January 27, 2008 - Unarmed civilians swarmed into neighborhoods where they were not wanted, where they did not belong. Armed security forces moved into position. They had riot shields, clubs, and dogs. They had armored cars and trucks carrying coils of barbed wire. They had water cannons. They unleashed their attack dogs and fired tear gas on the crowds, determined to drive them back.
Where would you place this scene? In the American south? In South Africa? In Israel?
Actually, it took place in Egypt just this past week. Palestinians destroyed sections of a wall along the border with Gaza and Egypt, trying to get through to buy food, medicine, fuel, and other supplies. Yes, Egypt constructed a wall along the Gaza border to keep the Palestinians out. Egypt has an apartheid wall. Who knew?
The Egypt/Gaza border has been sealed since 1982, when Egypt took back the Sinai from Israel but left Gaza behind. Hamas claims it had to break the wall to avert a humanitarian crisis. Said Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas official in Gaza: "Rafah is our only lung. If Rafah remains shut, it means our acceptance to be strangled, our acceptance to die. We warned the Egyptians yesterday that people are hungry and dying."
Rafah, a city divided by the wall, is the point where the wall was breached. One Gazan who made the crossing was struck by the poverty on the Egyptian side. People tend to think of Gaza as the poor corner of the Middle East, but she observed: "At least our streets are paved... materially, we're so much more advanced in Gaza." She noted that a driver on the Egyptian side makes five shekels a day, while in Gaza the going rate is 100. Still, another Gazan expressed this sentiment: "If they close the border, we will stay in Egypt. Egypt is closer to us than Israel. They are our brothers."
But the Egyptian brothers, it seems, are not ready to welcome their Palestinian brothers. They are rebuilding the apartheid wall.
Erlanger, Steven. "Palestinians Topple Gaza Wall and Cross to Egypt." New York Times, January 24, 2008.
Younis, Nora and Ellen Knickmeyer. "Palestinians Fight Back Egyptian Move to Restore Gaza Border." Washington Post, January 25, 2008.
Peace with Realism