Saturday, September 03, 2005

Rafah : more of the same

Israeli and Egyptian officers signed an agreement Thursday to deploy 750 lightly-armed Egyptian troops along the border with the Gaza Strip who are meant to prevent weapons-smuggling into Gaza.

Following the announcement, one could hardly flip through a paper or browse an online news site without finding something that didn't tout the agreement as the end of the miserable border regime that is Rafah Crossing; a bunch of other articles I came across even spoke of the the reunion of Egyptian and Palestinian Rafah-split apart after the 1967 war.

I was speaking to a friend of mine yesterday-a freelancer based in Ramallah who is here visiting Gaza, and I remarked in frustration "it seems like these people are living in some sort of parallel universe. " "That's because they are," he said.

We say that because in the end, nothing will change. Ultimate control over the border-the only route to the outside world for Gaza’s 1.4 millions Palestinians (that oft-repeated statistic includes Yousuf and me) will remain in Israeli hands.

In fact, the Egyptian-Israeli deal was signed despite the fact that no agreement has yet been reached with the Palestinian Authority on who will ultimately control the borders after Israel's pullout from Gaza.

Also of interest-Israel is relocating the crossing farther southeast to a point where the Egyptian-Gaza-Israeli borders meet, an area called "Kerem Shalom", despite opposition from Egypt and the Palestinian Authority.

Now why would they do that-relocate a perfectly miserable crossing? Is it because they are humane-maybe they want to service us better-after all those long waits in the non-airconditioned run-down buses, complete with fainting women and children, are really getting to be a drag.

What we'll often hear in the news is-they want to be able to check Palestinian goods. But how is that different that what happens now?

Actually, the new location would allow Israeli troops to control Palestinian movement in and out of Gaza WITHOUT physically being present in the Strip. What does that matter one may ask? Well, it is an attempt to bolster the Israeli argument that they are no longer occupying the area.

Right. Does anyone else see a problem with this scenario?

Palestinians of course reject the proposal, arguing that without free access for people and goods and sovereignty over their air, sea, and borders, the economy, and the future of their state, will be in peril. So far, those rejections have fallen on deaf ears, and foreign minister Nasir al-Qidwa has acquiesced (frankly, its not like he had any say in the matter-the Israelis have already started work on the new terminal) to the Israeli proposal.


Blogger Iqbal Khaldun said...

Well said. I guess it's not surprising that politically-motivated 'solutions' like the Gaza disengagement breed empty outcomes which are best described as public relations exercises. Of course, there are very real consequences for the people on the ground. But for Western nations in particular, which are all staunch allies of Israel (ok, maybe not New Zealand..:-), the disengagement plan can be used to convince a skeptical public that countries like Israel are absolved from abiding by the fundamental principles of international law and morality.

Virtually none of this critique has appeared in the mainstream Western press which is still eager to paint Sharon as some poor, little centrist caught between crazy Arabs and militant Jews.

9:14 AM  
Blogger Gella said...

I'm not sure I understand. When someone moves between Canada and USA, aren't they given permission by the USA? Though there is an open border between the US and Canada a Canadian can not enter the US without going thru and being checked by US customs. Why should it be different for Palestinians going from Gaza into Israel?

11:08 AM  
Blogger Laila said...

Hi Gella. Good question. To undersand the difference, you need first to get a sense of the geography and poliical reality on the ground. Rafah Crossing is the only route to the outside world for PALESTINIANS in GAZA, and Palestinains travelling TO Gaza, or FROM Gaza TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD, not to Israel. These palestinian travellers, such as myself, have no interest in going to Israel-they simply want to commute between their homes in Gaza and the outside-either Egypt for medical reasons, universities, etc., or anywhere else in the world (in my case, to the US-since our airprot was desroyed in gaza by the Israelis, we have no choice but to use the Egyptian airport in CAiro). However, Israel insists on controlling the border crossing INTO and OUT OF GAZA, not INTO ISRAEL (which is their right-like in Tel Aviv). By controlling the borders to the Palestinain territory, they are denying a future Palestinain state its sovereignty, and will continue to legally be considered occupiers by intl law. DOes that make sense?

11:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On one hand, yes, it undoubtfully sucks. Why should Israelis control who comes and who goes.
On the other hand, it might be in the best interests of the Palestinians - do you imagine what would the response of Israel be if in a few months there is no Israeli control, Hamas or some other organization smuggles in a real rocket (not the ones they have been firing so far), and they successfully shoot it at Tel Aviv, killing a significant number of people?
Israel will consider it a declaration of war, and, having disengaged from Gaza, will shell or carpet bomb Gaza City.
It might be cheaper to let Israelis be responsible for controlling the freaks of Gaza even if that means waiting at an Israeli border control.
Then in a few years, if everything is smooth, Israelis themselves might want to give that control up, to improve their image and wash their hands off the responsibility.

10:56 AM  

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