Gaza, a 25-mile-long, 6-mile-wide strip of land, was part of Mandatory
Palestine, which was ruled by the British after the fall of the Ottoman
Empire. It was never part of the Zionist state intended by the United Nations partition plan that led to the establishment of Israel in 1948. At that point, five Arab nations immediately attacked the new nation, but Gaza wasn't even part of the territory Israel got in signing truces in 1949. It became the home of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fleeing Israel, and Israel's armistice with Egypt in 1949 put it under Egyptian rule....
A second agreement called for negotiating eventual Palestinian autonomy there....
In the 1967 Israeli-Arab war, Israel captured Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, along with the West Bank (from Jordan) and the Golan Heights (from Syria). Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt after making peace, but kept control of Gaza.
Gaza represents the worst side of Israel's settlement movement. The densely populated strip is home to 1.3 million Palestinians - most of them refugees, or offspring of refugees. Each square mile of Palestinian land holds, on average, about 14,000 people.
Los Angeles Times: Impact on Egyptian Politics
It is political theater punctuated with dangerous rhetoric. Mubarak's vast
intelligence and security forces are attempting to prevent pro-Palestinian
protests from erupting into sustained nationwide anti-government rallies. But
the Muslim Brotherhood and Kifaya, Arabic for "Enough," an umbrella opposition
group of leftists and nationalists, are determined to make just that happen. The
Muslim Brotherhood has sponsored 80 demonstrations since Wednesday, when
hundreds of thousands of Gazans began pouring into Egypt through a breached
border wall.The Muslim Brotherhood, which favors a government guided by Islamic law, known as Sharia, has a platform of nonviolence but has been accused over the years of bombings and other militant acts.. Despite the arrests of hundreds of its members, the group enjoys extensive support among the poor and middle class and poses the nation's most significant political threat to Mubarak's
ruling National Democratic Party.The Palestinian cause is the crystallizing passion in the Arab world, but the Gaza border crisis has brought new urgency to a public relations battle between Islamists and secular governments, especially in Egypt. It has also demonstrated that Hamas, the militant Islamist party that controls Gaza and is ideologically linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, remains a major factor in the future Palestinian equation, contrary to the wishes of the U.S., Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Authority….
"The regime dealt brutally with demonstrators because it is concerned about domestic stability," said Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, a Muslim Brotherhood leader. "The regime knows that there is public outrage for other reasons including inflation, unemployment and other accumulated problems. It fears that things will explode…."Mohammed Sayed Said, deputy head of the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, said support for the Palestinians is giving the Muslim Brotherhood "a great deal of legitimacy."
Boston Globe: Collective Punishment Empowers Hamas
Imposing collective punishment on the people of Gaza is not only inhumane; it is also incapable of producing results that benefit Israel or the two main rivals of Hamas: Fatah and Mubarak's Egypt. By knocking down the Rafah barrier and forcing Mubarak to tell Egyptian police to let Gazans enter Egypt, Hamas placed itself in the position of defending Palestinians under its rule from the two states, Egypt and Israel, that have turned Gaza into a shutdown prison.
Arab News: Callousness of Israel
An Israeli government official’s statement summed up so well the callousness
of Israeli policy toward the besieged people in Gaza. Responding to the flood of
people across the broken border wall into Egypt, he said, “We expect the Egyptians to solve the problem.”
The crisis in Rafah was apparently not foreseen by the best of Israel's policy makers. Now, after it has happened, it is worth using the crisis to set policies that are more creative than assassinations and starvation and to try to avoid becoming fixated on the usual, predictable responses and on laying blame in all directions. The Egyptians could now become the unwitting leaders in finding an agreed-on solution. This could be the time to assert joint responsibility for the border crossings, with the participation of the Palestinian government and international organizations. Hamas used the closure to create sympathy for the people of Gaza. The destruction of the border barrier is also perceived as a legitimate prison break. A statesmanlike response is now needed to turn the crisis into an opportunity.