Posted by on May 30, 2013 in Blog

By: Lama Al-Arian

Summer 2013 Intern

During the month of August 2012, which marked the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, 16 Egyptian border officers were killed during an iftar meal in North Sinai near the Rafah border, between Egypt and Israel. The incident was an early test for Egypt’s newly-elected President, Mohamed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood.

While Egyptians mourned and the people of Gaza sympathized, President Morsi immediately condemned the attacks on public television and took steps to increase Egyptian military presence in the Sinai, while closing the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza.

Leading human rights attorney and frequent blogger Gamal Eid lamented the deaths of the Egyptian military officers directly after the attack while criticizing President Morsi’s decision to close the border before the perpetrators were even identified. “It is a human rights violation… and the events have created a polarizing climate in Egypt,” Mr. Eid said.  

According to a report by Reuters, Hamas Prime Minister in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh quickly urged Morsi to reopen the border. “I call upon my brother, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi to open the Rafah crossing, to regain a lifeline for Gaza.”

The border was reopened weeks later at the end of August.

On May 16th, unidentified gunmen kidnapped six Egyptian police offices and one military officer in Sinai, causing President Morsi to once again increase military presence around the peninsula andclose the Rafah border between Egypt and Gaza. The abductors demanded the release of prisoners held in the town of El-Arish.

The prisoners were released a week later, although it is unclear whether the perpetrators’ demands were met.

In an editorial last Monday, the UK-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper praised the successful Egyptian military’s mobilization that led to the freedom of the captives “…without the firing of one bullet or the spilling of one drop of blood.” The authors however criticize the misjudgment of President Morsi and other Egyptian officials who closed the Rafah crossing, thus making new prisoners out of the  over 2 million Palestinians living in Gaza.

Al-Quds’ editors further urged Egypt to rethink its decision to quickly close the border every time something goes wrong near Sinai, as “…it is not the tender and generous Egypt [they] know.”

President Mohamed Morsi has expressed solidary with the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip on several occasions. According to Egyptian newspaper al- Ahram, Morsi claimed that he would not leave Gaza “on its own” in the face of Israel’s “shameless aggression.”

With the instability of Egypt’s post-revolution democracy, it remains to be seen whether President Morsi will follow through with his promises toward the Palestinian people and adopt a more humane policy towards the residents of Gaza.

After all, how can we expect the United States to empathize with the Palestinian people when our own Pan-Arab identity is compromised?

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