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Egypt's wall of shame against Gaza

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  • #31
    Ursula Lindsey:

    Egypt’s Wall

    ...Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Mufid Shihab suggested that the Gaza Freedom Marchers were mostly
    “Algerian women with French nationality… carrying a message of the Algerian media into the heart of Cairo.”...

    February 1, 2010 -- In late December 2009, Arab TV channels aired footage of throngs of demonstrators, surrounded by the usual rows of riot police, on the streets of downtown Cairo and in front of foreign embassies. Street protests in Egypt have been sharply curtailed in the last few years, but the scene was familiar to anyone who had been in the country in 2005, when protests against President Husni Mubarak’s regime and in favor of judicial independence were a semi-regular occurrence. Yet there was something unusual about these protesters: They were all foreigners. The demonstrators were Palestine solidarity activists from 43 countries, and they had come to Egypt planning to cross the Egyptian-controlled Rafah gate into Gaza and participate in the Gaza Freedom March, a peaceful procession to the border of the tiny coastal strip with Israel. The march was scheduled to commemorate the anniversary of Operation Cast Lead - the winter 2008-2009 Israeli military assault that, according to Amnesty International, killed some 1,400 Palestinians in Gaza - and to protest the ongoing international blockade of the territory. But the international activists, who started arriving in Cairo on December 27, found that the Egyptian authorities had no intention of letting them into Gaza. Bus companies that had been hired to transport the would-be marchers to Rafah were told by state security to cancel their agreements; activists who made their way to the Sinai Peninsula on their own were turned back or detained.

    Hence, the protests. Several hundred French activists headed to the French Embassy, where they briefly blocked traffic, and then staged a five-day sit-in on the sidewalk. Americans tried to reach the U.S. Embassy, but were held up by Egyptian security forces and eventually allowed to enter in small groups to confer - fruitlessly - with State Department personnel. The activists also took more creative tacks. Giant Palestinian flags and banners were unfurled on three separate occasions on the steps of the Pyramids. About 30 people undertook a hunger strike, led by 85-year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein. The Egyptian authorities finally offered to let 100 of the 1,400 internationals into Gaza. On the morning of December 31, after bitterly contentious meetings and a fair amount of soul searching, 85 activists departed; the rest rejected the offer, seeing it as a shallow public relations maneuver antithetical to the march’s fundamental demand: free access to Gaza.

    Those still in Cairo held a vigorous, day-long rally in Tahrir Square - just across from the Egyptian Museum - and, later, a candlelit New Year’s Eve vigil. The demonstrators held signs that read “Free Gaza” in English; they alternated chants of “Resistance,” “Viva Palestina,” “We are not afraid” and -- in a reproach to the Egyptian police -- “Shame on you!” They were hemmed in by large contingents of state security forces, who shooed away curious passersby and aggressively discouraged media coverage. Then, a few days after the Gaza Freedom Marchers left Egypt, another convoy of internationals going by the name Viva Palestina - made up of hundreds of volunteers and vehicles delivering medical aid - reached the Sinai port of al-‘Arish. They entered Gaza on January 6, after clashes with police left 50 activists injured. [1] A Palestinian protest at the border in support of the convoy also turned violent, leaving one Egyptian border guard dead and several Palestinians wounded.

    The rallies and aid delegations took place a few weeks after the discovery that the Egyptian authorities have commenced building a subterranean steel wall along the border with Gaza, in order to block the tunnels that Gazans have used to undercut the international embargo upon their territory. Quickly dubbed “the wall of death” by Hamas officials and “the wall of shame” by Egyptian critics, this latest measure to enforce the blockade of Gaza has sparked another heated round of recrimination in Egypt and the Arab world. The debate over the barrier, the foreign protesters in Cairo, the clashes near the Gaza border - all this has focused renewed, intense and, as far as the Mubarak regime is concerned, unwelcome attention on Egypt’s policies toward the besieged Palestinian enclave.

    The Siege

    Gaza has been under one degree or another of “closure” since the outbreak of the second intifada in the fall of 2000, but Israel and its allies imposed an import embargo after Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006. The blockade was tightened considerably in June 2007, after Hamas fighters seized the Palestinian Authority (PA) security and administrative apparatus in Gaza from loyalists of the rival Fatah faction. Israel permits only a very restricted list of items to pass through the crossings it controls; most construction materials, much needed to repair the damage of Cast Lead’s bombardments, are not allowed. According to the BBC, the average volume of imported supplies has dropped to a quarter of its 2005 level. UN agencies estimate that at least half of all Gazans suffer from “food insecurity.” The blockade of Gaza would not be possible without Egyptian cooperation. After Israeli soldiers left Gaza in 2005, the Bush administration sponsored a deal whereby the Rafah crossing - the only gateway to Gaza not on the Israeli border and hence no longer physically controlled by Israel - would be jointly monitored by Egypt and the Presidential Guard of the PA. In practice, Egypt and the PA continued to accept Israeli remote control of the crossing via closed-circuit television. When Hamas ousted the Presidential Guard in 2007, Egypt closed Rafah - claiming that it could not enforce an agreement one of whose parties was absent - and has opened it only sporadically since. [2]

    In January 2008, Hamas militants blew up part of the long-standing wall above ground along the Egypt-Gaza boundary and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians streamed into the Egyptian town of Rafah. For 11 days, until the Egyptians were able to seal the border again, the inhabitants of Gaza went on a joyful shopping spree, leaving the shelves of Rafah stores bare. Otherwise, Gaza has weathered the blockade thanks to the tunnels, through which Palestinians smuggle food, cigarettes, fuel and - allegedly - drugs, cash and weapons. According to the director of the UN Relief Works Agency, 60 percent of Gaza’s economy depends on the tunnels. [3]


    • #32

      The “Engineering installations”

      The new wall Egypt is building is intended to cut off these underground lifelines. Construction was first reported by the highbrow Israeli daily Ha’aretz, in an article stating that the wall will be more than five miles long, driving steel panels down to 100 feet below the surface.[4] Some claim the barrier will be connected to pipes that will saturate the ground along the border with pumped-in seawater, thus rendering the tunnels liable to collapse. It has also been widely reported that the wall is being built with American assistance; a U.S. Embassy official in Cairo confirmed to a delegate from the Gaza Freedom March that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has provided technical support.

