Hamas the big loser in Egyptian army take-over

August 7, 2013
Sarah Benton

This posting has these items:
1) Ramzy Baroud: Hated in Egypt: How the Palestinian Bogeyman Resurfaced Like Never Before;
2) AP: Gaza’s Hamas worries as Egypt turns cold shoulder;
3) PIC: Hussam Khader condemns Fatah marches supporting al-Sisi;
4) BBC: Egypt crisis: Morsi accused of plotting with Hamas;
5) MEMO: Al-Sisi informed Israel of the coup three days prior;

Walking through the Rafah crossing from Gaza to Egypt, August 2012. The crossing was closed on July 5, two days after the army take-over, and has not been re-opened despite pleas from the Hamas government. Photo by AFP/STR

Hated in Egypt: How the Palestinian Bogeyman Resurfaced Like Never Before

By Ramzy Baroud, Palestine Chronicle
July 30, 2013

When I left Gaza for the first time on my own, twenty some years ago, I was warned of a notorious officer who headed Egypt’s State Security Intelligence at the Rafah border. He “hates Palestinians,” I was told.

My friends and neighbors in Gaza warned me not to greet him with ‘Assalamu Alaikum’ – peace be upon you – if that particular officer were to be on duty on that day. Yes, the officer also hated any reference to Islam, even the very greeting.

When I entered the mukhabrat office, I was startled by his presence. He was a very large, clean-shaven man who wore a tie so tight that his face and neck seemed as though they were about to burst. I was 18 and had never travelled on my own before. His angry look caused me to panic and therefore I forgot everything I was told. “Assalamu Alaikum,” I said, with a shattered voice that was hardly audible.

All the stories I had previously heard about the anti-Palestinian sentiment within Egypt’s governmental institutions suddenly became real, and humiliatingly so. The insults he hurled at me on that day were many and very explicit. I pleaded with him to allow me access to Egypt, for my future was on the line. He finally agreed on the condition that I would re-enter his office, and rectify my original sin. This time I was careful to say ‘Marhaba’ and not ‘assalamu alaikum’.

Two months later, I was deported back to Gaza with Israeli intelligence waiting to interrogate me at the Gaza side of the border. I had chosen a terrible time to be in Egypt. It was soon after the Gulf War in 1991 and then-President Hosni Mubarak had fully sided with the Americans in exchange for canceling some of Egypt’s debt. I, along with thousands of Palestinians, mostly students, found ourselves on some border or another because the Palestinian leadership had dared to object to the war.

Three Israeli intelligence officers questioned me on my way to Gaza. “Why did the Egyptians send you back?” one asked in broken Arabic and a smirk. “Because I am a Palestinian,” I answered not being sagacious in the least. They all laughed.

But the anti-Palestinian sentiment in Egypt is no laughing matter. Many Egyptian media commentators, known for their affiliation with the state, are having unlimited space to renew their hate-filled campaigns by unabashedly inciting violence against Palestinians. A fascist-like discourse has been brewing for years, but has morphed into ways unprecedented since the coup against President Mohammed Morsi by the Egyptian military on July 3.

Among all the pretenses that the military junta could have conjured up, they chose to imprison Morsi for ‘links’ with the Palestinian movement Hamas. The leveling of such an accusation is quite telling. Gone are the days where Arab leaders were condemned for their ties with Israel, or affiliation with this western intelligence or that. The fact that Egyptian media and commentators would repeat the ‘accusation’ without any one raising the question “so what?”, is equally expressive of the state of political degeneration that exists in Egypt today.

But this is hardly new and is barely a Hamas-related matter. When Egyptian president Anwar Sadat signed the Camp David Accords with Israel in 1978 and a peace treaty the following year, the Egyptian government and much of the media it controls began a slow-paced but determined campaign to morally and politically divorce itself from Palestine as a central Arab and Egyptian cause. Then there was no Hamas to blame for Egypt’s borderless afflictions, nor bearded men to hold responsible for the country’s profound disasters. PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat unwittingly served the role of Egypt’s bogeyman. He was humiliated at every turn. That generation of media wheelers and dealers were as unforgiving towards Palestinians as this generation of government stooges who are ready to blame, starve, imprison and kill if necessary. For it is now the Palestinians, not the Israelis, that are considered to be Egypt’s greatest ‘national security threat.’

