Monday, 20 July 2009

Etiquette at the Rafah Border

It looks like Viva Palestina has become a travel agency for adventurers who want to say that they have been to Gaza! It seems that they were let in without most of their aid (again). When will their leadership start doing something that helps Palestinians rather than helping the Israeli/Egyptian Axis to defuse the Anger in the West. People think the Convoy helps to break the siege, but, it is just collaborating with it!!
If you go to the West Bank, the 'rule' is not to take advantage of the invitation usually extended by the Israelis to foreigners to go to the front of the queue at checkpoints (AKA behaving like an Israeli), and to stay in line and wait with the Palestinians. It's called Solidarity, whereas queue jumping is called Arrogance.
What should the procedure be at the entry to Gaza? Make up your own mind: here's an extract from a posting by the FaceBook Group International Campaign to open the Rafah Border, who are camped at Rafah sometimes on hunger strike, trying to force open the gates:

" Elated at news of the arrival of the Viva Palestina convoy, many of these (Palestinian) families, exhausted and in debt, came today to try their luck at Rafah, hoping that the Egyptian police would be more lenient and that they might be able to get some help from members of the convoy.

But that was, unfortunately, not the case: for these families the day turned into a nightmare. They had arrived early in order not to miss the convoy, so they waited all day in the scorching sun. The first members of the convoy began to arrive around 2 pm in buses under heavy security.

Then the horror began: at this very moment, the Egyptian riot police set upon the Palestinian families them and began forcibly evacuating them. People were shouting, screaming, weeping—and the cops kept on beating them savagely.

We tried to slip into Rafah Gate in the midst of the confusion. We even succeeded, but were then dragged back out.

The scene we were witnessing was once again so shocking that Iman, furious, was shouting insults at Mubarak and his minions.

Laila got into one of the buses and called for the help of the members of the convoy, but they replied that there was nothing they could do. “We want to get into Gaza and we don’t want any trouble.”

A man in the bus called out, “I’m a Palestinian.” And one Palestinian woman, stuck in Egypt for many days couldn’t help saying to him, “Oh, fine, you’re a Palestinian from America and I’m a Palestinian from Gaza. You can get in and I am not even allowed to return to my home in Gaza.” By then the Egyptian police had arrived and they pulled Leila and this woman out of the bus.

No contact between Palestinians and foreigners. That has been the order of the day every day since we pitched our tents here at Rafah.

We can understand the attitude of the members of this impressive convoy, with its buses, refrigerator trucks and vans. It has been so difficult for them to get this far with half of their humanitarian aid(the other half was confiscated in Alexandria) that it was hard for them to jeopardize delivery of the remaining supplies by attempting to help the people they were watching being beaten up before their very eyes. They would have been heavily penalized—they would have been refused entry into Gaza.

How can one comprehend Egyptian policy? How can one understand these Egyptian policemen who viciously beat the Palestinians and treat them like sub-humans, like enemies? Why prevent the Palestinians from returning to their own homes? Who gives the orders? Why not tell them what procedures they need to follow? And, by the way, is there one? We have asked these questions countless times, and each time we got a different answer.