      Egyptian officials justified the construction of what they prefer to call “engineering installations” or “reinforcements” with a national security argument: Egypt as a sovereign state has a right and a duty to protect its borders. The tunnels are a threat - the terrorists who carried out the attacks in the Sinai resorts Taba and Sharm al-Sheikh are believed to have come through them. And the drugs, cash and weapons that purportedly flow into Gaza might leak into Egypt as well. Appearing on national TV on January 24, Minister of Interior Habib al-‘Adli gave an analogy “for the simple citizen,” asking: “Should I leave the door of my house open all night when the kids and the wife are inside? Where’s my sense of patriotism, my sense of loyalty to my house?” [5] Furthermore, Egyptian officials continuously point out, Israel and Hamas are the ones truly responsible for the situation. Gaza is under Israeli occupation in the eyes of international law and Israel could lift the siege tomorrow; Hamas has made the plight of Gazans worse by removing the Presidential Guard, firing rockets into Israel, hence provoking further tightening of the siege, and resisting an Egyptian-brokered reconciliation with the office of Mahmoud Abbas, who lays continued claim to the PA presidency despite the expiration of his term in 2009.

      On the other hand, the Egyptian government’s critics maintain that even genuine security concerns and treaty constraints cannot justify its participation in a blockade that contravenes international human rights law. Mohammed Al Baradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and a possible candidate in the 2011 presidential elections, told a Foreign Policy interviewer that at the same time they fight to prevent smuggling, Egyptian authorities could establish a “free trade zone” in the town of Rafah, noting that “there is a difference between protecting national security, which no one questions, and providing humanitarian assistance.”

      Acting for others?

      In the Egyptian and pan-Arab press, Egypt is accused of being a tool of the Israelis and the Americans, enforcing the blockade on their behalf. Certainly, Israel and the U.S. have been pressuring Egypt for years to “crack down” on smuggling, and, in 2008, Congress withheld $100 million in aid over this issue. And certainly Egypt’s cooperation in maintaining the siege is part of what makes it a valuable U.S. strategic partner. Perhaps not coincidentally, criticism from Washington of Egypt’s human rights record and its illiberal political system has been remarkably muted since the 2007 closure of Rafah. And Egypt has recently won two important concessions from the United States: Part of the aid it receives will now be put into an endowment (which makes it harder for Congress to make the aid conditional on particular reforms); and on December 30, it was announced that Egypt will acquire at least 20 new F-16 fighter jets from U.S. manufacturers.

      Yet one should not discount Egypt’s internal reasons for backing the blockade. The Egyptian government mistrusts Hamas, an armed militant Islamist group that it considers both an Iranian proxy and an ally of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, its largest and best-organized opposition. And Egypt fears becoming Gaza’s main opening to the outside world, and being further embroiled in the management of the troublesome, impoverished and crowded enclave. This involvement might facilitate Israeli plans to separate the West Bank from Gaza, or Hamas’ supposed ambitions to establish an independent “Islamic emirate,” writes one pro-regime intellectual. [6] These concerns are perhaps not unjustified: Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip from 1948 to 1967 and there are some in Israeli and American policy circles who would like to hand the area back over; meanwhile, the ongoing rift between the Western-recognized PA in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza has led to talk of a “three-state solution.”

      The Egyptian authorities view Hamas-ruled Gaza as a serious security threat, a potential destabilizer of the entire Sinai Peninsula. The construction of the subterranean wall is the culmination of a decades-long process of Egyptian disengagement from the Palestinian cause and growing security cooperation with Israel - a process that was given one last dramatic push by Hamas’ election. The official line that Egypt sacrificed enough for Palestine from 1948 to the 1979 Camp David agreement strikes a chord with some Egyptians. Yet many, across the political spectrum, are deeply uncomfortable with the shift in policy that has turned the Palestinians, from historical “brothers,” into something like enemies. “Egyptian security doctrine has come - incomprehensibly - to consider Gaza and not Israel the main threat to Egypt,” writes Ahmad Yusuf Ahmad. [7] Similarly, the columnist Fahmi Huwaydi remarks that Egypt’s “strategic vision has changed, and Egypt has come to reckon the Palestinians and not the Israelis a danger. And if this sad conclusion is correct, then I cannot avoid describing the steel wall…as a wall of shame.” [8]


      • #33

        From High Dam to Low Wall

        Within days of the announcement of the construction of the underground wall, people across the Arab world were venturing unfavorable comparisons between Mubarak’s “engineering installations” and President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s landmark project - the High Dam north of Aswan - playing on the double meaning of the words for “high” and “low” in Arabic. Wags suggested adding a comment upon Mubarak to Nasser’s epitaph: “The highly esteemed one (al-‘ali) built the High Dam (al-sadd al-‘ali); the low-down one (al-wati) built the Low Wall (al-sadd al-wati).” [9]

        Egypt’s standing in the Arab and Islamic world is partly linked to its role as a patron of the Palestinian cause in the era of Nasser. Today, due to its participation in the Gaza blockade, its leadership and legitimacy in the region have come under considerable fire, recalling the outrage when President Anwar al-Sadat concluded a separate peace with Israel at Camp David. There have been demonstrations at Egyptian embassies in Turkey, Malaysia, Jordan and Lebanon - where the newly formed Campaign to Stop the Wall of Shame is targeting the Egyptian construction company Arab Contractors, which is reportedly building the wall. [10] Writing in al-Ahram Hebdo magazine, Egyptian journalist Hassan Abou Taleb laments, “Criticizing Egypt and its policies has become common in the Arab world…. These bitter critiques…have developed to the point that they disfigure the image of Egypt.” [11]

        By highlighting its role in the Gaza siege, the Gaza Freedom Marchers put the Egyptian government in a distressing position - particularly since the authorities could not crack down on the international demonstrators as harshly as they would have on locals without causing a diplomatic incident. Several internationals were beaten and thrown to the ground in scuffles with the police. But generally their demonstrations were met with an unusual (by local standards) degree of tolerance. In fact, the Egyptian government machinery seemed initially discomfited by the bad publicity attending the foreign convoys to Gaza. Some have suggested that the reluctant, defensive and disorganized response of the government to the criticism and questioning of its policies toward Gaza is indicative of “the degree of embarrassment felt by a government that - it has become clear - is helpless.” [12]

