Friday, October 24, 2008

Egypt blockades Gaza

You likely never heard a word about Egypt’s blockade of Gaza. But from June 2007 to January 2008, the Egyptian-Gaza border was continually closed.

The seal wasn’t watertight. The Egyptians opened the border on occasion. Also, so many tunnels go between Rafah in Egypt to Rafah in Gaza that smugglers need a subway map to find their way around. But although guns, explosives and missiles travel readily under the border, food, fuel and medicine didn’t have such an easy time crossing the border up top.

Not a peep from the media. But as soon as Israel sealed its border with Gaza for a couple days, you heard all about it – that is, you heard all about Israel, but still next to nothing about Egypt.

“Israel blocks fuel supply,” said the Toronto Star. “Israel closes Gaza's borders,” reported the BBC. “Israel agrees to ease blockade,” the CBC chimed in a bit later.

The EU declared that Israel was “collectively punishing” Gaza. No mention of Egypt, though the Rafah border had been closed for seven months, not a couple days.

Virtually alone among the world’s media, the Associated Press accurately referred to “Israel’s and Egypt’s blockade of Gaza.” But otherwise the media suffered geographic amnesia. They’d simply forgotten Gaza’s southern border.

In an article on its website, the BBC claimed that although “Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005 … it still controls the territory's borders and supplies.” Except for Gaza’s Egyptian border, the BBC should have added, but did not.

The media remembered the Gaza-Egypt border when Hamas blew it up and hundreds of thousands of Gazans flooded into Egypt. But even while reporting on how Hamas broke Egpyt’s blockade, the media refered to Israel’s blockade.

For the media, the Egyptian blockade didn’t count. Only Israel’s actions were up for judgement.
This sort of double-standard isn’t unusual. The media watchdog group, Honest Reporting (HR) recently released an analysis of the BBC’s reporting of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the second half of 2007.

HR found that in stories about Palestinian attacks, the headlines never named the aggressors. The BBC preferred headlines such as “Rocket injures dozens in Israel” (

That is, BBC headlines report Palestinian attacks in the same way they report the weather: as something that just falls out of the sky.

“On the other hand” Honest Reporting stated, “in 63% of articles addressing Israeli military operations, the headline was much more clear and direct … (e.g.: ‘Israel strikes kill six in Gaza’).”

An unintentional racism is at work here. When it comes to political conflicts, the media often portrays Arabs and Islamists as amoral agents, no more responsible for their actions than polar bears.

On the other side of the double standard, the media judges Israel as hyper-responsible. No one would dream of asking why Canada doesn’t supply fuel to the Taliban. But it’s front-page news when Israel holds up Gaza’s fuel supply.

Israel-haters take the double standard one step further: they hold Israel responsible for Palestinian crimes.

For example, the Guardian newspaper carried a video that allowed 12 seconds to reporting the recent suicide attack in Dimona, gave another 12 seconds to a representative of Abbas’s government, who condemned the attack, but blamed Israel for it. Then, for the benefit of the hardcore anti-Israel faithful, the Guardian got to the meat of the report: a 72-second clip of a Hamas official justifying the attack.

Murdering a 73-year-old woman in a shopping mall and wounding 11 others was a “normal response to this shape of collective punishment,” the Hamas official said. It was a “resistance operation” against the “occupation.” That is, against Jews occupying their own homes in Israel; there are no Israelis in Gaza.

The Dimona suicide bombers are just the latest reminder of why Israel and Egypt need to blockade Gaza. However, the bombers reportedly crossed into Egypt from Gaza, then infiltrated into Israel throught the Sinai, once again illustrating how poorly Egypt guards its border with Gaza.

Perhaps Israel would be smart to create an arms control line just north of the Egypt-Gaza border. Then, if Egypt likes, it can unite Rafah. Put a few trains in the tunnels and Rafah will have a better subway system than Toronto.

In any case, it will have nothing to do with Israel. Whatever the media may imply, the Palestinians and Egyptians aren’t polar bears. They’re responsible for their own crimes, their own failings, and their own futures.

This piece was originally published in the Jewish Tribune here:

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