Palestinians in Gaza suffer despite Rafah opening

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Yusuf Dhia-Allah

Rajab 29, 1432 2011-07-01

News & Analysis

by Yusuf Dhia-Allah (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 40, No. 5, Rajab, 1432)

The Israelis have used the partial opening of Gaza’s Rafah border crossing with Egypt as a pretext to say the Palestinians’ suffering has ended and no aid need be sent any more. This has come about as hundreds of peace activists attempt to deliver boat loads of goods to alleviate, even if partially, the suffering of the long oppressed people of Gaza.

The Israelis have used the partial opening of Gaza’s Rafah border crossing with Egypt as a pretext to say the Palestinians’ suffering has ended and no aid need be sent any more. This has come about as hundreds of peace activists attempt to deliver boat loads of goods to alleviate, even if partially, the suffering of the long oppressed people of Gaza.

While the Israeli siege continues and in some instances has even tightened, the Rafah crossing opens only sporadically. The black metal barrier that separates Palestinians from the Rafah terminal shifts only periodically to let through ambulances, press and — very occasionally — a busload of travellers, successfully making it out of Gaza. Elderly ladies wait for hours brandishing their passports through the bars. This is the new reality of the “siege-free” Gaza, as Israel is quick to point to the outside world and, therefore, insist that there is no need to send any food or medicines. There was none even before this, as far as the Israelis are concerned. After all, starvation is the natural state for Palestinians.

When the gate opens, it traps those loitering beside it between its two frames, and people hurriedly look for a gap in the guards’ attention through which they could make a break. Those who find a seemingly unguarded exit route are manhandled and pushed back behind the fence.

Palestinians must sit in plastic chairs in a metal shed as officials work their way through an ever-growing backlog of registered travellers. They cannot leave the shed unless accompanied by a guard. Until the quota of up to 400 travellers per day is lifted, the mayhem at Rafah will continue and indeed intensify. Let us look at a typical day. “I know today is the 18th June,” a guard announced over a loudspeaker, “but today only people registered to cross between 6 and 10 of June will be crossing.” At around 2pm, the border closes. Another announcement follows via the loudspeaker: “this isn’t from us; it’s because of Egypt.” It is hardly comforting for the Palestinians to know who is responsible for their suffering. They simply want this to end.

When the Rafah “opening” was first announced by the post-Mubarak regime last April, Gazans were promised a border that would permit women, children and the elderly to travel freely, as well as men who had registered in advance. Currently none of this is true as the prolonged delays and huge backlog at the crossing shows. The Egyptians even shut down the border after a few days of opening, ostensibly for repairs. Why these “repairs” were not undertaken during the long closing after Israel imposed the siege and the Egyptian regime of the now-deposed Hosni Mubarak dutifully complied with is unclear.

Meanwhile thousands of peace activists from around the world including “Tahrir”, the Canadian boat, loaded with food and medicines, are heading to Gaza. Some have set sail from Greece, others, like the American boat, “The Audacity of Hope”, have been held back allegedly for making sure it is seaworthy. The truth is Israel and the US are exerting pressure on cash-starved Greece to prevent humanitarian aid from reaching the starving people of Gaza.

This has been the reality of Gaza’s Palestinians for many years.

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