The Egyptian media in particular and the Arab media in general are full of stories about the “siege” that Israel has been imposing on the Gaza Strip since Hamas came to power.
Hardly a day passes without an Egyptian or Arab government official condemning Israel for turning the Gaza Strip into a “big prison.”
However, none of these officials or media representatives point out the fact that the Gaza Strip, home to some 1.3 million Palestinians, also has a joint border crossing with Egypt.
This border crossing, known as the Rafah terminal, has been closed by the Egyptians for most of the time during the past two years. The closure denies Palestinians access not only to Egypt, but to the rest of the world.
One can understand why Israel does not want Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to enter its territories. But it is hard to understand why the Egyptians are keeping the border crossing closed, thus sending Palestinians to knock on Israel’s door for help.
If the Egyptians do not want Palestinians to enter their country, that is fine. But why not open the terminal so that Palestinians could at least travel to other countries?
Why, for instance, are the Egyptians banning many patients from the Gaza Strip from crossing the border to seek medical treatment in Arab and Western hospitals? And why are the Egyptians banning students from going to their universities in Arab and European countries?
True, the Egyptian authorities do sometimes open the Rafah terminal, but that is only done on a temporary basis and for “humanitarian” reasons.
Ironically, over the past two years the border crossings between the Gaza Strip and Israel have been open more times than the Rafah terminal.
For more than three decades, the Palestinians and the rest of the world were demanding that Israel withdraw from the Gaza Strip.
In the summer of 2005, the Israelis finally left the Gaza Strip. They did it unilaterally and without coordinating the withdrawal with anyone.
This later turned out to be a grave mistake. Not the withdrawal itself, but the way it was carried out - unilaterally. Israel, for example, should have demanded that the Arab countries, first and foremost Egypt, step in to help the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.
Had the Arab countries wanted, they could have used the Rafah terminal to provide the residents of the Gaza Strip with all kinds of assistance following the Israeli pullout. But the Arab governments have repeatedly demonstrated in the past few decades that they do not really care about the Palestinians.
During the last war in the Gaza Strip earlier this year, the Egyptians confiscated large amounts of medicine and food that were on their way to the Gaza Strip. Recently, Egyptian authorities had to destroy shipments of confiscated medicine and food supplies that had rotted after being stored for too long on the Egyptian side of the border with the Gaza Strip.
The Egyptian government, like a majority of Arab regimes, would prefer to turn the Gaza Strip into an Israeli or American or European problem. So far the Arab governments have been successful in holding Israel alone responsible for the misery of the Gaza Strip’s Palestinians.
It is time the US started putting pressure on Arab dictators to do something to end the suffering in the Gaza Strip. There is no reason why Palestinians continue to rely on Israel for electricity, water, food and medical aid while Hosni Mubarak keeps the border crossing with the Gaza Strip closed.