1/3: Latest Updates from Israel Invade
Gaza: Worldwide Protest Against Israeli Invasion and Killing at Gaza
National Day of Emergency Mass Action: Saturday,
Mass March in Washington, D.C.
White House (north side) @ 1:00 pm
There will be a major regional demonstration on Saturday, January 10.
Gather at the White House (north side, Lafayette Park) at 1:00 PM. The protest
will be located between the Bush White House and the Hay Adams Hotel, where
President-Elect Obama is now residing, which is located on the north side of
Lafayette Park. Calling by: The ANSWER Coalition, Muslim American Society
Freedom, Free Palestine Alliance, National Council of Arab Americans, and Al-Awda
- International Palestine Right to Return Coalition, for more
information, contact: A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition http://www.answercoalition.org/
National Office in Washington DC: 202-544-3389
ACTIONS AGAINST MASSACRE! Lists of Upcoming
Worldwide Protests Against Israeli Attacks on Gaza! >>Read
1/4: Israel launches ground offensive in Gaza (al Jazeera)
Gaza Humanitarian Situation Report | 2 January 2009
The humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip is significant and cannot be
understated. It follows what the UN had described as an 18 month long “human
dignity crisis” in the Gaza Strip, entailing a massive destruction of
livelihoods and a significant deterioration of infrastructure and basic
(from Center for Legimate Government, Information Clearinghouse and
protesters gather near Obama's home --As the death toll climbs,
Palestinian supporters have criticized the president-elect for remaining
silent. 03 Jan 2009 (IL) Joining a growing number of demonstrations worldwide,
protesters marched today in President-elect Barack Obama's South Side
neighborhood to voice their opposition to Israel's strikes against Gaza.
Nearly three dozen demonstrators walked in front of police barricades a few
blocks from Obama's Kenwood home, waving a Palestinian flag and chanting
anti-war slogans that chastised the United States for manufacturing the bombs
and warplanes used by Israel. "We won't be silent, we won't be
tame," they chanted. "No more mass murder in our name." [Odd,
Barack Obama condemned the Mumbai attacks... but not the Israeli invasion.
He's (now) playing the 'there can only be one president at a time' card. --LRP]
telecommunication systems offline 04 Jan 2009 Palestinian communications
networks are barely functioning in the Gaza Strip due to cables damaged by
several Israeli airstrikes on network infrastructure on Saturday. Palestinian
mobile provider Jawwal’s phone may stop working "at any minute" as
shelling severely damaged the provider’s telecommunications network in Gaza.
PalTel, Jawwal’s parent company based in the West Bank, told Ma’an,
"The Israeli shelling damaged the electric grid and caused continuous
main hospital struggles to stay functioning 03 Jan 2009 The sudden and
violent beginning of Israel's aerial onslaught into Gaza Strip was bigger that
the emergency plans drawn up earlier by the Palestinian health care system,
Gaza doctors say. The crisis emerged widely in al-Shifa hospital, the only
main sanatorium for Gaza's 1.5 million population. The hospital's floors were
colored in red, and also the grass in its yard, as doctors and volunteers
offered first aid to hundreds of wounded people on the floor.
leader: Israel killing Gaza civilians, not our fighters 04 Jan 2009 A
Hamas leader early on Sunday morning denied reports that armed groups
affiliated with the Islamic movement had been killed by invading Israeli
forces. Appearing on Al-Jazeera just after midnight on Sunday, Mousa Mohammad
Abu Marzook claimed that "there are casualties, but they are of the
people of the Gaza Strip, not us."
okays call-up of tens of thousands of IDF reservists 04 Jan 2009 Israel's
government has approved the call-up of tens of thousands of reservist
soldiers, it was announced Saturday, almost simultaneously with the launch of
a Gaza ground incursion aimed at halting rocket fire on Israel's southern
communities. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office said in a statement that, in
accordance with a secret cabinet discussion Friday, the government ordered the
armed forces "to draft the necessary reservists, on a scale of tens of
thousands of troops."
