It bears repeating: Hamas murdered 1,200 Israeli civilians in cold blood, often in gruesome ways; scores were raped; hundreds kidnapped; 200,000 displaced, millions forced to spend their days and nights in bomb shelters. A whole month has now passed since the inhuman 7 October massacre. The world spent most of that time talking not about the slaughter of Israelis, but about Palestinians killed by Israelis. So much does the world care about innocent victims (meaning of course Palestinians killed by Israelis), that lots of people are already clamoring for a ceasefire.
Of course, there was a ceasefire before 7 October – one that Hamas violated without even the pretense of a provocation. Those calling for a ceasefire claim that they want to stop the killing of innocents in Gaza. That this would also allow Hamas to murder more innocents in Israel (as they promised to do) – is no concern of theirs. The Jews can take care of their own – and they’re not that innocent, anyway. The good people of the world must take care of Palestinians – who always are innocent!
We do not know how many such innocents have actually lost their lives in Gaza. The only available casualty numbers are those released by Gaza’s health ministry, which is staffed and controlled by Hamas. Only fanatics, idiots and those fatally naïve believe such ‘reports’; and most of the mainstream media, of course. Jews shedding innocent blood (callously, if not deliberately) is something plenty of people have no problem believing, however fishy the source of information.
But, while Hamas has already been caught inflating casualty numbers, we must assume that some of those killed in Gaza are indeed innocent civilians – because innocent civilians are always killed in wars; however inadvertently and however much civilized armies strive to avoid it.
And it’s not just those killed or maimed. War takes a terrible toll also on those innocents that survive it: they undergo all kinds of hardship – from fear to physical deprivation, from malnutrition to lack of medical care.
The question is, then: how can that toll on innocents be minimized? Most pundits – and even lots of Western politicians – appear to suffer from a curious case of blinkeritis: whenever they look for solutions, they only see Israel. Israel is the only key to peacemaking and certainly to the deliverance of innocents in Gaza. Get Israel to stop fighting Hamas (which is what they really mean by ‘ceasefire’); or get them to fight in a way that does not harm civilians (how to do that – nobody explains); or at least get them to stop for long ‘humanitarian pauses’ (no matter that they’d allow Hamas terrorists to rest, re-arm and re-supply – i.e. would end up costing more Israeli lives).
Even US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has been afflicted with blinkeritis: he travelled all the way to Israel to teach the country’s leaders that
Israel has the right – indeed, the obligation – to defend itself and to ensure that this never happens again.
This was no doubt an eye-opener for the members of the Israeli government and of the Israeli army. Mr. Blinken did not mention Israel’s right – indeed, the obligation – to bury her dead. That, apparently, is obvious.
Lip service was, however, soon followed by lecture: Blinken explained to the Israelis that
how Israel does this [i.e., defend itself] matters.
He urged them to
take every possible precaution to avoid harming civilians.
No doubt, Israeli generals have a lot to learn from Mr. Blinken. After all, the US (and UK) quite frequently took “every possible precaution”. For instance in 2016-2017, when bombing ISIS out of Mosul: it was only thanks to taking “every possible precaution” that a mere 10,000 civilians were killed. (WARNING: Zionist irony!)
Though, in fairness, Mr. Blinken was not Secretary of State at the time. No, he was only Deputy Secretary of State. And his boss Joe Biden was not President of the United States – just Vice President.
The Israelis must have listened with a lot of interest to Mr. Blinken’s valuable lesson, because they do try to do things. For instance, they told Gaza’s civilians to move to the Strip’s southern half – while the IDF deals with Hamas in the north. That is a brilliant idea (no doubt Mr. Biden thought of it himself), but it suffers from some small flaws. Such as the fact that Hamas is present in the south, as well as the north and that it likes to launch rockets from there, as well; which inevitably means that – occasionally at least, Israel strikes the south, too. Israelis, as we know, have this inexplicable aversion to rockets pummeling their towns and cities.
But, once they travel from north to south, why would Gazans stop at the border and not cross over into Egypt? After all, that’s what civilians tend to do in times of war: they flee from the bombs, the rockets and the hardship – and do not stop until they’re out of the harm’s way. Which wouldn’t normally mean south Gaza, for the reasons mentioned above.
During Syria’s civil war, some 7 million people fled the country – mostly to neighbouring Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. From there, many found their way to other, more hospitable shores. As did many Ukrainians who fled the ravages of war in their country and were offered asylum in the West.
In fact, one would be hard put to remember a war in which civilians didn’t cross borders in search of refuge. Except, that is: the wars between Israel and Gaza.
A superficial observer would say that Gazans cannot cross into Egypt because Egypt won’t allow them: since 7 October, that country’s border with Gaza has been closed tighter than a gnat’s chuff. But a more profound analyst should wonder why is it that the West – the same West that preaches to Israel and gushes torrents of ‘humanitarian concern’ for Gaza’s civilians – does not pressure Egypt into opening its border to provide a safe haven for those innocents?