        The defensiveness came out as a combination of bluster and conspiracy theory. Officials in the Foreign Ministry referred to the international activists as “conspirators” and “troublemakers.” Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu al-Ghayt said the members of the Viva Palestina convoy “committed hostile acts, even criminal ones, on Egyptian territory.” [13] British MP George Galloway, who led the delegation, has been declared persona non grata in Egypt. [14] Others insinuated that opposition to the wall and the blockade was part of a plot to humiliate Egypt. Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Mufid Shihab suggested that the Gaza Freedom Marchers were mostly “Algerian women with French nationality…carrying a message of the Algerian media into the heart of Cairo.” [15] The accusation, innocuous as it may sound, was venomous in view of the rift between Egypt and Algeria following Algeria’s victory over Egypt in a World Cup qualifying match, and ensuing violence in both countries (and in Sudan, site of the match) targeting the other country’s nationals. Shihab also blamed the coverage on the al-Jazeera network - “the Qatari channel of discord,” he called it - for fomenting anti-Egyptian feeling.

        In the end, the Egyptian official political establishment has more or less declared the subject of its policies toward Gaza verboten. President Mubarak, in a speech on January 24, announced flatly: “We do not accept debate on this issue with anyone.” The authorities have also resorted to religious authority to try to quash dissent: The Islamic Research Council, headed by the Sheikh of al-Azhar (Egypt’s highest, semi-official Muslim institution), on December 31 issued a legal ruling in support of the wall. The council released a statement saying: “It is one of Egypt’s Islamically legitimate rights to place barriers that prevent the damage inflicted by the tunnels built under Egyptian land at Rafah, which are used to smuggle drugs and other products, threatening and upsetting the security and stability of Egypt and its interests.” “Those who oppose the construction of this wall violate the shari‘a,” the council concluded. Other Islamic scholars immediately and indignantly contradicted this fatwa, and al-Azhar was condemned by many for seeming to put religion at the service of unpopular government policies.


        • #34

          Activism and its limits

          International activists chose to come through Egypt to get to Gaza because this route was the only one available; entering through Israel, they felt, would have been impossible. They hoped that Egypt would be sympathetic to their mission, and at first they did their best to avoid confrontation with the regime. When Egypt announced in advance of their arrival that the way into Gaza would be closed, the activists were undeterred. Egypt had vowed to obstruct numerous delegations in the past, a December 21 press release from the Gaza Freedom March steering committee allowed. “But after public and political pressure, the Egyptian government changed its position and let them pass.” At the demonstration on New Year’s Eve in downtown Cairo, participant Ali Abunimah, the Palestinian-American co-founder of the Electronic Intifada web magazine, said: “People did not come to Cairo with the goal of protesting Egypt or making trouble in Egypt. They came here to go to Gaza and show solidarity with people in Gaza and break the siege. And what has inevitably refocused attention on the Egyptian role is that it is Egypt that has prevented people from traveling to Gaza…and so it’s really Egypt that’s highlighting its own role in maintaining the siege in Gaza.”

          The Gaza Freedom March did not coordinate with local activists; in fact, it did not allow them to join. A statement on the march’s website read: “Unfortunately, the Egyptian government decides who can and cannot cross into the Gaza Strip from Egypt. In our experience, it has been difficult for Egyptian citizens and people with Palestinian Authority passports to enter the Gaza Strip. We have tried to overcome this unfair restriction on previous trips, but without success. So, unfortunately, we cannot take people with Egyptian or Palestinian passports.” Muhammad Wakid, an activist and member of the Socialist Studies Center in Cairo, says locals understood the choice to exclude them was necessary “so as not to alienate the regime, so as to maximize access to Gaza.” Wakid notes that “our presence would have been a liability; it would have changed their focus.” Once the internationals were stuck in Cairo - and their focus was changed for them - they reached out to local pro-Palestinian groups. But there remained significant differences. The Gaza Freedom Marchers, for example, asked Egyptians not to chant pro-Hamas, pro-Hizballah or anti-Mubarak slogans at their joint demonstration on December 29 on the steps of the Journalists’ Syndicate. The Egyptians refused. And then there was a pricklier problem. “We couldn’t possibly consult or coordinate with [the Gaza Freedom Marchers] given the presence of Israeli activists,” says Wakid. This position was shared by Egyptian activists of all political persuasions - even the goal of breaking the siege could not trump their opposition to normalization of relations with Israel through direct contact with Israelis.

          Despite these differences, and despite deploring the internationals’ naiveté in thinking they would be allowed to enter Gaza, for the most part Egyptian activists were supportive. “We wished them well from afar,” says Wakid. “They had an important effect,” says Diya’ al-Sawi, a founder of the Egyptian Committee to Break the Siege of Gaza. “They changed world public opinion toward the Egyptian regime.” Critics of the march in the Western activist community were skeptical of the idea on the grounds that it was impractical and that it created the wrong focus - Egypt’s certain denial of access would shine the spotlight on Egypt, instead of Israel (and the U.S.), the real forces behind the blockade. For Egyptian activists, however, opposition to the Gaza blockade and opposition to the Mubarak regime are one and the same. They are pleased that the international media attention attracted by the Gaza Freedom Marchers and Viva Palestina convoy helped to cement the connection.

          Furthermore, Arab public intellectuals used the foreign activists to chide Arab governments and populations for insufficient solidarity with the Palestinians. Salama Ahmad Salama, writing in al-Shurouq newspaper, noted: “These marches, of course, may not solve the problem. But at least they ring an alarm bell from time to time, and do something to grab the attention of world opinion, whereas the Arab countries and peoples have submitted to the existing situation and are no longer able to resist it, but rather have come to beg for solutions and concessions that the Palestinians themselves refuse.” [16]

          In fact, despite the severe constraints under which Egyptian pro-Palestinian activists operate - such as the threat of arrest, police abuse and the absence of international media coverage - they continue to organize actions on a regular basis. The same week the Gaza Freedom Marchers were in Cairo, Islamist students demonstrated against the construction of Egypt’s underground barrier on several university campuses. [17] The “wall of shame” has also been the subject of spirited parliamentary debate and court challenges: Members of Parliament are leading a legal effort calling on the president and the Ministry of Interior to halt construction. [18] On January 15, about 100 members and supporters of the Committee to Break the Siege of Gaza tried to convene at the Doctors’ Syndicate in downtown Cairo in preparation for departure for Gaza. They encountered the heavy hand of state security: The nearby subway station was closed; the area was surrounded by riot police; taxi and bus drivers were detained; and the activists themselves beaten and harassed. They regrouped at an alternate location and decided to break into smaller groups that would travel separately by public transportation. But the groups were all apprehended, eventually, at different checkpoints on the way to Rafah, whereupon they were packed into minivans and driven back to Cairo under police escort. This sortie was the fifth attempt of the Committee - whose leader, Magdi Ahmad Husayn, was convicted of “smuggling” in January 2009 after visiting Gaza by tunnel - has made in the past year to break the blockade. They will try again in early April.

