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Is this the new Bar-Lev Line?

January 24, 2014 at 12:54 pm

Our brothers in Egypt have the right to dig trenches as they want, build walls as they like, and stick in the ground, to whatever depth they want, reinforced steel beams. All these actions and those like them apparently fall into the category of “national sovereignty” and we must never argue with Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit in this matter.

However, it is our right to call a spade a spade – especially one used to dig trenches – and reject the claim that steps such as these which constitute the building of an underground steel wall along Egypt’s border with Gaza could ever, by any definition, be classified as a component of “continuous support for the Palestinian people”. Egypt’s trench-digging, wall-building and steel beams-sinking have one purpose – to intensify the blockade imposed on Gaza and its people, and it is our right to say so loud and clear. We also have the right to be extremely worried about the American, French and Israeli enthusiasm for this wall, as they suggested, planned and funded the project; they manufactured, transported and planted the reinforced steel beams into the Egyptian soil. First and foremost, then, they are obsessed with Israel’s security and care not a jot for the well-being of Palestinians, even those under an illegal collective punishment such as this blockade. In building this wall of steel, they are seeking to implement decisions taken at Sharm el-Sheikh.

Having moved away from the language of “tribal feuds” and rhetoric like “rallying and mobilization of the masses”, we now see words like dignity, sovereignty, status and prestige bandied about. But we say that the Arab citizen is no longer buying this empty jargon as these terms have lost their meaning when used in the Palestinian context for they have achieved nothing.

Read: Egypt is not an honest broker for Palestinian reconciliation

It is a matter of utmost shame that statements of solidarity with the “steel wall” have been uttered by the President of the Palestinian Authority. I do not know how an elected president can give his blessing to such a monstrous construction that actually serves to strangle a large section of the presidential electorate. Furthermore, I do not understand how humiliation and dependence on the oppressor can create a mindset in the oppressed to the extent that they respond to being hit by uttering blessings for the instrument of their torment.

We don’t wish to patronise our brothers in Cairo by claiming that Egypt’s security concerns us as much as or more than it concerns them. However, we have genuine concerns about Egypt and believe that our strength is dependent on a strong Egypt, and we will be weak when Egypt is weak. It is difficult, therefore, to swallow the claims emanating from Cairo that this wall of shame is being built because we in Gaza are a “threat to Egypt’s national security”.

We join Karen AbuZayd, the outgoing Commissioner General of UNRWA, in her cry from the American University in Cairo describing the wall as more dangerous than the infamous “Bar Lev Line”. Given that the construction costs are to be borne by the United States and the decision to build it was taken at the last minute of George W. Bush’s presidency after a meeting in the White House with the then Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, we are entitled to ask, where does the real national sovereignty of Egypt lie?

Read: ‘Egypt’s role in Palestinian reconciliation worrying Israel’

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip risk everything by using the tunnels of Rafah – their lives to Israeli missiles and their money to the monopoly of the tunnel lords, but as Ms. AbuZayd said, they know that two-thirds of their basic needs come through the tunnels so they cannot afford to abandon them as long as the normal crossings are closed by the blockade. Perhaps this was why the response to news of the wall of shame was a commitment to dig tunnels down to 70 metres if necessary; we will not allow our children to die of hunger, was the message.

The alternative to the tunnels is to end the immoral blockade and open the crossings immediately, particularly in Rafah, and bypass the Israeli veto on what gets into and out of the Gaza Strip. At the very least this should be done to ensure the flow of building materials, food and pharmaceutical supplies, all after suitably rigorous security vetting. Then, and only then, will the tunnels lose their value and function. They will collapse for the lack of use and maintenance since they will no longer be the essential lifeline of the people of Gaza. There is no need for trenches, walls and steel beams; just open the border. It’s that simple.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.