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Egypt’s Dilemma at Rafah ( 0) Printer friendly page Print This
By Anna Massry in Egypt. Axis of Logic Exclusive
Axis of Logic
Sunday, Jul 19, 2009

Palestinian children in southern Gaza protest at the closure of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. (photo: Mohammed Omer, Rafah Today)

For weeks, the eyes of the world have been focused on the “Artery of Life” convoy, led by British MP George Galloway to bring desperately needed aid to Palestinians through the Rafah crossing from Egypt into Gaza. Recent news reports that Egypt allowed some members of the convoy to cross over into Gaza but trucks, loaded with food and medicine were not permitted to enter. Egypt’s closure of the border at Rafah is difficult for many to understand.

The City of Rafah – Past and Present

In the past and before Israel imposed its siege on Gaza, Palestinians and Egyptians routinely moved in and out through the Rafah border. We must remember that Rafah is a city that was divided in two: part of Rafah became Palestinian territory while the other part remained Egyptian as per the original border delineated in 1906 which Egypt insisted on maintaining during the Camp David negotiations as opposed to Israel’s proposal for Egypt to incorporate all of Rafah into its territory. Prior to this division, all of Rafah was governed by Egypt until the Israeli army twice occupied Gaza and the Sinai:  once in 1956 and once in 1967.  Until today however, Israel routinely bombs and ravages Palestinian Rafah and Gaza, killing, maiming and displacing thousands of Palestinians who already were refugees thanks to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

Palestinians try to pass a child over the gate of the Rafah border crossing to Egypt on July 1, 2008 in the southern Gaza Strip
Rafah Egypt and Palestine is a very small city with a population of about 200,000 inhabitants.  When Rafah was divided in two, families and friends were also divided and could no longer reach each other as before. Even former neighbors or colleagues could no longer communicate as they used to. Parents were no longer able to visit their children or grand children. Children were no longer able to walk over to their parents who had become elderly or sick and needed help. The division of the extended families was traumatic as in the Arab world, the extended family system is extremely important. Crossing a border is after all, not the same thing as crossing a street or driving to the house of a friend, especially when you are being constantly monitored by Israeli forces. This situation in Rafah is a great source of tension, poverty, misery and sadness for those who live on both sides of the Rafah border. At one time there was a huge bustling market in Rafah where a lot of trading took place. All of this was however erased for the political reasons with which we are now all too familiar.

Rafah suffers from the west’s rejection of democracy

After Hamas democratically and legally won the elections in January 2006, it was forced to later seize power in Gaza from the Palestinian Authority which was conspiring with the US and Israel to oust Hamas from the political process and unity government which had been formed.   The Western response to Hamas’ victory in the elections was a refusal to recognize Hamas’ legitimacy and a decision was taken to classify Hamas as a “terrorist organization” in order to legitimize Israel’s illegal practice of seizing all Palestinian funds to be delivered to Gaza.  Hamas was thus paralyzed and denied the right to properly govern. So much for Western “democracy”!

The joint criminal US, Israeli and Palestinian Authority efforts to destroy Hamas made the restrictions on the Rafah border all the more oppressive. Every time Egypt allowed Palestinians through, Israel and Zionist-controlled media accused Egypt of “harboring terrorists” or “smuggling weapons".

With the US/Zionist-engineered “war on terror”, the situation at the Rafah border became even worse. Countries like Egypt had to be very careful under threat of being targeted as ‘sponsoring terrorism’, particularly those with weak governments. 

Rafah suffers from the West’s rejection of the Right of Return

Egypt regards the Palestinian Right of Return as very important. In fact all Arab states who are hosting hundreds of thousands, even millions of Palestinian refugees also support the Right of Return for crucial reasons. Sad but true, refugees come to their host countries with many unfortunate problems. Yet a more important reason for Arab interest in the Right of Return is that if Palestinians leave Gaza, Gaza and the Palestinian cause would simply evaporate. Such a scenario is already happening in the occupied territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem where the weakness of the Palestinian Authority has led to a situation of daily Israeli transfer of Palestinians out of their lands and homes in order to accommodate more illegal Israeli settlements and settlers.  The forced exodus of Palestinians from their towns and villages in the West Bank and Jerusalem has created a situation where a viable Palestinian state can no longer be created.  Should Palestinians start leaving the West Bank and Jerusalem for Gaza and Gaza for Egypt, it follows that there will be no land left for the Palestinian state or the millions of Palestinian people who are scattered in refugee camps around the Arab world.  The Palestinian cause would die and this would be a dramatic leap in the Zionist strategy to control and eventually annex all of Palestine for a “Greater Israel” – a “truly democratic Jewish-only state” which is in itself an oxymoron.