It’s not that the West lacks leverage: the US alone props up Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s Egypt to the tune of $1.3 billion a year in military aid – despite that dictatorial regime’s awful record of human rights violations. There are also hundreds of millions of dollars in economic aid, both from the US and from the European Union. But Western ‘leaders’ are just too cowardly to mess up with Arab dictators; much easier to preach to Jews on how to behave humanely.
So there is no pressure on Sisi to open that border. The Egyptian authorities started – as Arab governments always do – by blaming Israel. They claimed that Israel bombed ‘in the vicinity of’ the Gazan side of the crossing, making it ‘unsafe’. Yet it proved safe enough to send humanitarian aid (hundreds of lorries of it) through it into Gaza; just not safe enough to allow people out.
When that pretext failed to persuade even the BBC, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry stated that allowing Gaza’s innocents into the Sinai Peninsula would be unfair to Egypt:
It’s not a matter of transferring the responsibility to Egypt – it is a matter of maintaining the safety and well-being of Gazans on their own territory.
But how exactly does one do that, while also waging a war against a terror organization intent on denying Israelis safety and well-being on their own territory? Mr. Shoukry did not feel he had to provide an answer to that question – and the BBC did not feel an urge to ask it.
Nor did the BBC ask what “responsibility” was Egypt so concerned about; after all, Palestinians – alone among all the many world’s refugees – are endowed with their own dedicated UN aid agency and the West (much more than the Arab ‘brethren’) underwrites that aid, in Gaza and elsewhere, to the tune of $1.75 billion a year. Given that the cost of living in Egypt is quite low (the minimum monthly wage is below $100), a fraction of that huge amount would feed many a Gazan refugee.
Mr. Shukri’s boss, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, took an even more adamant stance. Asked why Egypt won’t open the Rafah crossing and allow civilians from Gaza to take refuge, he forcefully stated:
We are prepared to sacrifice millions of lives to ensure that no one encroaches upon our territory.
Again, no journalist asked exactly how admitting refugees suddenly becomes an encroachment upon Egyptian territory; and why a country that vociferously clamors to end the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza is willing so flippantly to sacrifice “millions of [presumably Palestinian] lives”.
And then we heard from President Sisi, the man (and it’s always a man, never a woman!) who actually makes decisions in Egypt. He said, in no uncertain terms, that there’s a limit to how much Egypt cares about Palestinian lives (that, as we all know, is Israel’s job!):
Of course we sympathize. But be careful, while we sympathize, we must always be using our minds in order to reach peace and safety in a manner that doesn’t cost us much…
Arab dictators are rarely asked difficult questions – a journalist brave enough to do that may never get another interview and might never be allowed to enter the country. So, as Sisi slammed Egypt’s gates shut in the face of putative Gazan refugees, only naives expected the Western media – concerned as it is about Gazans’ safety and welfare – to harshly criticize that callous act.
On the contrary: Western media outlets fell over each other to ‘explain’ Egypt’s position. The BBC did so on 17 October; so did its Canadian counterpart, the CBC. Just a couple of days later, CNN toed the line as well, with an article entitled “The last remaining exit for Gazans is through Egypt. Here’s why Cairo is reluctant to open it”. Too busy bashing Israel for all her cardinal sins, The Guardian got onto the topic only on 2 November. Time Magazine, the VOA, NPR… they all carried articles on this subject. And they all sounded strangely sympathetic to Sisi’s decision. ‘Strangely,’ because the same journalists declare – at least five times a day, and in sound bytes that get shriller and shriller – their deep distress at the loss of innocent lives in Gaza.
Incidentally, the same media outlets also tend to argue that Western countries are legally bound to take in any and all refugees that reach their territory – and keep them for however long it takes; usually forever.
So, if Germany (population 83 million) must take 2.2 million refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Ukraine, and if the German taxpayer must foot that bill, why isn’t that same ‘international law’ applicable to Egypt (population 110 million) vis-à-vis Gazan refugees, their Arab brethren? Especially since the ‘international community’ (read: mostly the West) would in any case pay for it?
Almost a quarter of Canada’s population of 38 million is made up of immigrants born outside the country. Still, the CBC tends to harshly criticize the country’s government, whenever it seems reluctant (or just too slow) to admit more.
Yet when it comes to Egypt, the outlet is much more ‘forgiving’:
Egypt already hosts 300,000 UN-registered refugees from dozens of countries and has seen an additional 317,000 arrive since conflict broke out in its southern neighbor Sudan earlier this year, so the government may have concerns about hosting a large number of newly displaced people from Gaza for an ‘indefinite’ period of time…
Except that Egypt does very little “hosting” for those hundreds of thousands of refugees. They are cared for by international organizations and charities, which spend a lot of (mostly) Western money in Egypt. A lot, though – granted – much less per capita than they spend on Palestinian refugees…
Still, that concern is shared by academics (but only when it comes to Egypt and Palestinian refugees). Prof. Constanza Musu from Ottawa University, for instance, is quoted by CBC worrying about the huge difficulty of taking in refugees:
You need to set up camps and those camps have to be provided with water, with sanitation and with health care, food and, eventually, children have to go to school.
