People often say the Palestine/Israel issue is sooooo complex. (I usually say it is simple – one nation illegally occupying another), but a few recent Kafkaesque incidents might make me change my mind.
- The Free Gaza movement sent a ship loaded with humanitarian relief supplies – the Dignity – from Cyprus towards Gaza. While the ship was still in international waters, the crew of an Israeli gunboat boarded it, and kidnapped the crew and passengers, taking them to Israel. There they were detained in an Israeli jail for about a week and then deported – charged with having entered the country illegally. As if it were their choice to visit Israel (advertised by the Israel Tourist Board as “You’ll love Israel from the first shalom.”)
- Leila El-Haddad, a Palestinian citizen, tried to return home with her two very young children to Gaza from the United States. She flew to Cairo where, after being held more than 36 hours at the Cairo airport, she was “deported” to the United States – a country for which she did not even possess a valid visa, much less citizenship. I think everywhere else in the world, people are deported back to their home countries.
- The Viva Palestina convoy, a UK-US organized effort to bring humanitarian relief to Gaza, was finally allowed to enter the Rafah, Egypt border crossing after 10 days of bureaucratic delays and maddening negotiations with the Egyptian authorities. The 100+ Palestinians waiting at the gate to the Rafah crossing to return home were attacked and beaten by the Egyptian police — apparently just for trying to go home to Gaza.
- International Solidarity Movement volunteers and British citizens Jenny Linnell and Natalie Abou Choukra tried for more than one month to leave Gaza to return to the UK. They repeatedly went to the border after having been assured by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry that their documentation was in order and they would be allowed to cross. Each time, they were denied passage. When they finally were able to make it from the Gaza border to the arrivals hall at the Rafah crossing, they were told to go back to Gaza, assaulted by the Egyptian police and informed, “We will make sure you never get out.” British consular services were astoundingly inert until Parliamentary inquiries were made. [Linnell and Abou Choukra finally made it out of Gaza in mid July].
I guess the first moral of these four stories is – if you are Palestinian, you can’t get into Gaza. If you are a foreign national in Gaza, you can’t get out. If you are a foreign national trying to enter Gaza, the Israelis may kidnap you and pretend you wanted to enter Israel illegally.
The second moral is – if your government is a Western power, don’t count on them to stand up for your rights as a citizen. If your government is Palestine, it doesn’t exist for the rest of the world.