          What next?

          What will the border between Sinai and the Gaza Strip look like in the coming months? Since the underground wall’s depth and shape are unconfirmed, it is hard to tell how effective it will be. Many Palestinian smugglers seem confident they will be able to bypass they barrier, whether by digging underneath it or punching through it. Nor is it known how soon the wall will be completed. The Mubarak government may drag out construction for months to come, as part of the endless bargaining and arm twisting going on among Israel, Egypt, the U.S., Hamas and the PA presidential office in Ramallah. Meanwhile, even semi-constructed, the Egypt-Gaza wall, like other barriers around the world, is a visible and dramatic symbol - an embodiment of Egypt’s policy and a lightning rod for opposition. The wall heralds a hardening of the Egyptian regime’s stance on Gaza - despite the embarrassment of so openly standing athwart the Palestinian cause, or perhaps because of it. Foreign Minister Abu al-Ghayt has announced that “Egypt will no longer allow convoys, regardless of their origin or who is organizing them, to cross through its territory.” [19] All foreign aid will have to be handed over to the Red Crescent, which will then deliver it - if and when the Rafah crossing is opened - to Gaza. And the wall has also put Egypt, in ways the government finds quite awkward, at the center of the international argument over the Gaza blockade. Despite their ideological differences, Egyptian and international activists made contact in January, on the sort of unofficial level that is likely to endure. Egypt’s role in the blockade - a key preoccupation of local activists - has become part of the international pro-Palestinian agenda.


          • #35


            [1] See an activist’s diary republished by the Palestine Telegraph, January 19, 2010,
            available online here

            [2] See Gisha/Physicians for Human Rights-Israel,
            Rafah Crossing: Who Holds the Keys? (Tel Aviv, March 2009), pp. 23-38.

            [3] Islam Online, December 17, 2009.

            [4] Ha’aretz, December 9, 2009.

            [5] Daily News Egypt, January 26, 2010.

            [6] Abdel-Moneim Said, “Defendre l’Egypte contre toute menace,”
            al-Ahram Hebdo, January 6-12, 2010.

            [7] Ahmad Yusuf Ahmad, “Stories of Walls,” al-Shurouq, January 7, 2010.

            [8] Fahmi Huwaydi, “The Wall of Shame,” al-Misri al-Yawm, December 14, 2009.

            [9] See the virtual placard here

            [10] Ahmed Moor, “Lebanon Activists Launch Campaign Targeting Egypt’s ‘Wall of Shame,’”
            Electronic Intifada, January 21, 2010.

            [11] Hassan Abou Taleb, “La Palestine en 2010 et le role Egyptien,”
            al-Ahram Hebdo, January 27-February 2, 2010.

            [12] Yusri Fawda, “What’s Good About the Gaza Wall,”
            al-Misri al-Yawm, December 27, 2009.

            [13] Ha’aretz, January 19, 2010.

            [14] Daily Mail, January 9, 2010.

            [15] Al-Ahram, January 2, 2010.

            [16] Salama Ahmed Salama, “The Culture of Protest,“ al-Shurouq, January 4, 2010.

            [17] Al-Misri al-Yawm, December 30, 2009.

            [18] Al-Misri al-Yawm, January 1, 2010.

            [19] Ha’aretz, January 9, 2010.


            • #36

              CAIRO, February 3, 2010 -- An Egyptian daily newspaper has reported eyewitnesses near the Gaza Strip border with Egypt have said an underground steel wall being constructed by the Egyptian government in an effort to end smuggling through tunnels is “near completion.” The al-Masry al-Youm report could not be corraborated by the Egyptian foreign ministry on Wednesday morning, but the ministry did say work “was progressing as expected.” They told Bikya Masr that “the underground barrier will be completed on schedule,” but did not give specific details as to what that timeline entailed. According to the newspaper, eyewitnesses said the barrier is “in its final stages of construction.” The report stated there had been an increase in activity in recent weeks, including as many as 45 shipments of steel having arrived over the past two days.

              Although Egypt has not explicitly confirmed the construction of the barrier, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak last week defended “increased fortifications” along the border as a matter of “national sovereignty” that were “not up for debate.” Most analysts and observers take this as admission to the erection of the barrier. Smugglers have used the underground border tunnels to bring into Gaza basic commodities, drugs and weapons since Egypt and Israel imposed a strict economic blockade on the Gaza Strip after Hamas took control of the area in June 2007. Egyptian security forces on Monday were reported by the German news agency DPA to have discovered five tunnels, which had been used to smuggle car and motorcycle parts, as well as paint, into the Gaza Strip. Smugglers have dismissed the reported barrier as ineffective, saying they will simply tunnel deeper, and that many of the tunnels are, in any case, already deeper than the new wall’s reported depth of 20 meters.


              • #37
                Farid Abdeladim :

                Mercredi 28 Avril 2010 -- L’élan de solidarité de l’Algérie et des Algériens envers leurs frères palestiniens ne se limite pas au discours, il s’exprime aussi par des actions concrètes afin de les aider à continuer de résister aux forces du mal que sont les sionistes. C’est dans cette optique que le Croissant-Rouge algérien (CRA), en collaboration avec son homologue palestinien et le Croissant-Rouge international, organise, depuis hier Alger, un séminaire de formation au profit de psychologues palestiniens venus des quatre coins des territoires occupés palestiniens. Vingt-sept psychologues palestiniens devraient représenter les différentes régions occupées de la Palestine, y compris les camps de réfugiés palestiniens au Liban. Cependant, les neuf membres de la délégation de Gaza étaient jusqu’à hier bloqués par les autorités égyptiennes au niveau de Rafah.

