By Hasan Afif El-Hasan
The Palestinian refugees in Gaza ended another year of decimated lives and livelihood in a man-made hell on earth. During the year, lives of the Gazans have changed for the worse by Israeli armed incursions and the new alliance between Egypt and Israel against them. While Turkey was demanding that Israel should lift the siege on Gaza; the European Union was asking Israel to mark products manufactured in settlements beyond the Green Line in the campaign to delegitimize the occupation; and the Iceland capital of Reykjavík deciding to boycott Israeli goods; and while the specter of economic boycott and possible isolation has been listed among the main strategic threats facing Israel to compel it to relinquish the occupied lands and end the siege on Gaza, Egypt’s government shamelessly teamed with Israel and declared uncompromising war on the Palestinian people in Gaza.
The Palestinians today would gladly welcome back the old Hosni Mubarak and Omar Suleiman regime even with its own serious shortcomings. The Palestinian people of Gaza miss the old days when they could manage to go shopping for their families in the Egyptian towns of Sinai, and when the students and business-people were able to overcome the bureaucratic obstacles and travel abroad from Cairo International Airport. Egypt’s military under General Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi today has been working very close with Israel to isolate, starve and suffocate the children of Gaza. Egypt’s blockade and the restrictions on imports and exports by Israel have devastating impact on the Palestinian refugees. General al-Sisi regime even supported the 2014 Israeli fifty-day assault on the Strip that killed 2,200 civilians including women and children by closing Gaza’s only gate to the world and it continues the closure without any promise to end it.
Egypt’s military regime has turned its back on the Gazan people who had been Egypt’s constituents since 1948. Egypt’s leaders share with Israel the view that the people of Gaza who sent their children, brothers and husbands to fight with the Egyptian army in its wars with Israel, as a bunch of terrorists. Egypt closed the Gaza-Sinai border and flooded the border with ocean water to deny them the capacity to ease the pain of Israel’s siege and to have access to food, medicine and fuel from neighboring Egyptian towns. Actions taken by Egypt’s ruling junta and the government controlled press and media today wrongly suggest that the Palestinian refugees in Gaza are the scourge of the region and they are responsible for the woefully chronic ills of Egypt.
The failure of sixty years of military dictatorship mismanagement that demonstrated extraordinary durability through violence and intimidation is responsible for Egypt’s problems. The military created a deep social and economic crisis that has manifested in polarization of the political and religious forces of Egypt and created acute security and economic instability. The military regime resembles in many ways its 1970s exclusionary authoritarian counterparts in South America. They are similar in terms of their harshly repressive character and the attempt to justify their rule in terms of national security threats. Unlike the Egyptians, South America’s people today have embraced democratic principles. Claims by the power holders of Egypt that the country is “ours” and not “theirs” [the opposition] continue to form the basis for excluding large sector of Egypt’s population from political participation.
After being ruled by the military for more than sixty years, unemployment among college graduates in Egypt is more than ten times that for people who finished only elementary education. Fifty percent of the Egyptians work in agriculture, but Egypt imports over half of its mainstay of its diet, wheat, making it the world’s largest wheat importer. The UN World Food Program (WFP) notes that Egypt’s “national poverty rate has increased by nearly 50 percent in the last 15 years to 25.2 percent in 2011” with 24 percent who are “near poor” and hovering just above the poverty line. Working in the Gulf States has been the only means to move to the middle class status in Egypt. Failure of the authoritarian secular regime to solve the social and economic problems of the masses and the reliance on the security and intelligence services as main instruments to deal with the unrest gave birth to Islamic radicalism. Egypt’s authoritarian regime failed the Egyptian people and the Palestinians, especially the Gazans.
In the 1948 war, 750,000 Palestinians were evicted from their homes, or fled as a new European colonial settler state of Israel was created on more than 78 per cent of Palestine. With the arrival of the refugees to the 561 square kilometers Gaza Strip enclave, the population of this poor swath of Palestinian land more than quadrupled and the Strip was occupied by Israel in 1956 and again since 1967. The Gazan refugees anticipated being able to return to their homes after the 1948 war, but instead of going home, they have been confined to their enclave and cut off from their lost homeland by hostile Israel, ineffective international institutions and their own dysfunctional corrupt feuding leaders.
Three generations have been born in the refugee camps; they are not only denied the right to return to their homes in Israel, they are now denied to live normal life. Israel carried out heinous massacres and complete destruction of the means of survival in the Strip. Israel used every weapon in its arsenal against the people in Gaza including the blockade and starvation to subdue the Palestinian refugees whose only demand is to return to their own homes.
Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi is not only teaming with Israel to starve the people of Gaza to death, he according to the Israeli Army Radio, absolved Israel from its responsibility to the Palestinians by proposing a solution to the Palestinian issue based on settling the refugees of Gaza in the Sinai desert and giving autonomous rule for the cities that are currently under the control of Palestinian Authority. His proposal is more like a script for a virtual reality show rather than a solution based on justice to the Palestinians that has gained international solidarity. It has changed recently from support to boycott, divestment and sanctions. Israeli leaders praised al-Sisi plan to give Palestinians land for a state in the Sinai desert because the proposed solution to the Palestinians problem “will not fall on Israel’s shoulders.”
The Jerusalem Post wrote on December 28, 2015 what all Israeli activists acknowledge that “Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is the Egyptian people’s special gift to the State of Israel. We are talking about a worthy leader who projects strength, confidence, and authority… Israel, in concert with Kerry, acted wisely and responsibly when they enabled Sisi to solidify his hold on the presidency. It is in Israel’s vested interests that Egypt grows stronger, not just as a party to the peace treaty, but also in its struggle against terrorism.”
– Hasan Afif El-Hasan, Ph.D. is a political analyst. His latest book, Is The Two-State Solution Already Dead? (Algora Publishing, New York), now available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.