camp that we installed at the Rafah Gate, in protest against the siege, I even witnessed a very strange event: the biggest Sinai importers and manufacturers lunched at the cafeteria near the Rafah Gate after a very important meeting inside the Rafah Crossing. A few hours earlier, I also saw the convoy of U.S. Armed Forces.
What happened inside? And which agreements have been reached? I could not get answers to my questions but I got right to the Egyptian hospitality and I was invited to participate in their meals.
In short, I would say that in the northern Sinai, everyone benefits from the embargo and not just the businessmen who are leading the industry tunnels.
Another issue equally outrageous is the problem of those who use the blockade of Gaza to get a reputation and are welcome as heroes by the inhabitants of Gaza when they managed to temporarily break the blockade.
Upon crossing the border is closed so tight and it encourages the Gazans to accept their confinement.
Let me just add that the Palestinians in Gaza do not need charity, but they need freedom.
They do not need heroes because they are the heroes!
To all those who are curious to understand how runs the embargo, to see how the Egyptian American, Arab and European authorities abetted Israel in maintaining this illegal blockade, a human rights violation, to see how the Egyptian authorities extorts money from the Palestinians and mistreat them, we invite you to spend some time at the Rafah border.
We call the europeans activists to ask the European Union Council to immediately cancel the Mission EUBAM-Rafah whose mandate was extended until 24 November 2009*. This mission is still based in Ashkelon in Israel. It does absolutely nothing to help Palestinians stranded in Egypt and gives an excuse to Egypt in this crime against humanity.
We encourage U.S. activists to keep pressure on their government and to ask questions about the role of the U.S. Armed Forces in Egypt and particularly at the Rafah Gate.
Finally, we must all continue to put pressure on our respective governments to force Israel to respect human rights and the UN Charter Israel (even if it is a little lost cause!) and Egypt (may be too!) and to lift the Gaza Siege, FOR GOOD!
We must continue to organize demonstrations in front of Israelis embassies, everwhere ! Let us occupy Egyptians embassies!
Free Palestine, Free Gaza

You can also read Iman's testimonies at these links :
Life Without Borders (Time to Help Gaza)
Here's the link to the article.

In Solidarity
from all
International Movement to Open Rafah Border

"Only a united world against oppression will help unite and free all of Palestine."

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country




Opinions expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors and they may not represent