Mubarak Blows His Big Chance

By Stuart Littlewood – London

Gee, thanks President Mubarak… Thanks for ruining Christmas for so many.

But that’s par for the course in the cesspit of treachery that is the Middle East.

The human tragedy of Gaza just gets worse and worse. Nobody seriously believed the Viva Palestina convoy would get through unmolested; and so it came to pass… It is stranded at Aqaba, and its precious cargo is spoiling in the heat, because Mubarak’s henchmen will not allow it to enter Egypt through the port of Nuweiba.

The excuse, we hear, is that the road across the Sinai from Nuweiba to Rafah runs close to the border and the sight of 250 trucks and ambulances laden with food and medical supplies might distress the oh-so-sensitive Israelis. Some vehicles might cause “a big infiltration problem”.

Surely Egypt is capable of providing an escort to ensure that no trucks leave the column and defect to Israel. Why would they wish to do so anyway when they have taken great trouble and gone many hundreds of extra miles especially to avoid Israel?

That’s not the only nonsensical thing about the situation. Fully 24 hours before Viva Palestina owned up to it, news reports were saying that Egypt’s foreign ministry had issued a statement announcing that “the Egyptian government welcomes the passage of the convoy into the Gaza Strip on December 27, on condition that it abides by the mechanisms in place for humanitarian aid convoys to the Palestinian people, including most importantly the entry of convoys through the port of El-Arish."

Local pressures being what they are, it might well make things awkward for President Mubarak if the convoy were to travel close to the border with Israel. But one would expect a powerful man like him to overcome any difficulties for human decency’s sake and for the sake of his brothers and sisters imprisoned and bombarded by Israel.

Nevertheless the convoy organisers must have obtained prior permission for their route. Were they aware of the El-Arish stipulation? Although asked to be precise about what the Egyptian authorities told them, the organisers remain vague. This makes it difficult to explain to well-wishers, and particularly to waiting Gazans, why the convoy is kicking its heel in Aqaba and going nowhere.

Egypt, sadly, has failed miserably to honour its obligation under the Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA) treaty, in which it undertook to keep the Rafah crossing open.

Now, incredibly, this Arab country is actually collaborating with Israel and the US in the construction of an iron wall to hermetically seal the tiny enclave of Gaza and ensure its inhabitants suffocate to death – a project of unspeakable evil.

The convoy’s request for easy passage was Mubarak’s big chance to show that he was not, after all, the cruel and unprincipled Zionist stooge that civilised people across the world had already consigned to the dustbin of history. It is not too late to make amends. But if he doesn’t act quickly he’ll blow it for everyone, including himself.

-Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. He contributed this article to For further information please visit

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