My last attempt to return to Gaza this month is resting in the hands of the Palestinian Ambassador to Egypt, Dr. Barakat El Farra and his assistant Maissa Hidmi.
My 6-week odyssey began on January 15 when I was turned away at the Rafah border by the Egyptian border guards. No reasons were given.
I have asked for help from President Morsi’s Ombudsman, from the US Embassy, from various people within the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and now my request has been sitting for two weeks in the “Security” or “Intelligence” Office. My money is running out. So is my patience.
The meeting this morning at the Palestinian Embassy in Cairo went very well. I was honored to be invited into the inner sanctum and to visit with the Ambassador.
A very small world indeed! The Ambassador’s cousin is a friend of mine who has visited New Mexico. At the end of our meeting, I invited Ambassador El Farra to New Mexico as well. I hope one day we will sit together and eat dinner in Old Town, Albuquerque.
I really appreciated his interest in helping me with my travel problems, and the time he spent talking with me and answering my questions.
The Ambassador spoke about some of the serious difficulties . . . no paychecks for Embassy employees last month. [I believe I read that Netanyahu has recently agreed to release the funds to the PA which he withheld as punishment following President Abbas’ success at the United Nations in November.]
I asked about President Morsi and the decision to flood the tunnels between Gaza and Egypt.
The Ambassador expressed support for Morsi. “Palestine and Egypt have a good relationship.” The tunnels are a serious problem for several reasons, he said.
First, the black market economy in the tunnels absolves Israel of its responsibility as the Occupier to provide for the needs of the people in Gaza under international law.
Second, the black market economy in the tunnels is benefiting 850 people in Gaza — making them millionaires — and not benefiting the 1.6 million Palestinians living in Gaza.
Third, the tunnels give Israel an excuse to crack down on Gaza because they argue that weapons are smuggled into Gaza through the tunnels. If there were no tunnels, Israel could not use that excuse to attack Gaza, he said. [although Israel would likely find other reasons!]
Normal trade and movement of people should occur at the Rafah border crossing, the Ambassador said, with no need for tunnels and black markets. President Morsi has made improvements at Rafah.
Hopefully, I will get permission to pass through Rafah soon. If not, I must head back to the USA. 😦