On the other hand, Palestinians, especially in Gaza, remained extremely cautious in their approach to Egypt. They used whatever language required to maintain a semblance of civility with the Egyptian government, even under the regime of Hosni Mubarak. Despite the fact that Egypt had always participated in the siege that Israel imposed on the Gaza Strip in 2007, few Palestinians dared use such loaded terminology. It was an Israeli and only Israeli siege, resolved the official Palestinian discourse. Tacitly, they urged their Egyptian brethren to ease the siege, in the name of the shared fight against Zionism, imperialism, and in the name of Arab and Muslim causes, to no avail.

In January 2008, tens of thousands of Gazans breached the border with Egypt. They rushed into Sinai in a delirious search for food, fuel and freedom. With the exception of a few students, they all returned to Gaza. Shortly after the border was resealed and Gazans were locked up again behind walls and barbered wire, then Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit publicly threatened that anyone who attempted to cross the border “will get his leg broken.”

And when a popular revolution overthrew Mubarak, although not his regime, on January 25, 2011, Palestinians, like many millions of Arabs celebrated. Those who celebrated in Ramallah under the role of Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority, were quickly suppressed and dispersed, while the Gaza celebration carried on for days. Of course, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood relate to similar political, ideological and religious frames of reference, but the Palestinian love for Egypt and the hate of its dictators, is much older than the current turmoil that has divided Egypt and resulted in a military coup lead by General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The intensity of hate towards Palestinians, coupled with media-induced rumors, doesn’t separate between Palestinians from Gaza or anywhere else. The matter is extremely serious since Palestinians in Gaza are immediately affected by it. Their freedom, or whatever remains of it, is in constant jeopardy. One of the army’s first steps after the coup was sealing the border with Gaza citing as a pretense its hopeless fight against militants in Sinai, itself subsisting in state negligence and economic ruin. On their part, al-Sisi’s supporters spared no efforts in demonizing Palestinians, using every medium available.

Meanwhile, the sheer opportunism of Mohammed Abbas’ Ramallah government has crossed all bounds. Abbas was one of the first to congratulate al-Sisi for saving Egypt and preventing it from slipping toward the ‘abyss’. Others in the PA called on Gazans to rebel against Hamas. And as Egyptians were still counting their dead on July 27 as a result of the government crackdown on protests in Nasser City and Alexandria, Fatah-PA supporters were marching in Ramallah in support of al-Sisi. They rallied in “Ramallah’s central Square of al-Manara chanted pro-coup slogans and calls to Sisi to crack down on supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi,” al-Ray news agencies reported.

At least during my youth, all I needed to remember was to say ‘marhaba’ and not ‘assalamu alaikum’, in order to survive the wrath of an angry officer. Now, little can be said or done to explain or endure this unequalled campaign of hate and demonization. The odd thing is that Hamas’s biggest campaign during Morsi’s 12-months in power was for Egypt to replace the tunnels it actively destroyed with a free trade zone that gave Palestinians an economic lifeline to brave the siege. Little was achieved then, and nearly 80 percent of the tunnels are now destroyed. Gaza is again hurdling towards an even greater humanitarian crisis, while the Palestinians stand accused of orchestrating much of Egypt’s mess. This is a matter as bewildering as it is untrue. But 25 years of unchallenged state propaganda can do that and much more.

Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is: My Father was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press).

Hamas security officers guarding the smuggling tunnels along the border with Egypt in Rafah, September 2012. The tunnels have been closed since July this year. Photo by AP.

Gaza’s Hamas worries as Egypt turns cold shoulder

Growing animosity between Egypt’s interim government and Gaza’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, leaves many Palestinians frustrated by recent backlash

By AP/Ahram Online
August 02, 2013

A Palestinian man carries a luggage to the bus at the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 24, 2013. Egypt has sealed smuggling tunnels and blocked most passenger traffic in the toughest border restrictions on the Gaza Strip in recent years, causing millions of dollars in economic losses and prompting concerns among Gaza’s Hamas rulers that the territory is being swept up in the Egyptian military’s crackdown on Islamic fundamentalists. (Photo: AP)

The coup in Egypt has cost Gaza’s Hamas its most important foreign ally, while more and more ordinary Palestinians are getting caught up in the growing animosity between Egypt’s new government and Gaza’s Islamic militant rulers.