shake Gaza as Israeli troops roll in 03 Jan 2009 Explosions shook the Gaza
Strip and fires lit up the night skies as Israeli ground forces moved on
Saturday into the battered Palestinian enclave after a week of air and naval
raids. Hours after Israeli infantry troops armed with night-vision equipment
trotted alongside tank columns through the border and into the Hamas
stronghold, battles raged in open areas east and north of Jabaliya and east of
tanks roll into Gaza Strip 04 Jan 2009 Israeli troops clashed with Hamas
fighters as they advanced into Gaza Strip on Saturday in the first ground
combat of an eight-day offensive on the Palestinian enclave, witnesses and the
Israeli army said. Columns of tanks backed by helicopters crossed the boundary
fence from four directions into the northern Gaza Strip under the cover of
darkness, a Palestinian witness said.
Invasion of Gaza begins (The Muslim News) 03 Jan 2009 Israeli ground
troops and armoured vehicles are invading Gaza strip and have intensified
missile attacks. Israel wants to destroy Hamas and destroy Gaza infrastructure
to allow President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority to take over.
Israel has the support of the West on this issue as the West considers the
Hamas, who won the last Palestinian elections, as a terrorist organisation.
The invasion was preceded by artillery attacks.
House gives Israel green light to invade Gaza 02 Jan 2009 A ground
invasion by the Israeli army of the blockaded Gaza Strip is imminent. Mass
troop build-ups on the border, accompanied by tanks, and armoured personnel
carriers, are awaiting the signal to enter Gaza. The White House says any
ground invasion is a matter for Israel.
more children slain by Israeli warplanes --56% of the Gaza Strip
population of 1.5 million consists of children. 02 Jan 2009 Three boys aged
from 7 to ten have been killed by the Israel Air Force in its continual
bombardment of the Gaza Strip. Israeli media say the boys were killed in their
home in a targeted air strike, while Reuters news agency say they were playing
in the street. The boys were brothers. One of them was decapitated in the
attack. "These injuries are not survivable injuries," Madth Gilbert,
a Norwegian doctor at Gaza's Shifa hospital who could not save another boy who
had both feet blown off. "This is a murder. This is a child," he
for Israel: Jets drop recruitment leaflets over Gaza Strip 02 Jan 2009
Israeli airplanes dropped leaflets calling for Gazans to inform their military
of the whereabouts of projectile launchers in return for aid and assistance.
The papers were found by the thousands all over Gaza on Friday morning and
bear the signature of the Israeli military... 'Your anonymity is guaranteed.
Call us at the following number: 02-5839749 Or you can e-mail us at: email@example.com
to provide us with any information on the terrorist factions. Note: To protect
your safety, we ask you to be secretive when you call us. Head of the Israeli
presidency: Israel ground op in Gaza 'defensive not offensive' 03 Jan 2009
European Union president, the Czech Republic, said Saturday an Israeli ground
offensive in Gaza was "defensive, not offensive" action. "At
the moment, from the perspective of the last days, we understand this step as
a defensive, not offensive, action," Czech EU presidency spokesman Jiri
calls Hamas attacks 'acts of terror', says working on truce 03 Jan 2009
President [sic] George W. Bush on Friday branded the Hamas rocket attacks on
Israel an act of terror and outlined his own [insane] condition for a
cease-fire in Gaza, saying no peace deal would be acceptable without
monitoring to halt the flow of smuggled weapons to terrorist groups.
Palestinian envoy on assault 04 Jan 2009 The Palestinian observer to the
UN, Riyad Mansour, has said that Israel's actions in Gaza are de-stabilising
the Middle East. The United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, has called
for an immediate halt to the Israeli ground assault in Gaza. The Security
Council is holding a special, closed session meeting to discuss the Middle
Aviv rally decries Gaza assault 04 Jan 2009 Amid cries of "Jews and
Arabs refuse to be enemies!" and banners reading, "Enough!"