                Le renforcement des capacités et le soutien des psychologues palestiniens et l’échange d’expériences dans le domaine sont les objectifs de ce séminaire qui s’est ouvert hier à l’hôtel Dar Diaf de Chéraga. Des ateliers de formation se tiendront jusqu’au 8 mai dans les campings des Scouts musulmans algériens (SMA) de Sidi-Fredj. La formation sera assurée par une dizaine de psychologues algériens ayant acquis un capital expérience après la décennie noire qu’a vécue notre pays. «L’objectif assigné à cette rencontre est essentiellement de renforcer les capacités du Croissant-Rouge palestinien en matière d’interventions», a indiqué le président du CRA, M. El-Hadj Hamou Benzeguir. Cette initiative fait suite à la demande des psychologues algériens qui ont participé à la prise en charge de la population palestinienne au lendemain de l’agression sioniste barbare contre Gaza en janvier 2009. Mme Nachida Taïbi, une psychothérapeute algérienne qui s’est rendue à Gaza en tant que responsable du programme de soutien au peuple palestinien, a indiqué que cette rencontre est une «réponse à la demande de la délégation de psychologues algériens qui a établi un état des lieux et évalué l’état psychologique de la population palestinienne lors de sa visite de la bande Gaza en janvier 2009».

                De leur côté, les psychologues palestiniens n’ont pas caché leur satisfaction, cette initiative étant la première à réunir des Palestiniens issus des différentes régions occupées de la Palestine (El-Khallil, Naplouse, Beit Lahm, camps des réfugiés palestiniens au Liban…). «Sincèrement, je suis épaté par l’accueil des Algériens, même si l’on connaissait déjà leur solidarité avec nous. C’est un accueil d’une grande dimension humanitaire. Je crois que c’est un exploit que de réunir autour d’une table des Palestiniens de toutes les régions séparées par les forces coloniales», a déclaré M. Nadir Fadir, un psychologue résidant dans la région d’El-Khallil, qui souhaite voir ce genre de rencontre se multiplier pour «fédérer le peuple palestinien autour de la seule cause de libération et dépasser les clivages internes qui pèsent toujours sur l’unité nationale».


                • #38

                  أكدت هيئة المعابر والحدود التابعة للحكومة المقالة، أن معبر رفح، المنفذ الوحيد لقطاع غزة مع العالم الخارجي، مغلق من قبل الجانب المصري، منذ 63 يوما، وليس هناك تسجيل لأي حركة للمغادرين. وأوضح عادل زعرب، الناطق باسم هيئة المعابر لـ''الخبر''، أن المعبر فتح أبوابه منذ الأول وحتى الخامس من شهر مارس الماضي، لمدة 5 أيام فقط. وأشار زعرب إلى أن المعبر ما زال مغلقا منذ ما يزيد على 63 يوما على التوالي، باستثناء فتح المعبر لمدة يومين أسبوعيا، في اتجاه واحد وليس في كلا الاتجاهين، وهما يوما الأربعاء والخميس لعودة المرضى والعالقين إلى أرض الوطن.

                  وطالب زعرب الجانب المصري بالإسراع في فتح معبر رفح أمام الراغبين بمغادرة القطاع. وتشير إحصاءات غير رسمية إلى أن ما يقرب من 7 آلاف عالق في القطاع، ما بين طلبة وحاملي جوازات أجنبية ومرضى، ينتظرون منذ أكثر من شهرين فتح المعبر لمغادرة القطاع وقضاء حاجاتهم.

                  وكانت السلطات المصرية تعمل على فتح المعبر أمام المغادرين من قطاع غزة، لمدة 3 أيام شهريا، قبل أن يلقى جندي مصري حتفه، في جانفي الماضي، أثناء المواجهات التي اندلعت بين متظاهرين فلسطينيين متضامنين مع قافلة شريان الحياة التي كانت محتجزة في مصر، وقوى الأمن المصرية على المعبر.

                  وفي المرة الأخيرة التي فتحت فيها مصر معبر رفح غادر 5007 غزّي من خلاله، وأرجعت السلطات المصرية 580 منهم دون ذكر للأسباب، ليكون صافي المغادرين 4427 مغادر.


                  • #39
                    Jon Donnison:

                    May 6, 2010 -- "Every problem has a solution. The Egyptian steel barrier was a problem but we found a solution," says Mohammed, a grimy-faced Gazan tunnel digger who didn't want to give his real name. Mohammed, covered in dust and dirt, is in the process of digging a 750m (2,460ft) smuggling tunnel from Gaza into Egypt. He says he's been digging it for 18 months. As he hauls up a plastic container of sand with an electric winch from the metre-wide tunnel shaft, he says the new underground Egyptian barrier aimed at stopping smuggling is a "joke." "We just cut through it using high-powered oxygen fuelled blow torches," he says.

                    The Egyptian government says it began constructing the barrier along the Gaza-Egypt border last year. When finished it is meant to be 11km-long (seven miles), stretching down 18m (59ft) underground. According to Egypt it is made of bomb-proof, super-strength steel and is costing millions of dollars to build. Mohammed smiles when he hears this. "We pay around a $1,000 (£665) for a man with an oxygen-fuelled cutter to come and break through it. It takes up to three weeks to cut through but we get there in the end," he says. Mohammed says the steel barrier is 5-10cm (2-4in) thick.

                    The BBC spoke to one man in Gaza employed to cut through the barrier. He said he could cut a metre-square hole through it in less than a day. This news will be embarrassing for Egypt's government. Encouraged by the United States which gives millions of dollars in military aid to Egypt every year, it says it is trying to crack down on smuggling into Gaza. The BBC asked the Egyptian government to comment on the fact that Gazans were already cutting through the barrier. The government has not yet responded.

                    The Palestinian territory has been under a tightened Israeli and Egyptian economic blockade since 2007 when the Hamas Islamist movement took over the territory. The blockade was enforced to put pressure on Hamas and to stop weapons being smuggled in. Egypt's secular government is opposed to Hamas, which has historical ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition movement in Egypt which is illegal but largely tolerated. Many Gazans are angry with the Egyptian government, which - they say - is increasing their suffering.