Thousands of workers in already blighted Gaza have been laid off because Egypt has closed the border, while some of the tens of thousands of Palestinians studying and working in Egypt are keeping a low profile for fear being targeted in an anti-Hamas backlash.

At issue are Hamas’ ties with Mohamed Morsi, the Egyptian president whom the Egyptian military toppled a month ago, amid mass protests against him. Egypt’s new rulers have portrayed Hamas and Morsi as co-conspirators in a plot to destabilise Egypt and harm the country’s interests.

Hamas is the Gaza branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, the region-wide movement whose political rise in the wake of the Arab Spring propelled Morsi to the presidency last year. Morsi is being held on charges he and Hamas plotted a 2011 attack on an Egyptian prison that freed him, but killed four inmates.

The icy wind now blowing from Cairo is an existential worry for Hamas. Shunned by the West as a terror group, it had hoped Morsi could break it out of international isolation.

Now, with Israel keeping Gaza largely sealed on one side and Egypt on the other, the territory is back to where it was two and a half years ago, before Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak was ousted.

So Hamas is back in survival mode, rather than dreaming about making Gaza prosperous and turning it into a second Singapore. Yet it can’t openly criticise the new Egyptian regime, for fear of inviting a more severe clampdown.

“We are not happy,” Gaza’s deputy foreign minister, Ghazi Hamad, said of Egypt’s recent measures against Gaza, including the sealing of dozens of smuggling tunnels under the joint border, a vital Gaza supply line. But, he added, “we have to be wise and patient, and wait to see what will happen.”

Hamad is still in touch with an Egyptian intelligence officer to sort out day-to-day border problems. These days, the two mainly pick up the phone to complain — Egypt about Hamas allegedly allowing Gaza militants to slip into Egypt’s troubled Sinai region and Hamas about Egypt all but closing Gaza’s main gate to the world.

In public, Hamas has remained largely silent, even as the fallout ripples across Gaza, home to 1.7 million people. The tunnel closures have driven up prices of cement, gravel and fuel. As a result, builders have stopped working and have laid off as many as 20,000 workers, said Nabil Abu Muaeileq of the contractors’ association.

A majority of Gaza’s 1,200 fishermen are staying in port because Egypt has barred them from entering its waters as part of its new security measures. Coupled with Israel’s long-running restrictions on Gaza fishing, there’s little point in heading out to sea, said Nizar Ayesh, head of the local fishermen’s union.

A growing Egypt-induced fuel shortage has also exacerbated Gaza’s toughest practical problem, a chronic lack of electricity, including rolling blackouts of more than 10 hours a day.

The future looks even bleaker because Cairo’s anti-Hamas policy, closely linked to the Egyptian military’s intensifying campaign against the home-grown Muslim Brotherhood, is likely to continue.

Anti-Morsi media in Egypt have portrayed Hamas as being responsible for many of the country’s troubles, from fuel shortages to militant-driven lawlessness in the Sinai.

Bolstering suspicions of Hamas, several Palestinians have been arrested in the Sinai, including one on Thursday for allegedly taking part in a recent attack on a border post in the area.

Hamas officials complain privately that the new regime in Egypt systematically demonises their movement to justify the campaign against the Egyptian Brotherhood.

Some Palestinians in Egypt said they’re worried about the heated atmosphere.

“Honestly, it is terrifying here. I am no longer able to move as I want,” said Saadi Salah, a 22-year-old from Gaza who studies information technology in Cairo and now mostly stays in his dorm room, ordering in food.

Palestinian Sameh Abu Jaffar, 48, who owns a shoe factory in Cairo, said his children no longer go to the local sports club and his wife was ordered out of a taxi recently when the driver heard her Palestinian accent. “Life here is getting worse by the day,” he said, adding that Egyptians “think all Palestinians are Hamas.”

Others said complaints of anti-Palestinian incitement are exaggerated.

