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A revealing Likudist moment

If we judge by the official statements saying that Egypt's only problem is Hamas, and that the Cairo government's solidarity with the Palestinian people and its embrace of the cause are a fundamental part of foreign policy, then the incident with the Western activists in Cairo Airport last week seems to disprove such claims. It baffles me why the authorities chose to detain the delegation and prevent its members from going to Rafah to cross into Gaza so that they could celebrate International Women's Day with the brave and steadfast women of Palestine.

It is hard to believe that enthusiasm and keenness to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian women in Gaza has come from activists in America, France, England, Ireland and Belgium, while inflexibility and prohibition has come from the airport authorities in the largest Arab country. Instead of the National Council for Egyptian Women intervening in a display of solidarity with the delegation and saving the day for the country's image, the council fell off the radar and was silent. It is even more embarrassing as an Egyptian to see images of the activists staging a sit-in in the airport and lying on the floor covered with Palestinian flags, and having these images spread around the world; people are astonished that this happened in Egypt after the revolution. When they began singing a song in broken Arabic, which has gone global on YouTube, the women sent a message to everyone that they came and reached out to the women of Gaza and the besieged Palestinians, but "Likudian" Egypt turned them away and refused to allow them to reach Gaza.

No one is saying that this shameful behaviour was an individual act committed by the airport security staff; blame the Egyptian government, which did not take into consideration that it would resonate amongst the Palestinians, other Arabs and all honourable and free people around the world. It is worth noting that such activists are now calling for an economic and academic boycott of Israel at a level much more advanced than ours.

Anyone with a conscience who was able to follow up on the facts of what happened on that sad day in Cairo Airport will not believe that Egypt still supports the Palestinian people and remains in solidarity with their cause. The delegation of Western women was not in solidarity with Hamas; indeed, most of them are probably unaware of the relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas or of Egypt's security problem with the movement. They are concerned with other matters, quite different to those of the security establishment, which were exposed by its behaviour at the airport.

Having arrived in solidarity with the suffering women of Palestine and its steadfast people who have been suffering from the Israeli siege for eight years, the women were surprised to learn at Cairo Airport that the unjust blockade was not only imposed by Israel but also by the Egyptians, who are no less rude or brutal than the Israelis, albeit not so clever.

The Egyptian government's shameful decision reflected those issued by Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud-led coalition in Tel Aviv in that it did not differentiate between Hamas and the Palestinian people in Gaza, or the current crisis and Egypt's strategic position.

Not only did the person who made this decision not foresee the damage that it would do to Egypt's reputation and credibility, but he also revealed the flaws in the decision-making process in the country, which seems to be dictated entirely by security considerations. Political checks and balances are missing and political views are bypassed for short-term gains.

If the delegation had been received at the airport with respect and allowed to go to Rafah, cross into the Gaza Strip and attend the International Women's Day celebration on March 8th, I believe that Egypt would have gained the most out of it. The government would have looked like the moderate party which rose above the bitterness of the crisis and had remained true to its stated commitment to the Palestinian cause. Hamas would not have gained anything from this if only the government had given it some thought in advance and taken the correct decision. It would have made Egypt look wise, a country able to differentiate between Hamas and the Palestinian people, and which does not hold the people responsible or punish them for Hamas's alleged actions as promoted by the Egyptian media. Egypt would have gained Brownie points in its stand off against Hamas.

It doesn't take a genius to take such simple considerations into account, so when they are absent from the mind of the decision-maker, it raises questions about the efficiency of the process and casts doubt on their maturity. This is worrying, because such a flaw may result in greater repercussions in other, more important and dangerous, issues.

Translated from Shorouk newspaper, 9 March, 2014

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

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