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Break the 'Arab' siege of Gaza
  Written By: Ahmad Mustafa, Special to Gulf News  *
  Article Date:
September 01, 2008


The two boats that sailed through the Mediterranean to the shore of Gaza Strip left after a week with less Arab media attention. I really felt ashamed that the 40 activists on board, who defied the inhuman Israeli blockade and the strangulating siege of more than a million Palestinian in the Gaza Strip, came from 14 countries; none of them Arab. Not only this, a number of Arab media outlets covered the event almost like they covered the American naval aid to Georgia.

The boats - Liberty and Free Gaza - were not carrying any significant humanitarian aid to the Palestinians who are dying of hunger and illness, but the symbolic significance of the move is great in itself. Israeli authorities, at first, decided to prevent them from reaching the shores of Gaza. Later, they realised that it would give the activists more publicity to their cause and would draw world attention to the barbaric siege. Unfortunately, the Arab media - maybe unintentionally - followed the Israeli lead.

Since the start of the blockade of Gaza by the Israeli occupiers, who enforced it last year and the continuous strikes against the population of Gaza in what was described by an Israeli official as a "genocide", the stance of Arab states towards the plight of Palestinians was really shameful. It is not only because Hamas took control of Gaza - as it could have averted had the Arab states were serious about helping the Palestinians to reconcile their differences and not tied by an American agenda - but because Arab moderates were busy focusing on Lebanon. Though Lebanon was not suffering from a military occupation or economic strangulation, the main Arab countries were more interested in the politics of Lebanon.


What adds to the irony of the situation is that while foreign activists were trying to expose the brutal siege, Arab moderates were trying to divert attention from the catastrophic situation in Gaza by proposing financial aid to the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in Ramallah and the possible takeover of Gaza by an Arab force. Though early Egyptian comments about the leaked proposal of Arab force in Gaza (which would be mainly Egyptian) shows reluctance, the Israelis and Americans might find the proposal suitable and push for it.

If the latest proposed round of Palestinian reconciliation talks in Cairo materialises, then it could be the last fig leaf the Arab states would hold before they follow the disastrous road of acting as policemen to protect the occupation against the Palestinians.

Prospects of the Cairo talks are bleak, and its failure can be blamed on Hamas and used as a false pretext to put Gaza under partial Egyptian control to alleviate the burden on Israeli army. So, instead of working on delivering humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, Arabs will deliver soldiers and arms to control those "bloody" Palestinians annoying their "cool" occupiers. Not only this; but instead of discussing the siege, Arabs are helping in obscuring it through focusing on what the occupation puts as a priority.

With the Bush Administration about to leave power, and Israeli political leaders in a bitter fight for power, you hear militant calls and statements. That is not the best time to work seriously on any solution, as all parties are driven by election campaigning slogans and taking positions for local political consumption. So why are the Arabs volunteering to take part in the phony circus and provide proposals, while they should press to gain practical benefits for the besieged Palestinians?

I think this is the main difference between the foreign activists who broke the siege of Gaza and Arab governments who might be helping in reinforcing the siege militarily. The activists are free citizens who had the initiative and lack of fear when believing in a just cause, while some Arab moderate regimes lack the initiative because of fear.


Dr Ahmad Mustafa is a London-based Arab writer.

Source: Gulf News