Barakat al-Farra, the Palestinian ambassador in Cairo, said about 100,000 Palestinians live in Egypt, and that he is not aware of any being targeted.

“There might be some little incidents here and there, but we can’t say the Egyptian people are doing anything against the Palestinians here,” said al-Farra, who reports to Hamas’ main political rival, Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, from whom Hamas seized Gaza in 2007.

The West Bank-based Abbas met with Egypt’s new rulers earlier this week, sparking immediate allegations by Hamas officials that he was badmouthing them in Cairo.

An Egyptian official said the new regime will go after selected Hamas leaders, as part of its crackdown on the domestic Brotherhood. For example, Hamas officials who have denounced the ouster of Morsi as a coup will not be able to travel abroad via

Egypt, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to talk to the media about his government’s deliberations.

For Hamas, the Brotherhood’s loss of power in Egypt is a stunning setback.

Morsi had significantly eased the Gaza border closure that Mubarak had enforced in coordination with Israel. Morsi had also permitted Hamas figures from Gaza and the Palestinian diaspora to meet in Cairo, where the Islamic militants held a leadership election in April.

Hamas believed it was only a matter of time before Morsi agreed to what it wanted most — a full-fledged trade crossing between Gaza and Egypt that would allow Gaza’s economy to flourish and entrench Hamas rule.

Instead, Egypt’s tunnel closures are costing the Gaza government a major source of revenue — taxation of the fuel, cement and consumer goods coming in through the underground passages.

Even before the coup, the Hamas government had difficulty covering the monthly public sector payroll of 70 million shekels ($20 million), mainly because patron Iran had decided to punish Hamas for refusing to side with Iran’s main regional ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, in that country’s civil war.

It’s not clear how long the Hamas government can operate on a growing deficit.

The Egyptian official said some restrictions on Gaza will eventually be eased to prevent a humanitarian crisis. Egyptian authorities may allow in some shipments of fuel and cement to keep the territory afloat, he said.

Travel restrictions might also be eased eventually, he said. At the moment, only medical patients and those with residency abroad can leave Gaza. Thousands are on a waiting list, hoping to return to jobs and universities abroad.

Hussam Khader condemns Fatah marches supporting al-Sisi

By Palestinian Information Centre
July 28, 2013

RAMALLAH, GAZA, – Fatah prominent leader Hussam Khader denounced the marches organized by his movement in the occupied West Bank in support of the Egyptian Defense Minister Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Khader considered in a press statement on Saturday that these marches represent interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries and will negatively impact the Palestinian cause, calling on Fatah to respect the will of the people and not to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.

Fatah movement had earlier launched a scathing and systematic attack on Hamas, accusing it of interfering in Egyptian internal affairs.

Fatah has organized marches in the occupied West Bank in support of al-Sisi calling for giving him the Palestinian citizenship, which raised the citizens’ anger.

Ihab Ghussein, Palestinian government spokesman, denounced in a statement on his Facebook page remarks made by Fatah leaders supporting the massacres committed in Egypt and demanding the elimination of resistance.

Ghussein called on all Palestinians to confront Fatah’s policy and warned that “Fatah movement may take advantage of the current situation to sign a new agreement with the occupation in the coming days, through which it may sell the rest of Palestine and relinquish all our constants and holy sites.”

Sources reported that more than 150 protestors died at dawn Saturday near Rabaa Adaweya Square while thousands were wounded by the security services fire.

Egypt crisis: Morsi accused of plotting with Hamas

July 26, 2013

Ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi is being held over allegations of links with Palestinian militants Hamas and plotting attacks on jails in the 2011 uprising, it has been announced.

He is to be questioned for an initial 15-day period, a judicial order said.

Tens of thousands of people are attending rallies for and against Mr Morsi in different parts of Cairo.

Clashes broke out both in the capital and between rival protesters in the country’s second city, Alexandria.

The order issued on Friday is the first official statement on Mr Morsi’s judicial status since he was overthrown.

He has been held at an undisclosed location since his removal by the military on 3 July.

Since Mr Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected president, was ousted, dozens of people have died in clashes between his supporters and opponents. Militants have also staged deadly attacks in the Sinai peninsula.