But no bombed out, occupied people in the world have demonstrated endurance and courage like the indomitable Palestinians. After decades of unspeakable misery inflicted by their occupiers, they are not willing to give up their legal and humanitarian rights. Contrary to western media claims, they have not surrendered their right to return to their farmlands, cities, homes and families taken from them by brute force. No words can describe their tenacity and love for their homeland better than the following photos showing them in the Karama and Kamal Adwan refugee camps which were bombed by Israel. Here they are living in tents erected on the very ruins of their destroyed homes. These refugees came to these camps in Gaza after having been 'evacuated' from their real homes in Palestine proper. Incredibly, these camps were again bombed by the Israelis.

Palestinian tents mounted on the rubble of the Karama refugee camp.

Palestinian tents mounted on the rubble of
the destroyed Kamal Adwan refugee camp.

The UNRWA bombed by the Israelis in "Operation Cast Lead"

Israel’s slaughter in Gaza and Rafah earlier this year has awakened the world to the fact that it is an apartheid cruel state which will go to any length to ethnically cleanse the Palestinian people or force them into moving ‘somewhere else’, hence more pressure on the Rafah border.  To add insult to injury, the Zionist media-machine will of course highlight Egypt’s ‘inhuman behavior’ for not wanting to open the Rafah border and allowing what would eventually turn into a mass exodus from Gaza.  More importantly if the Palestinians of Gaza start leaving, Israel will be able to save itself from the most threatening weapon against it namely "demography", the increasing Palestinian population which is projected to dwarf the Israeli population. While Egyptians are without question deeply sympathetic to the Palestinian people and have fought several wars because of Palestine, Egyptians are not interested in solving Israel’s problems by being forced to open the Rafah border.

Palestinian Refugees to the U.S.

For a better understanding, we might consider a parallel situation in the United States. With its internal war against immigrants, the U.S. takes fewer and fewer refugees, and even fewer from Iraq. The strange thing however, is that the U.S. will soon be taking in a huge number of Palestinian refugees who have been living in Iraq after having been hunted out of their lands in Palestine by the Jews in 1948.







The question however is why this change of policy by the U.S.? Is it because of a genuine humanitarian desire to help refugees?? One only has to observe the new anti-immigrant laws and enforcement in the U.S. toward the very poor in neighboring Mexico to debunk any pretense of U.S. compassion for refugees. The U.S. government will be taking in Palestinians from Iraq for one reason only: to diminish the “load” on poor little Israel and reduce the number of Palestinian refugees who want to return to their homes in Palestine as is their right, threatening thus the future of the occupying and oppressive Zionist entity. It is also interesting to note that the U.S. will finally for the first time, acknowledge the mere existence of a Palestinian refugee problem, refugees who have been expelled out of their homes and lands in Palestine over 60 years ago in the cruelest of ways by European Jewish gangs and terrorists.  Compassion for those millions of refugees again is not the US’s motive for taking in Palestinians, however securing Israeli occupation in a strategic area clearly and unfortunately is.

Numerous ‘international’ NGOs handle the problem of refugees around the world.  A great number of them however, do not even list the Palestinian people as refugees even though they are the largest in number and the oldest historically. Acknowledging the Palestinians as refugees would be admitting the legitimacy of the Palestinian Right of Return to their home land. The U.S. government however is only interested in solving Israel's problems and not in helping millions of dispossessed Palestinian refugees.

Israel’s Legal Obligations as an Occupier

In Zionist controlled western media we often read accusations against Arab states for not helping the Palestinian people. This is nothing but an obfuscation and ruse that is propagated to protect Israel. Regardless of the denials by Israel-friendly media and lawyers, Gaza’s status is a territory that is occupied by Israel.

It is incorrect to say that Israel has withdrawn from Gaza because Israelis control all of Gaza's resources, sky, water, communications and movements. With their siege on Gaza, Israelis have taken control of every Gazan life. With their brutal attack on defenseless Gazan civilians and children in 2008-2009, they have used that control to increase their robbery of Gazans’ food, water, medicine and health facilities, housing, employment, farmlands and even the use of their own money. According to International Law, Israel, as an illegal occupying force is obligated, at its own expense, to provide the land and people it occupies with all necessary facilities for healthy lives.

According to international law, Israel cannot simply occupy a territory, take control of its resources, drive its inhabitants out and then demand that other countries like Egypt solve the problems it created. This is a very important issue from the Egyptian point of view. The biggest gift Egypt could ever give Israel would be to supply Gaza with everything it needs. This would immediately lift Israel's legal obligation and responsibility as an occupier and it would fulfill one of Israel's most important objectives, namely, to get rid of all its legal obligations towards the territories it occupies. In effect, Egypt would be funding the Israeli state. Israel wants its cake and wants to eat it. Egypt will not give Israel and the U.S. this pleasure and Egypt will not take it upon herself to inherit a huge political problem that may in turn draw Egypt into further problems it does not wish to have. Israel cannot simply shift its responsibilities and burden over to neighboring Egypt, Lebanon or Syria.

