Speed dial and speculation in Egypt

I have Dina’s number on speed dial now.

Dina - Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Palestinian Division

Dina – Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Palestinian Division

I have been calling Dina several times each day to learn whether the Egyptian “Security” or “Intelligence” office has approved my travel across the Rafah border to Gaza.

Stuck in Cairo for two months, I’m very frustrated, angry, and fed up.

My calls are either (1) switched to the fax machine, (2) disconnected, (3) answered by the secretary who speaks no English but she knows my voice now, (4) asked to call back in “10 minutes”, (5) “Dina isn’t here” or (6) Dina and I finally connect!

Clearly, Dina has no control over the situation.  The decision must come from the “security” or “intelligence” office, and I’m not allowed to talk with anyone in “security” or “intelligence”.

On Sunday, Dina told me that no one has received approval to cross into Rafah for the past couple of weeks because there is a “security operation” going on there now — and the Egyptian military are flooding the tunnels.  She speculated that things might improve by the end of the week.

I don’t know much about anything in Egypt, but one thing I am sure about — speculation abounds.

There is huge speculation now that something BIG is going to happen in Egypt on March 9th.   A coup?  A massive protest?  The talk on the street is that it will be huge and it will happen on March 9th, but no one really says what “it” might be.

There’s also speculation about what’s going on at the Rafah border.  My friends in Gaza tell me there are many foreigners in Gaza today attending a conference.  Did they all enter through Israel’s Erez crossing in the north?   I doubt it.  Did they enter through the tunnels in Rafah?  Possibly.  More than one person has told me how easy it is to cross the border through the tunnels.  Or did these foreigners get permission to cross legally, and if they did, why haven’t I been granted permission?

Maj.  Gen. Alaa Saad (“military expert”) was on an Egyptian TV talk show in English today discussing the Egyptian military’s action at Rafah.

Egyptian Maj. Gen. Alaa Saad on TV Feb. 26.

Egyptian Maj. Gen. Alaa Saad on TV Feb. 26.

Saad said that Egypt is flooding the tunnels for Egypt’s security because the military believes weapons and jihadists are traveling through the tunnels and making the Sinai region very dangerous. He says the army doesn’t want to hurt the Palestinians working in the tunnels and that is why they are flooding them and not hitting them with rockets, to send a warning message.

Egypt has eased the travel restrictions at the Rafah border, says this military expert, and the army believes everything should be transparent.

Personally, I don’t see any easing of travel restrictions!   Maybe transparency could begin with the Egyptian “security” and “intelligence” office!!*!

Saad believes that the people and goods (food and medicine) should travel easily across the border without any tunnels, but he says there are people in Gaza who benefit financially from the tunnel economy, and they do not want to see the tunnels closed because it would hurt their wallets.

I find this statement very credible.  I have heard there are people in Gaza becoming millionaires based on the tunnel economy, and the Hamas government is collecting taxes from the entrepreneurs using the tunnels.  (Hamas could collect taxes from goods crossing legally above ground.)  

I have seen luxurious homes in Gaza that look like they are recently constructed.  Based on my personal observations in Gaza, there clearly appears to be the “haves” and “have-nots” but I’m not sure how this might be connected to the tunnel economy.

Everyone would benefit (Palestinians in Gaza, Palestinians abroad, Egyptians, Israelis, and the world) if there was a safe, secure, normal crossing at Rafah without restrictions.  Open and transparent for everyone to see!

As it stands today, the Egyptians are the jail keepers in the South, doing Israel’s bidding to ensure that Gaza remains the “largest open air prison” in the world.

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Filed under Economic Development, Egypt, Gaza, Hamas, Israel, People

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