                    The blockade has meant that Gaza is to a great extent dependent on the smuggling tunnels from Egypt. Millions of dollars worth of goods are smuggled in every month. Everything from fridges to fans, sheep to shampoo comes through the tunnels. The BBC even obtained video footage this year of whole brand-new cars being dragged through tunnels from Egypt. The UN estimates that as much as 80% of imports into Gaza come through the tunnels.

                    The tunnels are not at all hard to find. In the southern Gazan town of Rafah, right on the border, there are lines of them covered by white tents. Little attempt is made to keep them secret. They are surrounded by huge mounds of sandy earth which have been dug out of the ground. The air is thick with diesel fuel from the trucks that transport the goods across the Gaza strip. The openness of the smuggling operation suggests that if Israel and Egypt really wanted to stop the tunnels they could easily do so. Israel has at times bombed some of the tunnels, but has stopped short of totally shutting them down.

                    Aid agencies in Gaza say that if Israel or Egypt really forced the smuggling to stop, it would lead to an even more desperate humanitarian situation in Gaza which would be damaging to Israel's and Egypt's international reputations. Diplomats in the region also believe that so much money is being made in Egypt from the trade through the tunnels that much of the smuggling is likely to continue. But the head of operations in Gaza for the UN relief agency Unrwa, John Ging, says that ordinary people in Gaza are losing out. "Everything is expensive because people are hostage to the dynamics of a black market." Mr Ging stressed that it was the Israeli-Egyptian blockade that was allowing that black market to thrive. The UN does not use illegal goods and building materials smuggled in through from Egypt.

                    If the blockade remains in place it seems the tunnel industry will continue to thrive, underground steel barrier or not. "If they opened the border, we wouldn't need to dig tunnels," says Mohammed peering into the shaft of his tunnel in Rafah. "But until they do, we'll keep digging, whatever they do to try and stop us." "Every problem has a solution," he smiles.


                    • #40

                      منذ الانسحاب الإسرائيلي من قطاع غزة في أوت 2005 وتوقيع اتفاقية فيلاديلفيا بين مصر والكيان الصهيوني والقاضي بتأمين الحدود بين غزة ومصر، تقوم القاهرة بدور أمني تعزّز مع الوقت والأحداث التي عرفتها المنطقة، لتصبح شريكة في الحصار ضد قطاع غزة الذي تضربه إسرائيل منذ .2007
                      الحصار الإسرائيلي ضد قطاع غزة الذي بلغ ذروته خلال وبعد الحرب الأخيرة والتي ذهب ضحيتها أكثر من 1400 شهيد، لم تبن مصر أي تضامن مع سكان غزة بحكم أنها الدولة العربية الوحيدة التي تشترك معهم في الحدود وهي معبرهم الوحيد نحو العالم الخارجي.

                      وفي الوقت الذي كان ينتظر أن تقوم الدولة المصرية بدور فعال في فك الحصار والتخفيف من معاناة السكان المحاصرين، تذرعت خلال الحرب على غزة في ديسمبر 2008 بالاتفاقات الأمنية ما بينها وبين إسرائيل، حيث أبقت حدود رفح مغلقة في عز الحرب ولم تسمح بدخول وخروج الأفراد والمساعدات إلا في حالات قليلة ربطت بمدة زمنية معينة. وتواصلت عمليات الحصار لتطال بعد ذلك قوافل التضامن مع قطاع غزة التي حملت شعار ''شريان الحياة'' والمعيقات التي واجهتها في كل مرة واختتمت بقافلة الحرية التي تعرضت للقرصنة من قبل إسرائيل.

                      ولم تمنع مصر فقط وصول المساعدات والتضييق عليها في أغلب الأحيان، بل تعدتها إلى تضييق الحصار من خلال بناء الجدار الفولاذي على الحدود مع غزة بهدف منع عمليات تهريب السلع عبر الأنفاق وهو ما يعد القضاء على آخر شريان الحياة التي كانت تؤمّن بعض حاجيات القطاع الحيوية.

                      الجدار الفولاذي جاء تكملة للاتفاق المدني الذي وقّعته وزيرة الخارجية الأمريكية السابقة كوندليزا رايس مع نظيرتها تسيبي ليفني والذي يرمي إلى منع تهريب الأسلحة إلى حركة حماس في قطاع غزة. وخلال التوقيع قالت رايس: ''إن مصر تتحمل مسؤولية كبيرة في منع إعادة تسلح حماس ووصول الأسلحة إليها''.

                      هذا الاتفاق وإن لم تشارك فيه مصر بصورة مباشرة وقالت في حينه أنه لا يعنيها، إلا أن مصر تلتزم باتفاق فيلدلفيا مع إسرائيل والذي يعتبر ملحقا لاتفاقية كامب ديفيد والذي يكفل دورا أمنيا لمصر في الحدود مع غزة، وتم تعزيزه بعد الحسم العسكري لحركة حماس في 2007، حيث سمحت إسرائيل لمصر بزيادة تعداد عسكرييها المنتشرين على الحدود من 750 عسكري إلى 1500 عسكري من أجل إحكام القبضة الحديدية على القطاع.

                      الاتفاقيات والتدابير الأمنية التي تتخذها مصر ضد الفلسطينيين في غزة متحججة مرة بأمنها القومي ومرة باتفاقيتها الأمنية الملزمة مع إسرائيل، لم تكن في واقع الأمر إلا قناع يختبئ من ورائه النظام المصري لينفذ سيناريو محكم للضغط على القطاع ومشاركة النظام الصهيوني في حصاره على غزة، وإلا كيف يمكن تفسير تصريح وزير التجارة والصناعة الصهيوني بنيامين ين إليعيزر بأن الرئيس المصري حسني مبارك بمثابة كنز استراتيجي بالنسبة لإسرائيل.