thousands of Israelis took to the streets of Tel Aviv on Saturday night to
protest against the country's war on Gaza. Protesters called for an immediate
end to the Israeli attacks, in which more than 450 Palestinians have been
killed and around 2,100 injured since air assaults on Gaza began last
protests denounce Israel 03 Jan 2009 Angry protests against Israel's
bombardment of the Gaza Strip have continued throughout the world, with two of
the largest demonstrations taking place in London and in Sakhnin in northern
Israel. Other large demonstrations were staged in Kabul, the capital of
Afghanistan, Srinagar in Indian-administered Kashmir, Lebanon, Turkey and the
protest in Europe at Gaza offensive 03 Jan 2009 Thousands of chanting,
banner-waving demonstrators marched in cities across Europe on Saturday to
demand a halt to Israeli bombing in the Gaza Strip. Protests were held or
scheduled in Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands
and Spain as the Israeli offensive entered its second week. Kuwaitis also took
to the streets, a day after bigger Middle East rallies.
must prepare to turn its military might from Gaza to Iran By Amir Oren 03
Jan 2009 It is no wonder the U.S. Army, which has 100 soldiers manning the
large radar installation in the Negev meant to detect Iranian missiles, has
hastened to assure its troops that they are not at risk. ...[T]he IDF must
move quickly to disengage, in order to free its attention for the paramount
task of preparing a military blow to Iran, if diplomacy and deterrence fail.
As long as the great threat of Iranian power is hovering, the smaller threats
of Hezbollah and Hamas that derive from it will not be dispelled.
Live Video Reports
The True Story Behind this War Is Not The One Israel Is Telling
By Johann Hari
Israel Needs its Usual Friends to Help Again
Daily Star Editorial
Israel needs help again. It needs reasonable people who share the faith of
most of Israel's citizens to rescue them - and their Arab neighbors - from a
degenerate political class that is leading all of us to disaster.
Specifically, it is moderate Jewish Americans who can be the most helpful by
taking back control of the so-called "Israel lobby" from the zealots
who have made it the swamp of militaristic racism that it is. http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article21631.htm
America's Hidden Role in Hamas's Rise to Power
By Stephen Zunes, AlterNet
January 3, 2009
No one in the mainstream media or government is willing
to acknowledge America's sordid role interfering in
The United States bears much of the blame for the
ongoing bloodshed in the Gaza Strip and nearby parts of
Israel. Indeed, were it not for misguided Israeli and
American policies, Hamas would not be in control of the
territory in the first place.
US Weapons Killing Civilians in Gaza
As Civilian Toll Soars, US Weapons Sales to Israel Under Growing Scrutiny
The UN Security Council has again failed to call for an immediate ceasefire in
the Gaza Strip due to the intervention of the US.
The Council ended its third meeting about Gaza crisis late Saturday without
reaching an agreement on a statement that would have asked Israel to end its
ground incursion into the region, the French ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert
said according to AFP.
"There was no formal agreement between member states but I have noted
strong convergences about our concern at the escalation of violence and the
deterioration of the situation and strong convergences on our call for an
immediate, durable and respected ceasefire," Ripert told reporters after
Two previous UN draft resolutions seeking an end to the violence in the region
was blocked by Washington.
Last Sunday and wdnesday, the US rejected the resolutions calling for an end
to the massive Israeli air raids against the Gaza Strip.
The development comes as the Israeli army broadened its military campaign by
launching a ground offensive into the impoverished region last night.
The US, a staunch ally to Israel, has so far vetoed over 40 anti-Israeli
resolutions sought by the council since 1972.
Since 2004, Washington has prevented the adoption of four other resolutions
that called for Tel Aviv to halt its operations in the Gaza Strip.
Avrum Burg is the scion of one of Israel's founding families — his father
was the deputy speaker of the first Knesset, and Burg himself later became
speaker of the legislature, and a member of Israel's cabinet. His position at
the heart of the Israeli establishment makes all the more remarkable his
critique of the Jewish State, which he claims has lost its sense of moral
purpose. In his new book The Holocaust Is Over: We Must Rise from Its Ashes
(Palgrave/MacMillan), he argues that an obsession with an exaggerated sense of
threats to Jewish survival cultivated by Israel and its most fervent backers
actually impedes the realization of Judaism's higher goals. He discussed his
ideas with TIME.com's Tony Karon.