The army chief, Gen Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has called on people to take to the streets to give the military a mandate to confront violence and “terrorism”.

Accusations ‘ridiculous’
The judicial order says the former president is suspected of conspiring with Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and has strong links with Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, during the uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak.

He is accused of colluding with the Palestinian group to storm police stations and jails, “setting fire to one prison and enabling inmates to flee, including himself, as well as premeditated killing of officers, soldiers and prisoners”.

Mr Morsi and several Muslim Brotherhood leaders were freed during a breakout at a Cairo prison in January 2011.

The BBC’s Jim Muir in the Egyptian capital says the order provides legal cover for the continued detention at a time when the UN and Western powers are calling for the ousted president to be released or properly charged.

A spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, Gehad el-Haddad, described the accusations as “ridiculous”. He told Reuters news agency that the order marked the return of the “old regime”.

Hamas itself said there was not a shred of evidence of its involvement in the prison break.

‘Sisi out!’
Eleven people were injured in clashes between rival groups in Cairo’s Shubra district, security sources say. They appear to have involved stone-throwing.

In Alexandria, stones were thrown when Morsi and Sisi supporters confronted each other after Muslim Friday prayers. A number of people were injured.

A huge crowd of Morsi supporters has filled streets around Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque, where they have been holding a sit-in protest. “Sisi out! Morsi is president! Down with the army!” they could be heard chanting.

El-Baz Abu Maati, a protester who travelled to Cairo from the Nile Delta city of Mansura, told AFP news agency: “I am here to support the real president of Egypt, we are going to protest here peacefully.”

Correspondents say the mood among the Morsi supporters has been calm and stewards have been searching demonstrators to ensure no weapons are brought to the rally.

Tens of thousands of army supporters have gathered on Tahrir Square, the traditional focus for mass rallies in Cairo.

“The people, the source of all power, mandate the army and police to purge terrorism,” read a giant banner stretched across one entrance to the square. Many people carried posters of Gen Sisi.

The Tamarod movement that organised protests which preceded Mr Morsi’s removal has urged its supporters to turn out on Friday to show support for the military.

Mr Morsi narrowly won the presidential election in June 2012 but his opponents accused him of trying to impose an Islamist agenda on the country.

Interim President Adly Mansour has set out a “roadmap” towards a revision of the constitution introduced by Mr Morsi and for fresh elections in early 2014, but this has has been rejected by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Hisham Qandil, who was prime minister under Mr Morsi proposed his own roadmap on Thursday, but there was no official response to his suggestions. Military spokesmen have previously given the Muslim Brotherhood a deadline of Saturday to join the official process.

Al-Sisi informed Israel of the coup three days prior

By Memo
July 16, 2013

Israeli military analyst Roni Daniel revealed on Sunday that the Egyptian General Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi informed Israel of his efforts to remove President Mohamed Morsi three days before the coup.

Speaking to the Israeli TV channel 2, Daniel said that Al-Sisi asked Israel to monitor the Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.

He said Al-Sisi was afraid of Hamas, but his fear faded after the Israeli assurance that everything in Gaza has been under strict surveillance. Israel advised Al-Sisi to destroy the tunnels.

Daniel asserted that the military coup in Egypt is useful to Israel and it had been an “urgent demand” for Israeli and its security.

Military analysts did not hesitate to confirm news about contacts between Al-Sisi and Mohamed El-Baradei from the Egyptian side and government officials from the Israeli side.

He said that El-Baradei met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once before the coup and again after the coup. According to Daniel, Israel promised Al-Baradei to help lobby for Western recognition with the new government (after Morsi).

The Egyptian army started damaging tunnels to Gaza several days before the coup took place. The tunnels are the main lifeline for Gaza residents who have been living an Israeli, internationally backed siege since 2006.
Despite frenzied defamation campaigns against them by the Egyptian media and the Egyptian anti-Morsi elite, Hamas asserted its longstanding position towards what is happening in Egypt. They have said that they do not interfere with any of the state’s internal affairs.

Hamas closure media outlets sparks defence of press freedom
Israel and Egypt, ‘security’ trumps all
How and why Hamas lost popular support in Egypt

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