Stopping the “Artery of Life”

We have been reading about the convoy, led by George Galloway, with delegations taking aid to the Rafah crossing only to be stopped by Egyptian forces. A large number of Egyptian delegations have also gone to Rafah and continue to go with the same intention: to help save Gazans from the misery and death inflicted upon them by their Israeli occupiers. They too are facing the same dilemma encountered by the “Artery of Life” convoy. On the humanitarian level, it is of course catastrophic to see that any kind of aid is denied entry into Gaza especially when here in Egypt, we watch regular Israeli assaults on the Palestinian people every single day. In Egypt, we have access to satellite TV and we therefore also view Palestinian Television. Unfortunately however, in Egypt the profound political crisis takes precedent over the humanitarian one.

Notwithstanding, it must be said that Egypt hosts and has always hosted a great number of injured and sick Palestinian refugees from Gaza and elsewhere.  This however, is of course never covered in western media. We have entire hospitals that are mainly dedicated to Palestinians in need and Palestinians are also treated in other hospitals alongside Egyptians

On July 13 a U.S. anti-war group published an article titled, “We won't let anyone turn us around - Egyptian police block convoy to Gaza”. The writer complains that they were not allowed to cross the Rafah border even though they could enjoy freedom of movement anywhere in Egypt. We’ve discussed above, the political reasons for denial of access to Gaza from Egypt. Contiguous with those political reasons, this convoy may have been denied access precisely because of the many Americans in it. The United States position has always been one of solving Israel’s problems and creating problems for Israel’s neighbors. The US knows very well that Egypt’s border is closed. The US and Israel seem to be putting Egypt into a position of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” Now we read that some members of the convoy led by Galloway have been permitted to cross the Rafah border, but not the aid-laden trucks. Instead, the Zionists came up with another cynical twist for control and oppression:

“The convoy's cars and trucks were sent to the Israeli-Egyptian controlled Kerem Shalom (Karem Abu Salem) crossing point southeast of Gaza Strip borders with both Israel and Egypt. Galloway told reporters as he crossed Rafah border crossing that "I hope the vehicles will cross into Gaza soon'."

Why the Karem Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) crossing and not Rafah? Because the trucks will be delivered to Israeli control and not to Gaza which is controlled by Hamas. The “democratic” U.S. and Israel will not allow the really democratically-elected government of Hamas to distribute aid to their own people. The U.S. and Israel want their illegitimate, unelected yet ‘friendly’ Palestinian Authority regime in the West Bank to control the border in Rafah and to distribute (or not distribute) the aid as they see fit. Hamas rightly rejects this option.

Any Western pressure to open this border is not welcome from Egypt because it is only exerted in order to solve Israeli problems and create more problems for Israel’s neighbors. The tunnels which are desperately dug between Egypt and Gaza to smuggle aid to Gazans have already cost Egypt a great deal politically. Huge pressure is exerted on Egypt to allow, for example, US ‘monitors’ or “peace keepers” to have a force in this strategic area. Neither the Egyptian government nor the Egyptian people want their presence. Moreover, Israelis have oft complained that weapons are being smuggled into Gaza from the Sinai. U.S./Zionist think tanks have targeted Sinai again and again, claiming that the Sinai is now becoming a “hub for terror”.

The Sinai is not some deserted place in Egypt as many westerners think. It is a place which generates important income from tourism and of course from the Suez Canal. All this can simply disappear if Egypt is perceived as lenient in opening its borders to what international Zionist-controlled media will describe as Hamas “terrorists” in Sinai. Sinai has already been hit twice by explosions in touristic areas, but by whom? One only has to ask the time worn question, “Who benefits?”? These explosions have obviously affected income from the tourism sector. The Suez Canal is now also being targeted by raising the spector of possible “piracy”. For example, using the "piracy" taking place off the coast of Somalia, Chatham House, a British thinktank, published a speculative report that was then propagated by The Guardian in October, 2008 stating,

The dramatic increase in piracy in the Gulf of Aden could trigger a humanitarian and environmental disaster in the Horn of Africa and cut off global sea routes through the Suez canal, a report warned yesterday. The report, by the Chatham House foreign policy thinktank, calls for a reinforced international naval presence in the region to combat the mostly Somalia-based pirates, with a significantly strengthened European component."

