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Egypt Punishes the Palestinians

Written by Khaled Abu Toameh

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Egypt is allowed to strangle the entire Gaza Strip and deny its people food and fuel, especially on the eve of the holy fasting month of Rafah border crossing between Egypt and GazaRamadan, but one hardly hears about these anti-Palestinian measures: they are being carried out by an Arab country, not by Israel.

The Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, January 2009. (Source: International Transport Workers' Federation)

The Palestinians often complain that Israel, the US and other countries keep intervening in their internal affairs. These complaints often draw much attention from the Western media and many in the international community.

But when the Palestinians meddle in the internal affairs of Arab countries, sometimes triggering acts of violence and instability, the international media and public opinion tend to look the other way.

And when the Arab countries retaliate by punishing the Palestinians, as is happening these days between the Palestinians and Egypt, the international community and human rights organizations rush to bury their heads in the sand.

Egypt is allowed to strangle the entire Gaza Strip and deny its people food and fuel, especially on the eve of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, but the media and human rights groups are missing in action. This, by the way, is happening at a time when Israel has announced a series of gestures toward the Palestinians on the occasion of Ramadan.

Each time they are punished for poking their nose into other people's business, the Palestinians start whining and crying, accusing the Arab countries of turning against them.

Today, it is Egypt's turn to punish the Palestinians for meddling in that country's internal affairs.

Following the military coup that ended President Mohamed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood regime, the first decision the new rulers of Egypt took was to ban Palestinians from entering their country without prior permission from Egypt's security authorities.

As these security forces rarely issue permits to Palestinians to enter Egypt, this decision means that thousands of Palestinians will not be able to continue their studies, receive medical treatment or visit relatives there.

The Palestinians have a long history of meddling in the internal affairs of Arab countries, even if that always proves to be counterproductive and harmful to Palestinian interests. Now, the new rulers of Egypt are extremely angry with the Palestinians, especially Hamas, for supporting Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

But instead of punishing Hamas and its leaders, the Egyptian authorities have resorted to collective punishment against the Palestinians, particularly those living in the Gaza Strip.

One hardly hears and reads about these anti-Palestinian measures: they are being carried out by an Arab country, not by Israel.

Since the ouster of Morsi, the Egyptians have closed down the Rafah border crossing along their shared border with the Gaza Strip, leaving thousands of passengers stranded on both sides of the border.

About 2,000 Palestinian pilgrims who were in Mecca have not been able to return home because of the closure of the Rafah terminal.

In addition, hundreds of Palestinian university students and patients have not been permitted to leave the Gaza Strip.

Thousands of Palestinians living in various countries, who were planning to spend the summer vacation with their relatives, have also been deprived of entering the Gaza Strip.

The closure of the border crossing has also been accompanied by an Egyptian military offensive to destroy dozens of smuggling tunnels along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. This offensive, which began last week, has resulted in a severe shortage of basic goods, fuel and gas inside the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinians are now paying a heavy price for Hamas's and others' intervention in the internal affairs of Egypt.

Further, Hamas's rivals in Fatah and the Palestinian Authority are now repeating the same mistake by supporting the military coup against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

If and when the Muslim Brotherhood returns to power, they will do to Fatah and the Palestinian Authority what the Egyptian authorities are doing now to Hamas and Palestinian supporters of Morsi.

Sadly, the Palestinians have not learned the lesson from previous mistakes they made when they pushed their noses into other people's business. Each time the Palestinians get involved in internal conflicts in the Arab world, they always end up being the biggest losers

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been killed, injured and displaced in Syria over the past two years. Again, because some Palestinians have either joined the "rebels" or the pro-Assad forces, this is a self-inflicted tragedy.

In the past, the Palestinians paid a very heavy price for meddling in the internal affairs of Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and other Arab countries, but this price has not deterred them.

That meddling is also the reason most Arab countries have long despised the Palestinians, subjecting them to Apartheid laws and other punitive measures, including travel bans and deprivation of financial aid.

For earning the enmity and contempt of their Arab brethren, the Palestinians have only themselves to blame: they shoot themselves in the foot and then blame others for their misery. They would be better served if instead they would start directing their energies toward solving their own problems and improving their living conditions -- exactly what the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas governments are not doing.

Source: Gatestone Institute

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