                      • #41

                        Mardi 1 Juin 2010 -- Depuis le retrait Israélien de la bande de Gaza, en Aout 2005, et la ratification de la convention de Finlande, entre l’Egypte et l’Etat Sioniste, portant la sécurisation des frontières entre Gaza et l’Egypte, le Caire a joué un rôle sécuritaire qui s’est renforcé au fil du temps et avec la succession des événements dans la région. Elle est devenue partenaire dans l’état de siège imposé par Israël contre la bande de Gaza depuis 2007. Depuis le siège israélien imposé sur la bande de Gaza, qui a atteint son summum pendant et après la guerre qui a fait plus de 1.400 martyrs, l’Egypte n’a montré aucune solidarité avec les habitants de Gaza, en sa qualité de l’unique pays arabe qui partage les frontière avec le peuple palestinien et leur seul issue vers le monde extérieur. L’Egypte a non seulement empêché l’arrivée des aides à la bande de Ghaza mais elle a également participé à resserrer l’étau sur les palestiniens en construisant un mur en acier dans ses frontières avec Gaza, dans le but avoué de barrer le chemin aux opérations de trafic des marchandises via les tunnels, coupant ainsi les sources de vie pour les habitants de Gaza. La construction de ce mur intervient pour compléter l’accord de paix ratifié entre la ministre américaine des affaires étrangères, Condoleezza Rice et son homologue Israélienne Tzipi Livni, visant à couper la route aux opérations de trafic d’armes vers Hamas et la bande de Gaza. Lors de la ratification de cet accord, Rice a déclaré : « l’Egypte est responsable d’empêcher le réarmement de Hamas ».

                        Même si l’Egypte n’a pas directement pris part à cet accord et déclaré, alors, qu’elle n’y était pas concernée, elle s’est par ailleurs engagée dans l’accord de Philadelphie avec Israël, considéré come une annexe de l’accord de Camp David qui donne à l’Egypte un rôle sécuritaire dans les frontières avec Gaza, renforcé par la suite en 2007 où Israël a permis à l’Egypte d’augmenter le nombre de ses militaires sur les frontières de 750 à 1.500 soldats afin de maitriser ce secteur sur le plan sécuritaire. Les conventions signées par l’Egypte contre la bande de Gaza, qu’elle a, parfois, justifié par sa sécurité nationale et parfois par ses engagements sécuritaires avec Israël, n’ont été en fin de compte qu’un masque derrière lequel se cachait le régime égyptien, qui exécutait un scénario parfaitement établi, permettant d’exercer une pression sur la bande de Gaza et prendre part aux côtés du régime sioniste à son siège. Sinon, comment peut-on interpréter la déclaration du ministre de l'Industrie, du Commerce et de l'Emploi, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer faisant état que le président égyptien Hosni Moubarak représentait un trésor stratégique pour Israël.


                        • #42

                          Mardi 1 Juin 2010 -- L’Egypte a décidé, mardi 1er juin, d’ouvrir le terminal frontalier de Rafah, a annoncé la chaîne de télévision Al-Jazeera. Cette décision intervient au lendemain de l'attaque israélienne contre la flottille de la paix qui transportait de l’aide humanitaire vers Gaza. Cette ouverture va permettre d’acheminer des vivres vers les Palestiniens de Gaza. Rafah est l’unique point d’accès à ce territoire qui n’est pas contrôlé par Israël. Lundi, après l’attaque contre la flottille de la paix, l’Egypte a été au centre de violentes critiques. Le Caire a été accusé de jouer le jeu d’Israël, qui sous prétexte de chercher à punir le Hamas affame les Palestiniens de Gaza.


                          • #43

                            CAIRO, June 1, 2010 — Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Tuesday ordered the opening of the Rafah border crossing to allow humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, the official MENA agency reported. The order came a day after a deadly raid by Israeli commandos on an aid flotilla bound for Gaza, which has been under a crippling Israeli blockade since 2007. "Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has given orders to open the Rafah border crossing to allow humanitarian and medical aid into the Gaza Strip, as well as to receive medical cases which require access to Egyptian territory," MENA said. "This comes as part of Egypt's moves to ease the suffering of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip."

                            According to Egyptian security sources in Rafah, the border opened on Tuesday at 1.30 pm (1030 GMT). No date has been set for it to close again. The Rafah border is Gaza's only crossing that bypasses Israel. Egypt has kept it largely closed, opening it for humanitarian cases on two days a week. A 2005 agreement brokered by the United States, put the Palestinian Authority and Israel in charge of the border, with observation from the European Union. A Hamas official told AFP the Islamist movement "reiterates its demand that the Arab League work for an immediate and complete end to the siege on Gaza." Arab foreign ministers are to hold crisis talks in Cairo on Wednesday to come up with a unified response to the Israeli raid. Egypt has come under harsh regional criticism for keeping the border closed and for building an underground wall in a bid to curb smuggling, which it views as a security risk.

                            According to MENA, extra work teams have been put in place at the Rafah border to speed up the implementation of Mubarak's decision. The opening of the border "will allow those coming from abroad and the sick who have finished their treatment and students studying abroad to return to the Gaza Strip. Those stranded in Gaza who have residency abroad or foreign passports, students studying abroad and sick who need treatment abroad will be allowed to leave the Strip via Egypt," MENA said. It said any medication or medical goods will be allowed into Gaza and that humanitarian aid and food will also be let in but in coordination with the Egyptian Red Crescent.

                            Israel imposed its blockade on Gaza in 2006 further tightening it the following year after the Islamist Hamas movement seized control of the territory from forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas. In December 2008, Israel launched a massive offensive in a bid to halt rocket and mortar fire by Gaza-based militants. About 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed during the 22-day conflict.

                            Since 2007, Gaza's 1.5 million people have relied on a web of tunnels beneath the Rafah border for most of their needs. The World Bank estimates that 80 percent of Gaza's imports are brought in through the tunnels. Most of the tunnels are used to bring in basic goods such as food, household appliances, building materials and livestock, but Hamas and other armed groups use their own more secret tunnels to smuggle in weapons and money. The move to open the border came after Israeli commandos stormed an aid flotilla bound for Gaza on Monday, killing at least nine pro-Palestinian activists and sparking an international outcry. The six ships were carrying some 10,000 tonnes of supplies.


                            • #44

                              طالبت الجزائر السلطات المصرية بالإبقاء على معبر رفح مفتوحا بشكل مستمر للسماح بإدخال المعونات الغذائية والأدوية إلى قطاع غزة، فيما طمأن المتحدث باسم الأرندي جموع الجزائريين على سلامة الوفد الجزائري ومتابعة أوضاعه من قبل السلطات الدبلوماسية المختصة.

