There’s nothing more dangerous than half-truths, especially in times of war.
Israel’s genocidal attack on Gaza Saturday has, according to an Associated Press report, killed 315 including seven children under the age of 15 and wounding over 800, 180 of them in critical condition in just under 72 hours.
The horrifying footage of dead bodies and streets flooded with the blood of innocent civilians has unfortunately made many talking heads on Arab and Egyptian TV stations forget that the Israeli attack didn’t start three days ago, but one year and seven months ago when the occupying Jewish State imposed a complete blockade on Gaza in June 2007 in response to the legitimately elected Hamas government gaining control over the Strip following a power struggle with Fatah – whose pervasive corruption cost it the popular vote, I must add.
Theoretically, Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. But the fact remains that it continued occupying Gaza technically and is responsible for its 1.4 million residents because it controls most of Gaza’s border crossings, air space and seacoast.
This is according to human rights organizations and UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, which repeatedly stated that the blockade rendered basic necessities scarce for hundreds of thousands of people.
International humanitarian agencies have for months been calling on Israel to allow in food, medical supplies and fuel, and apart from a few trucks here and there, the Strip has been completely sealed off, to the extent that during a visit to Cairo earlier this year, former US President Jimmy Carter called the blockade a “crime and an atrocity. it is an abomination that this continues to go on, he said.
The brutal assault on Gaza spawned another political assault on Egypt, with demonstrators both inside and outside the country blaming the most populous and historically the most powerful Arab state for being complicit to what is happening in Gaza.
A lot of angry Egyptians were listening to Hezbollah’s Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah as he singled out Egypt as largely responsible for the deterioration of the situation at the Strip, saying that Egypt was not the Red Cross or the Red Crescent, that its role should not have been restricted to giving humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza but that this Arab, Muslim country should have opened its borders the way Syria kept its borders open when Lebanon came under Israeli fire in the summer of 2006.
In his speech, Nasrallah urged the Egyptian public to rise up and pressure its leaders to change their policies, echoing earlier sentiments on the streets of Egypt’s major cities, where thousands joined demonstrations in solidarity with Gaza, some calling for military retaliation and others demanding an end to diplomatic ties with Israel.
As expected the official Egyptian response to accusations of complicity was, instead of explaining that there was no link between Israeli FM Tzipi Livni’s visit to Cairo less than 24 hours before the assault, was to propagate conspiracy theories against Iran-backed Hezbollah.
Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki on Dream 2’s Al Ashera Masaan talk show responded to a question about why the ministry didn’t make a proper public statement by asking why similar accusations of complicity weren’t being leveled against Turkey which had also held talks with Israel a few days before, hence failing to give a logical explanation.
While I strongly resent even the slightest implication that the Egyptian government may have given Israel the nod to unleash its barbaric onslaught on Gaza (despite its blatant animosity towards Hamas) I also strongly condemn Egyptian (so-called) diplomacy for its naiveté in dealing with Israel, which timed Livni’s Cairo visit precisely to cause this local and regional backlash against Egypt, and thus foment the divisions which always cripple a unified Arab stance.
The Egyptian regime’s knee-jerk reaction to such criticism is also miscalculated. Instead of absorbing the public’s anger by uniformly condemning the racist, occupying enemy that is murdering innocent children, it continued to play the ‘we-told-you-so’ tune, in effect blaming the victims of the Gaza massacre for the terror that has overtaken them, as if the conflict was between two equal powers and as if the reaction of the Israelis was proportionate to the provocation.
Cheerleaders of the regime who sit at the helm of some national state-run newspapers naturally jumped on the bandwagon spreading half-truths about Hamas with claims that they refused to let their own wounded through the Rafah crossing, without adding that Israel raided the crossing at the exact time that supply trucks were driving through.
As we’ve seen time and again, regional crises always serve to reveal the decades old adage that the Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, and so instead of coming together to decide what is to be done, the Arab League couldn’t even agree to hold an emergency summit, even though the Arabs are in a strong position today, amid the global financial crisis, to sway the balance of power to their own benefit.
As usual the finger-pointing only served to distract the attention from our common enemies to each other, with a torrent of accusations by Egyptian FM Ahmed Aboul Gheit against Nasrallah whose only sin was to ask a question that everyone in Egypt has been asking for over a year: Why did Egypt close the Rafah border even though it is not obliged to do so by any international accords?
No Egyptian wants to be dragged into a war with a vicious enemy, but how long will Egyptian sovereignty be undermined by an occupying, expansionist state that dictates how we secure our own borders?
Declarations of war certainly come in all shapes and sizes.
Rania Al Malky is the Chief Editor of Daily News Egypt.