A Palestinian student I do not know asked me, "Is it true that we are being expelled from Egypt?" I was shocked by her question and replied quickly that I could not imagine it, nor would I expect this to happen under any circumstances. The young woman said nervously that this rumour was spreading amongst her Palestinian friends because since the coup they have been treated badly by their Egyptian colleagues. Some of the girls have packed their possessions in anticipation of a deportation order.
I felt a sense of shame after the phone call ended, as it never occurred to me that such a rumour would spread in Egypt, and that the Palestinians would believe it. However, it seems that the demonisation and incitement has poisoned relations between the Egyptians and Palestinians to the extent that what once seemed impossible now seems both possible and very likely.
Two days after that phone call, I saw on Egyptian television that four individuals affiliated to Hamas were caught in Heliopolis in possession of weapons "intended for use in terrorist operations". The story caught my attention and I looked out for it closely for a couple of days but heard nothing more: no news of the prosecution; no suspects' statements; no pictures of the weapons seized; not even pictures of the alleged cell members; nothing. At that point, I made a special effort to investigate the matter and uncover the truth, because the presence of a Hamas cell made up of four gunmen in Cairo under the current conditions is very dangerous and should be exposed. My investigations revealed the following:
- The four individuals are from the Gaza Strip. One is an engineering student in a private university living with a relative who also hosted other Palestinians working in the same trade.
- The student and his relative live in the Mokattam District, which is where the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters is located. This is what drew attention to them, and when they hosted other Palestinians, suspicions grew.
- When the apartment where they all lived was raided by police (without a court order), they found an Egyptian colleague staying with them; he was released. The Palestinians' passports were examined and their residency permits were found to have expired. Two of the visitors came from Gaza through the Rafah crossing, one in May last year and the other this February.
- The four individuals were charged with possession of forged passports but the Attorney General dropped the charges. They were sent back to the Mokattam police department on June 24th, and referred to the Passport and Nationality Office, which sent them on to the National Security Agency the following day.
- After examining their documents, the National Security Agency decided to deport them to Gaza on June 26th, so they were returned to the Mokattam police department yet again, in preparation for their deportation.
- The four were detained in the Mokattam police station for around a week awaiting their deportation, which was delayed due to unrest in North Sinai. During their time in custody they were mistreated by the police, so they made enquiries about travelling to any third party country willing to take them.
- Their families managed to buy tickets for them to go to Malaysia, so they left Cairo on Friday, July 5th, which spared them from the inhumane treatment (including alleged "torture") in detention. They now face the problem of having to travel via Cairo to get back to Gaza.
To sum up, the "news" about a terrorist cell was fabricated; thinking logically, if there had been grounds for charging these men with such a serious allegation they would not have been allowed to leave the country, especially in the current circumstances. The media often makes a mountain out of a molehill but in this instance there wasn't even a molehill to begin with.
Who is keen to demonise the Palestinians by humiliating them and making such serious false accusations against them? What do their accusers stand to gain from this? Why don't the authorities outlaw such insults?
According to the information I have been able to gather, there are still members of Palestinian security agencies in the West Bank who plot constantly against the government in Gaza in order to discredit and divide them. Moreover, there are groups within the Egyptian security agencies with influence in the media who hate the Palestinians, are tired of the resistance against Israel's occupation and cannot bear to hear Hamas's name mentioned due to its relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood. Such groups have bounced back recently, for obvious reasons, but I wonder whose interests they represent. Are they linked to the state officially? If so, there have to be concerns that the "interim" government is disregarding all national as well as moral standards of behaviour by spreading poison in Egyptian society against the Palestinians.
The author is an Egyptian writer. This article is a translation of the Arabic text which first appeared in Shorouk Newspaper, 7 July, 2103
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.