                              طالب الممثل الشخصي لرئيس الجمهورية وأمين عام حزب جبهة التحرير الوطني عبد العزيز بلخادم، خلال تجمّع لأحزاب التحالف الرئاسي عقد، أمس، بدار الشعب بالعاصمة، مصر بأن تبقي معبر رفح مفتوحا أمام سكان غزة لتخفيف عبء الحصار المفروض عليهم منذ أربع سنوات، مشيرا إلى أن الجزائر تأمل ألا يكون قرار القاهرة فتح معبر رفح أمس ظرفيا ولامتصاص حالة الاحتقان في الشارع المصري والعربي بعد الاعتداء الإسرائيلي على سفن أسطول الحرية. وأوضح بلخادم أن الاعتداء الإسرائيلي على سفن أسطول الحرية يؤكد للمرة الألف الوجه الدموي لإسرائيل ويفرض على الحكومات العربية مراجعة مواقفها وسياساتها إزاء هذا الكيان الذي لا يفهم إلا لغة الحديد والنار، ولا يعرف الطريق إلى السلام.

                              وفي هذا السياق اعتبر أبو جرة سلطاني أن حضور الوفد الجزائري في هذا العمل الإنساني البطولي سيكتب للجزائر موقفا مشرّفا آخر ضمن سلسلة المواقف الخالدة من القضية الفلسطينية، موضحا أن الجنون الإسرائيلي لن يكفه إلا جنون المقاومة المتعددة الأوجه. وأعلن عن التفكير في قوافل إغاثية جزائرية قريبا إلى غزة للتأكيد على استمرار المد الإنساني إلى غزة، وعدم نجاح التهديدات والممارسات الإسرائيلية تجاه القوافل الإنسانية.

                              من جانبه أكد ميلود شرفي، الناطق باسم التجمّع الوطني الديمقراطي، أنه يتشرف بالإعلان أن كافة الهيئات الحكومية الجزائرية المختصة تتابع عن كثب وضع الوفد الجزائري الذي كان ضمن الوفود التي تم احتجازها من قبل إسرائيل. وقال شرفي ''كل الهيئات والسفارات الجزائرية المعنية تقوم بمساعيها الحثيثة من أجل ضمان سلامتهم وعودتهم قريبا إلى الجزائر معززين مكرّمين بعدما شرّفونا وشرّفوا الجزائر بحضورهم في هذه الوقفة الإنسانية التاريخية''. وأشار شرفي إلى أن أحزاب التحالف الرئاسي متفقة تماما في مواقفها بشأن هذه القضية التي صارت مسألة مبدئية وليست مسألة سياسية.

                              واعتبر سفير دولة فلسطين في الجزائر حوراني أن الوحدة والمصالحة الفلسطينية صارت مطلبا أساسيا لإعادة لمّ شمل القوى الفلسطينية وتوجيه الجهود نحو مقاومة المحتل الغاصب، وحيّا بالمناسبة المواقف الجزائرية الثابتة من فلسطين. كما أعلن صالح جنوحات، العضو القيادي في المركزية النقابية، دعم الاتحاد لنضال الشعب الفلسطيني.

                              وحضر التجمع عدد كبير من الشخصيات السياسية والمنظمات الوطنية وجموع من الطلبة، كما حضر القيادي السابق في الفيس المحل، علي بن حاج، رفقة عدد كبير من مرافقيه، كما وضعت قوة من مكافحة الشغب بالقرب من دار الشعب تحسبا لأي محاولة من الطلبة الحاضرين في التجمّع الخروج إلى الشارع وتنظيم مسيرة كانوا يطالبون بها داخل القاعة.


                              • #45
                                Mahmoud Tadjer :

                                Mercredi 2 Juin 2010 -- L’Egypte partage-t-elle avec Israël la responsabilité du tragique événement qui a coûté la vie à une vingtaine de civils dans l’assaut donné par l’armée israélienne contre la flottille de la liberté ? L’Etat d’Israël n’a pas violé uniquement les conventions de Genève sur la libre circulation des personnes et des biens, mais il a également fait fi des dispositions en matière de réglementation maritime puisque les bateaux qui se dirigeaient vers Gaza pour rompre le blocus en vigueur depuis 2007 ont été attaqués dans les eaux internationales, ce qui en soi est une grave violation du code maritime international. L’Etat hébreu ne se serait jamais dirigé vers cette solution musclée s’il n’y avait pas le jeu plutôt trouble de la partie égyptienne qui a grandement contribué au pourrissement de la situation. Le pays de Hosni Moubarak, qui n’entend laisser personne prendre le leadership, a fermé le seul passage, celui de Rafah, qu’il contrôle à sa guise et en fonction de la coopération ou non des dirigeants du Hamas. Moubarak fait porter sur le Hamas une part de responsabilité dans la poursuite du blocus israélien. Il a ainsi souligné qu’un accord de réconciliation interpalestinien, que le Hamas refuserait de signer selon Le Caire, faciliterait la levée du blocus.

                                L’Egypte, craignant de perdre son influence au Moyen-Orient et dans le monde arabe, fait semblant de se rebeller contre le rôle de sous-fifre que lui délègue de temps à autre Israël. Le fait de voir des pays comme la Turquie ou l’Algérie derrière l’initiative de casser pacifiquement le blocus a dû faire frémir de rage Oum Eddounia. D’où sa décision d’ouvrir enfin le tunnel de Rafah et permettre à l’aide alimentaire de parvenir à la population de Gaza. D’ailleurs, à voir de plus près sa position dans cette agression, le commun des mortels y trouvera beaucoup à redire. Le président égyptien, dont le pays a été le premier dans le monde arabe à signer la paix avec Israël en 1979, a simplement dénoncé «l’usage excessif et injustifié de la force par Israël». Rien de plus ! Pas une condamnation de l’acte, encore moins une réaction ferme comme celle de la Turquie qui a immédiatement rappelé son ambassadeur et convoqué tous les Etats membres de l’OTAN pour prendre une position claire à ce sujet. Le ton a été donné par le Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU, qui a déjà demandé une «enquête impartiale sur l’opération meurtrière de l’armée israélienne». L’opinion arabe a tranché, et l’Egypte risque de plus pouvoir rebondir.


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