TIME: You argue that the Jewish people are in a state of crisis, partly
because of the extent to which the Holocaust dominates contemporary Jewish
identity. Can you explain?
Burg: I, like many others, believe that a day will come very soon when we will
live in peace with our neighbors, and then, for the first time in our history,
the vast majority of the Jewish people will be living without an immediate
threat to their lives. Peaceful Israel and a secure Diaspora, all of us living
the democratic hemisphere. And then the question facing our generation will
be, can the Jewish people survive without an external enemy? Give me war, give
me pogrom, give me disaster, and I know what to do; give me peace and
tranquility, and I'm lost. The Holocaust was a hellish horror, but we often
use it as an excuse to avoid looking around seeing how, existentially, 60
years later, in a miraculous way, are living in a much better situation.
In your book, you raise the question of the purpose of Jewish survival over
thousands of years, insisting that Jews have not simply survived for the sake
of survival. What is this higher purpose?
Both my parents were survivors — my father ran away from Berlin in September
1939; my mum survived the 1929 massacre in Hebron. So, my family knows
something about trauma. Still, my siblings and I were brought up in a
trauma-free atmosphere. We were brought up to believe that the Jewish people
did not continue in order to continue, or survive in order to survive. A cat
can survive — so it's a circumcised cat, so what? It's not about survival;
survival for what?
Look at the Exodus: After 400 years of very aggressive oppression and
enslavement, all of a sudden the outcry was "Let my people go," and
that continues to resonate against slavery everywhere to this day. Then we
come to the Sinai covenant, which is a key moment not just for Jewish
theology, but for Christian belief as well: The Ten Commandments is the first
human-to-human constitution, setting out the relations among humans on the
basis of laws. And then you come to the Prophets, and its amazing that they're
calling so clearly for a just society. And then, in the Middle Ages, you
listen to Maimonides say he's waiting for redemption of the world without
oppression between nations. So, in the Jewish story over so many centuries,
there has always been a higher cause, not just for the Jews, but for all of
Even in the Holocaust, the lesson is "Never Again." But this doesn't
mean just never again can genocide be allowed to happen to the Jews, but never
again can genocide be allowed to happen to any human being. So, the Holocaust
is not just mine; it belongs to all of humanity.
You suggest that there's been a turning inward from the universal purpose and
meaning of the Jewish experience...
Both the internal and the external hemispheres of the Jewish experience are
essential. I cannot envisage my Judaism without the input I got from the
external world, be it philosophy, aesthetics, even democracy, which was
introduced to the Jews in the last 200 years because of our interface with the
the world. On the other hand, I can't imagine my Western civilization and
Western culture without the Jewish input, without Jesus Christ, who was born,
was crucified and passed away as a Mishnaic rabbinical Jew. I cannot image
Christian Europe opening up to modernity without a Maimonides reintroducing
Greek philosophy. I cannot imagine modern times without a Spinoza, and
Mendelson. I cannot imagine the 20th century without Marx and Freud. So, this
conversation between Jews and the world is not just a conversation of pogroms
and slaughter and Holocaust; it's also a couple of thousand years of a
conversation that enriched me and enriched them, and I don't want to give that
Your book argues that the centrality of the Holocaust in Israeli identity is
The Holocaust is a very real trauma for many people in Israel, and nobody can
argue with that. But ... when I hear someone like Benjamin Netanyahu, who is a
very intelligent person, say of [Iran's President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad,
"It's 1938 all over again," I say, is it?! Is this the reality? Did
we have such an omnipotent army in 1938? Did we have an independent state in
1938? Did we have the unequivocal support in 1938 of all the important
superpowers in the world? No, we did not. And when you compare Ahmadinejad to
Hitler, don't you diminish Hitler's significance?
The sad thing is that whenever a head of state begins a visit to Israel, he
doesn't go to a university or to the high-tech sector or the beautiful
cultural places we have in Israel; first you should get molded into the
Israeli reality at [the Holocaust memorial] Yad Vashem. And I do not think
that Yad Vashem should be the showcase or the gateway through which everybody
should first encounter Israel. Part of the program, yes; but the starting
point? This is not the way to baptize people into an encounter with Judaism.
