Tuesday, May 31, 2011

After Rafah Opening, Robert Naiman Struggles to Stay Relevant

HP blogger Robert Naiman has written several articles for the HP all about how much of a great person he is because he's agreed to go on the most recent flotilla to Gaza. Unfortunately for him, the border between Egypt and Gaza is now open thanks to the Egyptian government. Here's what the HP article had to say about the opening of the border:
"Under the new system, virtually anyone can travel, and a much larger number of Palestinians are expected to be able to cross each day.
Hundreds of Gazans gathered early Saturday as the first bus load of passengers crossed the border at 9 a.m. Two Egyptian officers stood guard next to a large Egyptian flag atop the border gate as the vehicle rumbled through. One after another buses crossed Rafah, pulling blue carts behind them with luggage piled high.
"All we need is to travel like humans, be treated with dignity and feel like any other citizens of the world who can travel in and out freely," said Rami Arafat, 52, who hoped to catch a flight out of Cairo on Sunday to attend his daughter's wedding in Algeria.
Nearby, 28-year-old Khaled Halaweh said he was headed to Egypt to study for a master's degree in engineering at Alexandria University.
"The closure did not affect only the travel of passengers or the flowing of goods. Our brains and our thoughts were under blockade," said Halaweh, who said he hadn't been out of Gaza for seven years...
Israel, which controls Gaza's cargo crossings, allows most consumer goods into Gaza, but still restricts exports as well as the entry of much-needed construction materials, saying they could be used by militants. Israel also enforces a naval blockade aimed at weapons smuggling. "
Now, for someone who is genuinely pro-Palestinian, this would be considered nothing but good news. The suffering of the Gazans has been abated and Israel is left looking like a fool. Hooray. But for Mr. Naiman, this presents a big problem. Why should we his readers read his columns and contribute to his cause of bringing aid to Gaza if the border to Gaza is completely open? We shouldn't. So what does Mr. Naiman do in his most recent column? Spin like his job depends on it, which of course it does.

Naiman leads off with a little history of the opening of the Gaza crossing, which we don't really care about. But then he leads off with this doozy of a spin:
"The opening of the Rafah passenger crossing will mean that women, children, and the elderly from Gaza will be able to travel freely to Egypt and, through Egypt, almost anywhere else in the Arab world. Adult men will have to get Egyptian visas, a process that currently can take months.
But -- although it is virtually certain that some will try to claim otherwise -- the opening of Rafah does not mean that the siege of Gaza is over."
 According to the HP article, virtually anyone can travel. However, Egyptian policy places some restrictions on that movement to and from Gaza, just like every other country on Earth (if Naiman is to believed). If I need to get a visa to travel to another country, I'm obeying the law just like everyone else. But apparently if Palestinians need to wait for visas, that means they are living under siege. Strange, to say the least.

Naiman then posts a series of links all about how life in Gaza is less than hunky-dory. Check out how Naiman spins two of his links:

"Rafah is a passenger crossing, not a cargo crossing, as AP noted in reporting on the opening of Rafah. Gaza's cargo crossings are still controlled by the Israeli government.
The Israeli human rights group Gisha reports that since 2005, "goods have not been permitted to pass via Rafah, except for humanitarian assistance which Egypt occasionally permits through Rafah.""
 Note how Naiman links to Gisha to illustrate the injustice that goods aren't allowed to pass through the Rafah crossing. But his first link points out that Rafah is a passenger crossing, so goods can't pass through the Rafah crossing even if they were allowed to. Perhaps Mr. Naiman hopes we are not paying attention, or have extremely short memories.

Please read the other links Mr. Naiman published:

"In general, the Israeli government does not allow construction materials (cement, steel, and gravel) into Gaza. Since January, about 7 percent of what entered monthly prior to June 2007 has been allowed in for specific projects.
The Israeli government prevents regular travel for Palestinians between Gaza and the West Bank, even though according to the two-state solution which is the official policy of the U.S., Gaza and the West Bank are supposed to be one entity.
Exports from Gaza are generally prohibited by the Israeli authorities.
Palestinians in Gaza cannot farm their lands in Israel's self-declared "buffer zone" along the northern and eastern borders with Israel, estimated to contain nearly a third of Gaza's arable land.
The Israeli government does not allow Palestinian fishermen to fish beyond three nautical miles from Gaza, although under the Oslo Accord, they are supposed to be able to fish for 20 nautical miles from Gaza."
 Mr. Naiman complains about how Palestinian farmers are not allowed to work where they want, Palestinians can't travel between Gaza and the West Bank, and how Israel doesn't let in construction materials. Make no mistake, living under these restrictions can't be much fun. But let's keep a perspective for a minute here. Mr. Naiman has the entire world to choose from in terms of where he travels to help. In a world where protesters are being shot down in Yemen, displaced children in Sudan, dozens dead in Mexico, and over 900 dead in Syria, Mr. Naiman thinks that the most important cause for him is Palestinians who can't build concrete bunkers and can't fish exactly where they want. This kind of tunnel vision is simply ridiculous.

And of course, Mr. Naiman keeps revising the why of it all, why he's going to Gaza at all. Here's how he summed up his most recent blog post:

"Thus [because of all of the links he posted], more pressure is needed on the Israeli government -- and the U.S. government, which enables Israeli policies in Gaza -- to lift the blockade.
And that's why it's so important that another international flotilla is sailing to Gaza in the third week of June, to protest the blockade. It's time to open all the crossings, not just Rafah."
 So it's not enough that people can now move freely from Gaza to anywhere they want. Palestinian farmers and fisherman need to be able to work wherever they want, and all crossings need to be open. This kind of rhetoric is quite different than the ending of his response to David Harris:
"The issue with the blockade is not the Israeli right of self-defense against armed attack. This right is not in serious international dispute. The issue in dispute is the deliberate punishment of civilians, and denial of their freedom."
Hmm, I guess with the opening of the Rafah crossing the Gazans are no longer being deliberately punished and their freedom is no longer being denied, so we have to ditch that fancy rhetoric. I suppose it's really important to Mr. Naiman that Gazans should be allowed to leave Gaza through all the crossings, not just one. Hopefully for his next project he can get my town's government to stop construction on Main Street. My human right to travel from my house to my work through every crossing available is being violated.  

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