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Egypt's military regime demonizes the Palestinian people

January 30, 2014 at 1:58 am

The Arab world is going through a turbulent period. A wave of popular uprisings that began in December 2010 with the self-immolation of Muhammed Bouazizi in Tunisia has had ripples as far west as Morocco and as far east as Bahrain.

Complicated and unpredictable revolutionary processes have been set in motion. Final outcomes will not been known with any certainty for years.

Western-backed dictators in Tunisia and Egypt were overthrown by their peoples in a matter of weeks back in the beginning of 2011. A similar popular uprising in Yemen stalled. It did did result the overthrow of dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh. But he was replaced by his vice-president in a sham election that had only one name on the ballot paper.

Libya’s dictator was killed, but had to be removed under a NATO-bombing campaign. The threat of Western intervention now also looms large over Syria. There, another popular uprising erupted in March 2011, initially only demanding reforms. But a brutal crackdown by the regime of Bashar al-Assad soon pushed the protesters towards demanding “the fall of the regime,” in the popular chant that echoed on streets all over the Arab world.

Civil war

But Syria has by now degenerated into a brutal civil war, with an increasingly ugly sectarian aspect. The vicious tactics of the armed rebel groups have included car bombs and the driving out of entire religious sects from civilian areas. Some of these groups even have links to Al Qaida, and enforce tyrannical rule in the areas of the country they control.

Almost two-and-a-half years after the uprising started, Assad shows little sign of being dislodged. The increasingly vicious tactics and human rights abuses on both sides only increase the death toll.

With a heavy heart, it must be acknowledged that Egypt is now at severe risk of going in a similar direction. While the situation is nowhere near as deadly, there are ominous signs.

The recent military coup against elected president, Muhammed Morsi is only the tip of the iceberg. In power, the Muslim Brotherhood did indeed aggravate many Egyptians, who came out in force on the streets calling for him to step down.

But these Egyptians did not overthrow the elected president: the military did that. The fact remains that the military once again rules Egypt directly, with a puppet president who is supposed to be a transitional figure. This is a step backwards towards the police-state era of Hosni Mubarak. What credibility can any elections run by a coup regime have?

And if we are to talk about the millions of Egyptians who were against Morsi, what about the 13 million Egyptians who voted him into power?

The constant

In these turbulent times, many things remain uncertain. But there seems to be one reliable constant: the oppression of the Palestinian people throughout the region.

Despite widespread popular support for the Palestinian cause among the Arab peoples, regimes all over the region have used vulnerable Palestinians as easy scape-goats, abusing their human rights in various ways.

In Lebanon, Palestinians have few rights, and are highly restricted in the types jobs they can legally work in. In Iraq after the US-UK invasion of 2003, the sectarian death squads that targeted Iraqis of different faiths also drove out many Palestinian refugees, who they slandered as ipso-facto pro-Saddam Hussein.

And now it seems Palestinians have become a convenient scape-goat for the military regime in Egypt.

Under Mubarak, under Morsi and now under the military regime, the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip was often subject to arbitrary closure over long periods. Innocent Palestinians were made to suffer for the pro-Israel politics of the Egyptian army (which, due to the unequal terms of the Camp David accords, is not even allowed to operate in the Sinai without permission from Israel).

One of the first acts of the military coup regime was to re-close the Rafah crossing. Paranoid fantasies about Palestinians are also being whipped up by the Generals and the state-backed media in Egypt.

Palestinians are blamed for virtually any bad thing that happens. Attacks on Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai are blamed on Palestinians – with no evidence.

Hamas, which has its roots as the Gaza branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, is a spectre that lurks in many of these paranoid fantasies. Despite the fact that the Islamic Resistance Movement of Palestine has tried to avoid taking sides in many of these conflicts and uprisings, that has not stopped fantasies about armed Palestinians roaming the streets in Egypt to take the side of the Muslim Brotherhood.

One retired army General speaking to the BBC accused Morsi of “collaborating to Hamas against the interests of the army” – again with no evidence.

A pro-Israel regime

Due to the Israeli siege on the coastal strip, Palestinians from Gaza travelling abroad are forced to transit through Egypt. But the military regime has recently started deporting such transiting Palestinians back to the countries they visited!

This is another aspect of the US-backed military regime’s torture of the Palestinian. Under Morsi too, the military acted to close down the cross-border tunnels between Gaza and Egypt – despite the fact that Gaza relies on them for basic goods and supplies.

Apart from Israel itself, Egypt’s military is supported by more US military aid than any other country. This is intended in ensure America has a loyal and ruthless client in the region, one which can ensure Israel is free to continue its full takeover of the West Bank and enforce its racist apartheid regime which dominates the region.

State-backed Egyptian media is happy to whip up paranoid conspiracy theories which encourage mob violence against innocent Palestinian and Syrian visitors, but are seemingly silent on such impunity for Israel, and the military’s key role in it.

According to “the Wikileaks of Israel” Richard Silverstein, the Sinai has by now become an “an extension of Israeli territory”. In a most under-reporter case in June, Israel’s spy and assassination agency the Mossad kidnapped another Palestinian – inside Egyptian territory. Wael Abu Rida had reportedly been in Egypt with his wife seek medical attention for his child before he disappeared in the Sinai. His family later received a phone message that he was being held by Israel. According to Silverstein “the Mossad operates inside Egypt with the willing collaboration of Egyptian intelligence”.

Egypt’s Generals must stop their reckless scape-goating of Palestinians before things spiral out of control. The Egyptian uprising of 25 January 2011 that removed Mubarak from power gave us all hope, including hope for the liberation of Palestine. Things now are much bleaker.

Asa Winstanley is an associate editor with The Electronic Intifada, and an investigative journalist who lives in London.

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