You argue that the purpose of the Yad Vashem visit is to silence criticism...
It's an emotional blackmail that says to people, this is what we have
experienced, so shut up and help us... When the sages created the national
holiday of Tisha Be'av, they made it the single day on which we commemorate
all the traumas of our history, from the destruction of the first temple to
the Spanish expulsion. These events did not all happen on this exact date; the
founders of Jewish civilization confined the memory of the traumas of our
history to one day, to allow us the rest of the year to get on with being
Jewish, rather than letting sorrow take over our entire existence...
Look where we were 100 years ago and look where we are today — no other
people made this transformation. Imagine we did not keep the shadow of the
trauma looming over ourselves daily, what could we have been? How come 25% of
the Nobel laureates in certain fields are of Jewish origins, and 10% of the
arms deals around the world are done by Israelis? Why is my brother or sister
in America a great poet or composer or physician whose achievements raise up
all of humanity, and I who live here on my sword became a world expert on arms
and swords? Is that really my mission, or is that an outcome of the black
water with which I water my flowers? To make our contribution to humanity, we
have to free ourselves of the obsession with the trauma.
Many Jews, in Israel and in America, see Israel as surrounded by deadly
threats, and would see the benign and peaceful world you describe as a
dangerous fantasy. What do you say to your critics?
I have very low expectations of new thinking and insight emerging from the
mainstream Israeli and Jewish establishment. Their role is to maintain the
status quo. Israel is bereft of forward thinking. We are experts at managing
the crisis rather than finding alternatives to the crisis. In Israel you have
many tanks, but not many think tanks. One of the reasons I left the Israeli
politics was my growing feeling that Israel became a very efficient kingdom,
but with no prophecy. Where is it going?
My idea of Judaism can be represented through a classic Talmudic dilemma: You
are walking along by the river and there are two people drowning. One is Rabbi
[Meir] Kahane, and the other is the Dalai Lama. You can only save one of them.
For whom will you jump? If you jump for Rabbi Kahane because genetically he's
Jewish, you belong to a different camp than mine, because I would jump for the
Dalai Lama. As much as he's not genetically Jewish, he's my Jewish brother
when it comes to my value system. That's the difference between me and the
Jewish establishment in Israel and America.
But how can this new thinking you're advocating help Israel solve its security
Many people say to me, "What about Gaza? Don't have so much compassion
for them, don't tell the Israelis to be nice there, tell [the Palestinians] to
be nice there. And I say Gaza is a nightmare, and it's a stain on my
conscience. And I'm very troubled by the attitude of Israelis against Israeli
Arabs. It's a shame. It's a black hole in my democracy. But I say sometimes
that I'm too close to the reality; I don't have the perspective; I don't have
the bigger picture. But if enough of my kids and enough of my youth will go to
volunteer, be it in Darfur or be it Rwanda, or be it in the squatter camps of
South Africa, they will sharpen their sensitivities. And they will come back
and say, listen, if we can do so much good out there, let's do something over
here. And I see my own kids, when they come back from India and from Latin
America, how changed they are as people. I see my son, after one and a half
years in Latin American. He came home, and five days later, was called for 30
days "miluim" service [with his military unit] in the West Bank. And
he was sitting in the worst junction in the West Bank. And he says, "When
I look around me 360 degrees, nobody loves me. Settlers, Kahanes, rabbis,
mullahs, Hamas, Palestinians, you name it — they all hate me. And he told
me, "Here I was sitting on a corner one day; it was my break time, and I
was drinking coffee with a friend of mine, and out of the valley climbed an
old Arab. He was very bent forward and frail, and walked slowly to us and said
'Here is my ID.' And we told him, you don't have to give us your ID; we didn't
ask for it. And he said 'No, here it is, I want you to look at it. Look at it,
I'm okay, I'm kosher, I'm kosher.' I checked it and let him pass, and then I
began crying and crying."
