- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 14, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Palestinians, Arabs and others around the world watch in horror as helpless children and women are killed, maimed and injured as Israel attacks 1.5 million starving Gazans penned in the world’s largest outdoor prison.

Since 2005, Israel has refused to allow even the most essential products, such as salt that pregnant women need for their fetuses’ brain development. Egypt could have made a difference, but chose not to.

When I asked Egyptian Ambassador Nabil Fahmy why Egypt has insisted on enforcing the blockade while maintaining Israel’s policy of isolating Gaza, heanswered: “Gaza is an Israeli problem and we do not want to absolve Israel from their legal and moral responsibility as occupiers as mandated by international law.” Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak reiterated Mr. Fahmy’s position in a televised address defending the Gaza blockade.

Enforcing the blockade ignores the resultingHamas-Israeli gridlock and thehumanitarian and economic woes it creates for ordinary Gazans.Gaza is the home of 1 million registered refugees living in eight camps.

Killing innocent people is immoral whether by Israel or Hamas. They understand that the punishment must fit the crime and find Israel’s massive assault, killing hundreds and wounding thousands, in response to the 17 deaths from Hamas’ homemade rockets, beyond comprehension.

As a result, few Arabs question Hamas’ tactics and strategies, and consider this irrelevant when weighed against the destruction Israel has unleashed on Gaza. They hold Egypt responsible for cooperating with Israel to isolate the democratically elected Hamas by punishing all Gazans.

AlsoIsrael and the Bush administration have pressured Egypt to maintain the blockade, leading many Arabs toconsider Egypt to be Israel’s accomplice.

If Egypt pursued a more humane policy, agreed to open and closely monitor the Rafah border crossing to allow food and medicine, it could helprelease the political pressure on Hamas and Israel and turn them from their destructive policies. Instead, Egypt maintains, “Israel is responsible for Gaza.”

Egypt and the U.S. have yet to learn that the best way to destroy the legitimacy of extreme governments is to let them rule, fail and be voted out. Egypt’s policy of isolation has increased the legitimacy of radical Muslim parties, with dire consequences for secular movements, our interests in the region and the cause of peace.

MAI ABDUL RAHMAN

Washington

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