That may be true. But it is also true that there’s a lot of money already budgeted for providing Gazans “with water, with sanitation and with health care, food and [with education]”. And I have a nagging suspicion that even camps that are not quite up to Prof. Musu’s standards would be a lot better than staying in Gaza right now.
The Herculean task that Prof. Musu seems to allude to has been performed a few times before. Turkey, for instance, took in many millions of Syrian refugees – almost 4 million are still in the country. Even the impoverished (practically bankrupt) Lebanon hosts no less than 1.5 million refugees from neighboring Syria; and Lebanon’s entire population numbers just 5.6 million!
Prof. Musu also sympathizes with Egypt’s security concerns. The CBC reminds us about Hamas:
“The Egyptian government considers it a a [sic!] terrorist organization and it’s also an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is outlawed in Egypt.
Many Palestinians don’t have proper travel documents, Musu says, making it difficult to verify identities and prevent Hamas fighters from hiding among fleeing civilians and then operating out of the Sinai Peninsula, where Egypt has fought other Islamist groups, including ISIS, for years.
But it’s OK to call for a ceasefire, which would leave the same terrorist organization in power in Gaza?
As for Gazan refugees not having “proper travel documents”: is that really unusual, Prof. Musu? Speaking about Syrian asylum seekers, the Norwegian Refugee Council says:
70% of refugees lack basic identity documents.
Syria, as we remember, is one of the countries where ISIS operated. Yet I doubt very much that Prof. Musu would be so accommodating, if Norway (or, for that matter, Canada) were to refuse Syrians asylum because ISIS “fighters” might be “hiding among fleeing civilians”!
In fact, while Gazans may not always have “proper travel documents”, those that present a high security risk are well-known to Israel’s intelligence services. And those services would no doubt cooperate: even more than Egypt, Israel wouldn’t want Hamas operatives to escape her just retribution by becoming ‘refugees’.
But the reasons Egypt won’t open its gates to refugees from Gaza are not financial, nor are they security concerns; they are political. The journalists know that – some of them even reported it, though once again with generous doses of ‘understanding’.
Sisi said it himself, in no uncertain terms, as reported by the CNN:
There is a danger . . . a danger so big because it means an end to this [Palestinian] cause… It is important that [Gaza’s] people remain standing and on their land.
Jordan’s King Abdullah spoke in a similar vein.
In other words, Arab leaders – who perpetuated the refugee problem when they by-and-large refused to naturalize Palestinian Arabs in the host countries (even those born in those countries for 3-4 generations) – are now apprehensive that that problem may be solved not at Israel’s expense. Hence, they brazenly declare their determination to fight for ‘the Palestinian cause’ to the last Palestinian (see “millions of lives”). Gaza’s children are not just used as human shields by Hamas; they are also mere pawns in a ruthless political game.
Unlike Syrians, Afghanis, Libyans or Ukrainians, Palestinians must not be allowed to escape; they must not be offered asylum – lest that should harm ‘the Palestinian cause’. Read: the godsend distraction that – for a century now – has channeled Arab frustrations away from the thrones of absolute kings and the armchairs of not-less-absolute presidents. A ’cause’ that increasingly allows people in the West to wear their antisemitism as a badge of honor, rather than a stigma of shame.
The only place where the Arab leaders (and many ‘pro-Palestinian’ Westerners) would have the Arab Palestinians displaced is… Jewish Israel. Of course, they know it ain’t going to happen: if nothing else (and there’s a lot else!) there’s little chance that Gazan’s would accept bread and water in the Jewish state; and – at this time more than ever before – any contact between these two populations would end up in friction and bloodshed, however ‘humanitarian’ the intentions.
Egypt remains the only country that can immediately save Gaza’s innocents, simply by letting them enter the sparsely populated Sinai. But Egypt refuses to.
This should come as no surprise, of course. If Arab dictators truly cared about people’s lives and welfare, they wouldn’t oppress their own populations.
Israeli leaders, of course, value the peace with Egypt – cold as it may be. They cannot openly criticize Sisi.
But that Western politicians make no effort to pressure – or even bribe – the Egyptian dictator; that Western journalists, academics and charity workers justify his inhumane position, rather than exposing it; that they demand the impossible from Israel, while not even frowning at Egypt; all this shows is the abysmal, disgusting hypocrisy that these people wallow in. One day, history will judge them and condemn them as frauds lacking in empathy, in ethics and in character. For now, Israel should firmly close her ears to such ‘critics’ bereft of moral compass. Two-faced sinners make poor virtue preachers.