So, I asked my son, why did you cry, what happened? And he said, "You
don't understand that for a year and a half, I was in Latin America, going to
small villages and sitting with this kind of man, listening to their oral
tradition, to the beauty of their history, to the wisdom of their culture. And
they shared it with me. And now here I am, the policeman, here I am the bad
guy, here I am the occupier. And I can't talk to this man. You know how much
he could tell me under different circumstances?" And I say, that's an
example for me.
Propaganda war: trusting what we see?
By Paul Reynolds
World affairs correspondent, BBC News website
Saturday, 3 January 2009
This was clear evidence, the Israelis said, of how accurate their strikes
were and how well justified. A special unit it has set up to coordinate its
informational plan put the video onto YouTube as part of its effort to use
modern means of communications to get Israel's case across.
The YouTube video has a large caption on it saying "Grad missiles
being loaded onto the Hamas vehicle." As of Saturday morning UK time,
more than 260,000 people had watched it.
It turned out, however, that a 55-year-old Gaza resident named Ahmed Sanur,
or Samur, claimed that the truck was his and that he and members of his family
and his workers were moving oxygen cylinders from his workshop.
Ahmed Sanur is challenging Israel's claim that rockets were
This workshop had been damaged when a building next door was bombed by the
Israelis and he was afraid of looters, he said.
The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem put Mr Sanur's account on its
website, together with a photograph of burned out oxygen cylinders.
Mr Sanur said that eight people, one of them his son, had been killed. He
subsequently told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz: "These were not Hamas,
they were our children... They were not Grad missiles.".
The Israeli response was that the "materiel" was being taken
from a site that had stored weapons. The video remains on You Tube.
But the incident shows how an apparently definitive piece of video can
turn into something much more doubtful.
B'Tselem said these cannisters were near the destroyed truck
It is reminiscent of an event in the Nato war against Serbia over Kosovo
in 1999. In that case, a video taken from the air seemed to show a military
convoy which was then attacked.
On the ground however it was discovered that the "trucks" were
in fact tractors towing cartloads of civilian refugees, many of whom were
The Israeli propaganda effort is being directed to achieve two main aims.
The first is to justify the air attacks. The second is to show that there
is no humanitarian calamity in Gaza.
Both these aims are intended to place Israel in a strong position
internationally and to enable its diplomacy to act as an umbrella to fend off
calls for a ceasefire while the military operation unfolds.
Israel has pursued the first aim by being very active in getting its story
across that Hamas is to blame. The sight of Hamas rockets streaking into
Israel has been helpful in this respect.
It has also allowed trucks in with food aid and has stressed that it will
not let people starve, even if they go short.
Israel appears to think its efforts are working.
One of its spokespeople, who has regularly appeared on the international
media, Major Avital Leibovich, said: "Quite a few outlets are very
favourable to Israel."
Ban on foreign media
Israel has bolstered its approach by banning foreign correspondents from
Gaza, despite a ruling from the Israeli Supreme Court.
The Arab television news channel Al Jazeera is operating there and its
reports have been graphic and have affected opinion across the Arab world. The
BBC also has its local bureau hard at work.
But the absence of reporters from major organisations has meant, for
example, that Mr Samur's story has not been as widely told as it probably
would have been, or his account subject to an on-the-spot examination.
Meanwhile Israel has received good coverage of the threats and damage to
its own towns and communities.
Whether Israel retains any propaganda initiative is not all certain.
Pictures of dead and wounded children have undermined its claim to pinpoint
accuracy and the longer this goes on, the greater the potential for world
public opinion to swing against it, with diplomatic pressure building for a
Its presentational problems would be hugely increased if it engaged in a
ground operation, which would bring with it more pictures of death and
Update: several readers have e-mailed to ask whether I believe Hamas. One
said I had "bought into" Hamas propaganda. Another that I should
have dealt with Hamas' claims: "What's missing speaks volumes about your
I do not believe anyone's "propaganda." We seek to verify all
claims, from whatever source. One of the main claims in Gaza at the moment is
the serious situation for the population. Having reported from Gaza many times
over the years, I know how crowded parts of it are and how dependent the
people are on food aid from the UN. This means they have no other source of
supply but equally, if the system is working, they should be getting enough to
get by on. The problem is that foreign correspondents cannot get in to
establish the exact situation for themselves.
