“Grudges subside in times of adversity.” However, this old Arab saying does not seem to apply to the relationship between Gaza and Cairo. It is true that Egypt already made its position clear about the war in Gaza by the kind of truce it proposed and the way it has dealt with injured Palestinians, but it made matters even worse by sending spoiled aid and expired medicine to Gaza.
Gaza – In yet another episode of Egyptian gloating over Gaza’s misery, Cairo has used a new tactic against the Strip that languishes alone under Israeli barrages. This time, it resorted to an apparently soft weapon that sent a rather cruel message. It attempted to exploit food aid, thinking it could subdue Palestinians in Gaza but once again, they successfully warded off the Egyptian regime’s scheme.
The story first broke on Thursday when the Egyptian army sent food aid to Gaza through the Rafah border crossing. Many Palestinians were relieved upon hearing the news, thinking they were on the brink of mending the now broken fences with the Egyptian regime and the Egyptian people. However, what happened next was beyond everyone’s imagination.
The aid inscribed with the phrase, “Offered by the Egyptian people” was spoiled and infested with insects. Although the people of Gaza never ran after food supplies despite the widespread poverty in the Strip that’s been aggravated during this war that tightened the grip around them, this shameless Egyptian infringement on their human dignity by exploiting food generated dismay among Palestinians. Many of them considered the Egyptian move the worst part of the five-hour long truce that the UN requested from Israel.
One youth group even called on the Egyptian regime to block the gate of Rafah crossing with heavy barricades as a protest against the Egyptian attempt to depict Gaza residents as beggars positioned at the crossing, waiting for aid and drooling over it, even if its quality is below standard.
This Egyptian step cannot be interpreted outside the [prevailing rhetoric] in Egyptian media that is constantly devising new ways to incite regular Egyptians and mobilize them against Gaza, as if the Strip was the stronghold of their country’s mortal enemy – Hamas.Egyptian media insists on accusing Hamas of standing behind the murder of 16 Egyptian soldiers last year, without providing evidence, and of sending thousands of al-Qassam Brigades’ members to provide the banned Muslim Brotherhood with military supplies.
This situation also falls within the framework of the pivotal role played by the Egyptian regime in pushing the humanitarian situation in Gaza into the abyss, ever since the toppling of President Mohammed Mursi. This was manifested by the blocking [of Rafah crossing], Gaza’s main artery to the outside world, and restricting the numbers of the Strip’s residents allowed to cross the border.
On the mediation level, Egypt appeared as siding with the occupation rather than the Resistance factions. It did not act as a mediator pushing to enhance the truce’s conditions in a way that amounts to the price paid by the residents of Gaza in these tough days, and it even blamed Hamas for the military escalation and for the occupation’s decision to launch a land offensive.
All these factors combined were enough to generate a fertile environment for more hostilities against the people of Gaza, as the spoiled aid packages recently showed.
This unprecedented incident went below the minimum level of respect for humanity, particularly since the aid was given to the Social Affairs Ministry for it to distribute it to refugees and vulnerable people who cannot afford basic needs.
Speaking to Al-Akhbar, Omar al-Darbi, the ministry’s undersecretary, said
“we did not expect that the 500 tons of food and medicine aid to be this spoiled, however, we were compelled to use as much as was possible in order to meet some of the needs amid a huge lack of supplies,” adding that the food packages were small “containing seven kilograms of sugar, tea, lentils and pasta.”
Darbi expressed dismay over Egypt’s behavior, saying it reflected “an unprecedented gloating over the [misfortune] of the Strip’s residents, after the campaign meant to make them appear like devils reached its peak in Egyptian media machines.”
Although the Egyptian regime is taking aim at Hamas, the latter sought to hide the spoiled aid scandal from the media, but some workers, transporting the urgent aid, leaked photos and videos documenting the spoiled packages and Palestinians soon shared it on social networks.
Local rights groups refrained from issuing statements denouncing the Egyptian actions. Rami Abdo, director of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Center, pointed out that the flagrant Israeli violations stole the spotlight from Egypt. However, he revealed that “some activists are too afraid to criticize Egypt because it can blacklist them and ban them from traveling.”
Meanwhile, the remarkable improvements in the Resistance’s performance overshadowed the issue of spoiled aid. The people in Gaza felt that the Resistance compensated for the bitter political and geographic siege that they have been enduring for years, and filled them with unmatched dignity.
Gaza resident Karim Abu Dahi said, “No one dies from eating too little. We only hunger for dignity. We are full, and we even distribute dignity to those who lack it. The Resistance has allowed us to hold our heads up high.”
“What do you expect from a regime that treats its own people and opponents as second class citizens? Of course, it will not treat us any better” an appalled Abu Dahi added.
Samia Abu Nada agreed, saying the Egyptian regime “very much succeeded in numbing its people and turning them away from the main cause.”
“There is a huge difference between the popular Egyptian support for Gaza in 2012 and their support this time around, as demonstrated by the few modest protests in Egypt that do not match the suffering of the people in Gaza,” she elaborated.
Egyptian papers and news websites were, however, quick to refute the news, quoting what they claimed was a statement issued by the Palestinian presidency in Ramallah, denying that the aid was spoiled, saying what happened was “a defamation and dubious campaign led by some suspicious parties acting against the people and the army of Egypt who offered aid out of their own food and medicine.”
They quoted a spokesperson for the president saying, “We are quite aware that this Egyptian aid was part of the supplies prepared by the Egyptian armed forces for the Egyptian people at distribution points during the month of Ramadan,” adding that the aid “was recently prepared and stored and is of the same quality consumed by Egyptians.”
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.