Many columnists and analysts are accusing Israel of sponsoring piracy in Somali waters. One asks, "Who has got an interest in putting pressure on Egypt, by diverting cargo ships [from] Suez Canal and by making Egypt lose daily income of over $15 million?”. 

Jalal Aref wrote in al-Youm that Arab countries bordering the Red Sea,

“are now faced with four dangers: The internationalization of security in the Red Sea with the pretext of fighting piracy, Israel’s covetousness of seeking to play a key role in the Red Sea, the theft of Arab oil through piracy, without counting the blow to navigation in the Suez Canal.”

Although no ‘piracy’ has ever taken place in Egyptian waters or even close to them, some big shipping contracts have been cancelled with Egypt even though passage through the Canal spares those clients at least one week of transport time.

It is predictable: If Egypt were to open its borders, the next thing we will read in the corporate media is that ‘Al Qaeda’ cells or other “terrorist cells” are mushrooming in the Sinai. We don’t have to be reminded of how many wars were waged against Egypt in order for the West to take control of the Sinai and of course, the Suez Canal. We also don’t have to be reminded of the wars which took place because of alleged ‘Al Qaeda’ presence.  Amidst all the tragedy for the people of Gaza, the pressure on the Rafah border has become an issue of national security for Egypt.

Media Coverage

The issue of Palestinian refugees is much deeper then it appears, especially to the Western public who does not know what it is to have Israel as a neighbor. Highlighting the situation on the Rafah border is very important for Israel. Did anyone however wonder why we never read or see the closed Israeli borders with Gaza? Israel is committing a HUGE crime against humanity for which it should be tried and convicted in international courts. Israelis are ethnically cleansing Palestinians with no media coverage of what is a clear genocide. Recently, when one woman was shot in Iran during a demonstration (and we still don’t know who committed the crime), the issue was covered by every channel in the world, on an hourly basis. Entire innocent Palestinian families die in the thousands and Zionist-controlled media doesn’t seem to notice them while it cleverly spots a few hundred refugees in Darfur because the US/Israel are after Sudanese petroleum now. Where is the corporate media when United Nations and UNRWA convoys carrying food and medical supplies are denied entry every single day into Gaza from the Israeli borders? It is simple: Western media is largely owned or controlled by Zionists and they choose what Western and US viewers can see and what they cannot see.


So… the Palestinian problem for Egypt is far more complex than it appears to be on the surface.  Without question, it breaks everybody’s heart to see what is happening in Gaza especially for those who of us who live nearby and witness some of the most terrible scenes of human suffering. Many Egyptians do not agree with some of the policies adopted by the Egyptian government in recent years, but we know that opening this border has very serious implications for Egypt and Egypt is not in the business of solving one of Israel’s major problems. Such problems, if unsolved, will accelerate the eventual collapse of the “Jewish” state which refuses to abide by International Law and decades of UN Resolutions requiring it to withdraw from occupied territories be it in Palestine, Lebanon or Syria where it commits violence and violates the Charter of Human Rights every single day of its existence.

Opening Rafah would be extremely detrimental to the Palestinian cause.  Israel will be more than happy to see millions of Palestinians established in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia… and now even the United States. It is of utmost importance for Israel to rid itself of the enormous Palestinian refugee problem and dump the huge financial and humanitarian responsibility of millions of homeless, devastated and grief-stricken refugees on anyone but itself. The United States, under the control of Zionist lobbies, is now at the service of Israel and will do anything to help Israel survive against all odds.  The Arab world with all its deficiencies however, wants no part of it and will not help Israel at the expense of Palestine. It must be added that Egypt is not the only country to refuse additional Palestinian refugees. Lebanon, for example, has been drawn into several wars and conflicts with Israel and the United States because it committed the “crime” of hosting hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees in need.


Propaganda about Egypt at Rafah may produce the desired effects on people around the world who may not realize the complexities of the Arab/Israeli conflict. But do not expect Egypt or other Arab countries to solve Israel’s problems. Egypt however will continue helping the Palestinian cause as it has always done, silently but surely. Israel has made its own bed in which it must now sleep and it may have dug its own grave where it will one day be buried.

Additional Sources:

Anna Massry is a respected journalist and essayist who lives in her native Egypt. She has also traveled and worked extensively throughout the Middle East and Europe. She has followed the developments surrounding the Zionist occupation of Palestine and Israel's wars waged against its Middle Eastern neighbors for decades.

Tags: Artery of Life, Rafah, Gaza, Egypt, Palestine, Israel, news, refugees, right of return, George Galloway, IMORB, International Movement to Open Rafah Crossing, Gate, border, media, US, News, Zionist media, siege, refugees, genocide, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, US policy, Middle East

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