There was a day when we worried about the "Arab masses" – the
millions of "ordinary" Arabs on the streets of Cairo, Kuwait, Amman,
Beirut – and their reaction to the constant bloodbaths in the Middle East.
Could Anwar Sadat restrain the anger of his people? And now – after three
decades of Hosni Mubarak – can Mubarak (or "La Vache Qui Rit", as
he is still called in Cairo) restrain the anger of his people? The answer, of
course, is that Egyptians and Kuwaitis and Jordanians will be allowed to shout
in the streets of their capitals – but then they will be shut down, with the
help of the tens of thousands of secret policemen and government militiamen
who serve the princes and kings and elderly rulers of the Arab world.
Egyptians demand that Mubarak open the Rafah crossing-point into Gaza,
break off diplomatic relations with Israel, even send weapons to Hamas. And
there is a kind of perverse beauty in listening to the response of the
Egyptian government: why not complain about the three gates which the Israelis
refuse to open? And anyway, the Rafah crossing-point is politically controlled
by the four powers that produced the "road map" for peace, including
Britain and the US. Why blame Mubarak?
To admit that Egypt can't even open its sovereign border without
permission from Washington tells you all you need to know about the
powerlessness of the satraps that run the Middle East for us.
Open the Rafah gate – or break off relations with Israel – and Egypt's
economic foundations crumble. Any Arab leader who took that kind of step will
find that the West's economic and military support is withdrawn. Without
subventions, Egypt is bankrupt. Of course, it works both ways. Individual Arab
leaders are no longer going to make emotional gestures for anyone. When Sadat
flew to Jerusalem – "I am tired of the dwarves," he said of his
fellow Arab leaders – he paid the price with his own blood at the Cairo
reviewing-stand where one of his own soldiers called him a "Pharaoh"
before shooting him dead.
The true disgrace of Egypt, however, is not in its response to the
slaughter in Gaza. It is the corruption that has become embedded in an
Egyptian society where the idea of service – health, education, genuine
security for ordinary people – has simply ceased to exist. It's a land where
the first duty of the police is to protect the regime, where protesters are
beaten up by the security police, where young women objecting to Mubarak's
endless regime – likely to be passed on caliph-like to his son Gamal,
whatever we may be told – are sexually molested by plain-clothes agents,
where prisoners in the Tora-Tora complex are forced to rape each other by
There has developed in Egypt a kind of religious facade in which the
meaning of Islam has become effaced by its physical representation. Egyptian
civil "servants" and government officials are often scrupulous in
their religious observances – yet they tolerate and connive in rigged
elections, violations of the law and prison torture. A young American doctor
described to me recently how in a Cairo hospital busy doctors merely blocked
doors with plastic chairs to prevent access to patients. In November, the
Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry al-Youm reported how doctors abandoned their
patients to attend prayers during Ramadan.
And amid all this, Egyptians have to live amid daily slaughter by their
own shabby infrastructure. Alaa al-Aswani wrote eloquently in the Cairo paper
Al-Dastour that the regime's "martyrs" outnumber all the dead of
Egypt's wars against Israel – victims of railway accidents, ferry sinkings,
the collapse of city buildings, sickness, cancers and pesticide poisonings –
all victims, as Aswani says, "of the corruption and abuse of power".
Opening the Rafah border-crossing for wounded Palestinians – the Palestinian
medical staff being pushed back into their Gaza prison once the bloodied
survivors of air raids have been dumped on Egyptian territory – is not going
to change the midden in which Egyptians themselves live.
Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, the Hizbollah secretary general in Lebanon, felt
able to call on Egyptians to "rise in their millions" to open the
border with Gaza, but they will not do so. Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the feeble
Egyptian Foreign Minister, could only taunt the Hizbollah leaders by accusing
them of trying to provoke "an anarchy similar to the one they created in
their own country."
But he is well-protected. So is President Mubarak.
Egypt's malaise is in many ways as dark as that of the Palestinians. Its
impotence in the face of Gaza's suffering is a symbol of its own political
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