Gazans Have No Friends in Egypt

This just in – read all about it in Al Ahram – Egypt’s semi-official paper. A multi-millionaire, Yehia El Komy, denied marrying Kheloud al Onzy. I ran across this earth shattering news while scanning the front pages of the government operated rag looking for something – anything – relating to the "Viva Palestina" convoy that is now stranded in Jordan.

I can’t say I was terribly disappointed, but I did expect some mention of the hundreds of French citizens who were protesting in front of their embassy in Cairo. Apparently, these foreign agitators are also making outrageous demands to deliver aid to Gaza. You’d think some genius at Al-Ahram might have noticed that little development and scribbled a few lines about it.

Maybe the staff at Al-Ahram was too caught up in the festivities celebrating the annual anniversary of the founding of the paper. That story also made the front page. Just for the record, Al Ahram has been publishing since 1875 – seven years before the British occupation. Call me a contrarian, but my take is that some papers get so old and decrepit that they should stop celebrating and consider retiring from the business of delivering news to their readers.

To be fair, there was an off-hand mention of the international convoys on their way to breaking the siege of Gaza. I stumbled on it in on the fifth page. The bold headline was that Abu El Gheit, Egypt’s foreign minister, went out on a limb and predicted that Netenyahu’s visit to Cairo will focus on moving the peace process forward – or as they say in the Egyptian vernacular – "the beace brocess." I’ve always thought it would be a nice gesture to send a little gift to Abu El Gheit – a thesaurus. Because, frankly, his pitch is getting way too bland.

If you bothered to read the Netenyahu ‘beace brocess’ article, there was an interesting remark from Abu El Gheit about preventing these foreign agitators from delivering aid because they were making "cheap" attempts to impose on the Egyptian authorities. They should know better. Imposing on the Egyptian authorities is a very expensive undertaking – ask the Americans. It costs a pretty penny to twist Egypt’s arms.

One of the reasons most countries have foreign ministries is to have a place to house spin-meisters – people who can sell the state’s policies to the rest of the world. The same goes for having a ‘semi-official’ state paper like Al Ahram – to market state policies to their own citizens – in this case, Egyptians who only buy Al Ahram to read the obituaries.

See here’s Egypt’s problem. Its Foreign Minister has to convince the Americans that his government is doing its utmost to seal Gaza’s border to fortify the Israeli siege. In the meantime, the journalists toiling to make a living at Al Ahram have been assigned the unenviable task of convincing the public that the same Egyptian government is doing its level best to deliver food and medicine to the internment camps in Gaza.

Lesser scribes would just throw up their hands – it just can’t be done. But those people are unlikely to be Egyptian foreign ministers or government paid journalists.

Here’s the new official rationale for Egyptian policy – we’re not participating in the siege of Gaza, we’re not trying to prevent medicine, food and building supplies from reaching the survivors of last year’s devastating bombardment that snuffed out 1,600 civilians – we’re only out to stop Palestinians from smuggling goods our way without paying duties. We’re just protecting our borders against the Gazan hordes. We’re not against allowing the aid convoys entering Gaza – we just want to make sure they enter Egypt from Al-Arish – not Nuweiba. Whatever you think about Egyptian policies, you have to tip your hat to Abu El Gheit for being so creative.

Of course, if you don’t get your paycheck from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry or your annual bonus check isn’t issued by Al-Ahram – you’d have a much easier job explaining Egypt’s policy.

Under pressure from the Israeli Lobby, the Congress and the State Department have, in turn, pressed the Egyptian government to cooperate with Israel and tighten the siege of Gaza, close the tunnels and starve Hamas out of power. The government of Hosni Mubarak, after weighing its options and taken into consideration that Hamas is a natural extension of the Muslim Brotherhood, has adopted a rigid policy that complies with the American demands. This has been state policy for two years and Egypt did not waiver from implementing that policy even when Israeli soldiers were committing war crimes in Gaza. Moreover, the Egyptian government is not about to reverse its policies under pressure from the Viva Palestina convoys.

See, that took just one paragraph to explain. There’s an even shorter version – Gazans have no Friends in Egypt.