All eyes on Egypt
Democracy is best understood as a process. The transition from military rule must be seen as part of this process and therefore those in power must evolve to meet the newly buoyed aspirations of the people. One need only turn to Egypt to see that this is not easily achieved.
Following a mass mobilization of protestors calling for democratically-elected President Morsi to step down which was larger than that which toppled Mubarak in 2011, the military carried out a coup to remove him from power. The streets are now filled with both Morsi supporters as well as those who had been calling for him to step down, and it appears that further blood is likely to be shed on both sides. While a majority of the population no longer trusted Morsi, certainly it would be very dangerous to put any trust in the military. One can only hope that the people will find reason to unite to finally destroy the military’s grip on power and remove with it all of the vestiges of decades of military rule.
For an excellent summary of the powers at play on the streets and behind the scenes in Egypt, it is worth watching these interviews with Gilbert Achcar.
Whether Morsi’s removal was an inevitable outcome or not, the current purge of the Muslim Brotherhood is a very dangerous sign. Egypt’s revolution is far from over but as of yet there are no clear signs which direction it will end up taking. The immediate future is looking ominous but revolutions are by nature dynamic and turbulent things. What is clear is that it will inevitably be a long and difficult process that will ultimately be determined in the streets.
What significance does this all have for Palestine? Aside from the fact that all eyes are on Egypt as an important source of hope for democratic change in the region, Morsi’s ousting may indeed lead to a strengthening of relations between Israel and Egypt. In the wake of the removal of Morsi the Egyptian military had already closed the Rafah crossing into Gaza and has begun destroying the many tunnels which act as a lifeline for much of the population under the ongoing Israeli military siege.
Compounding hardships in Gaza
Although this is not the first time that Egypt has moved to close the tunnels between Egypt and Gaza, having flooded many with sewage earlier in the year under Morsi, the closing of the tunnels is very alarming given their importance in keeping the remains of an economy in tact in Gaza. An estimated 10,000 Palestinians including a number of children work these tunnels. UN Humanitarian Coordinator James W. Rawley recently reiterated the call for the full lifting of the Israeli blockade which is preventing the development of any real economy in Gaza. He detailed the impact of these restrictions, which he described as disproportionately impacting the most impoverished. 57% of Gazans cannot afford sufficient food, 80% rely on foreign aid in some way, and the restriction of access to a third of agricultural land and two-thirds of Gaza’s fishing waters is costing farmers and fisherman dearly.
The Electronic Intifada is already reporting that Palestinians attempting to return to Gaza via Cairo Airport are being deported back to the country of departure and forced to cover the expenses themselves.
I’d like to hear from readers what they think about this situation in Egypt and what potential consequences the unfolding events might have on Palestinians, especially from those themselves living under the Israeli siege or occupation. Please do respond with your own thoughts.