American Activist, Aishah Schwartz, "Now is not the time for an International March on Rafah."

Now is the time to exercise patience in allowing Egypt to recover, and a new government to transition, charting a course toward renewed strength and stability.
By: Aishah Schwartz
Aishah Schwartz in Egypt
Aishah Schwartz in Egypt
Feb. 21, 2011 - PRLog -- Earlier today I stumbled upon not one, but several Facebook pages, a Twitter page and a website promoting an event that, on its face, I, myself, was ready to join; the "International/Egyptian March to Gaza, Rafah Crossing, March 4th". As I drifted through the various group pages, I noted a comment left by a young Egyptian, Ahmed Fathy, 25, of Cairo, that gave me reason to pause; as should anyone weighing their participation options.  

In essence, Fathy suggested that if Egyptian youth in Rafah and El Arish were to follow in this march, and it happened that any chaos developed at the crossing, afterward Israel would retaliate with a barrage of night bombings across Gaza. Regular bombings are, of course, nothing new to the Palestinians, but his point was that, clashes at the border would provoke potentially life-threatening ramifications that he gently suggested no one wanted to be responsible for. He went on to further implore foreigners to exclude Egyptians from participation due to current dangers that remain in the area of Al-Arish, where the march is set to launch from and where foreign nationals are to be housed. Fathy pleaded, instead, for demonstration participants to consider allowing Egypt the time its new leadership needs to develop and stabilize; sentiments I found myself inclined to agree with.  

The event, described as a march and demonstration at the Rafah border crossing, with the potential of turning into a campsite mirroring Tahrir Square, on its face purports to support the permanent opening of the Rafah border crossing, largely closed since 2007, that had experienced a resurgence in regular openings from June 2010 until the 25th of January, when Egypt's revolution began. Although the border opening continued to be partial during the six-month period, it was viewed as a step forward.

Now, with Egypt's revolution in full swing and a broad array of changes evolving daily, and in light of the fact that it is widely known that Egyptians themselves support Gaza's freedom and the right of the Palestinian people to return, doesn't it stand to reason that, given a little more patience, the issue of the Rafah border being open permanently will resolve itself without additional external foreign pressure in a time when the country is striving toward stability?

Information further setting out objectives of the March 4 event state that, "the former Egyptian regime has actively contributed to the siege that is suffocating the Gaza Strip. Now that the tyrant is gone, "we" need to take actions for the new regime (or transition government) to re-open the crossing to people, vehicles and goods."

Who is, "we", one might ask...the Egyptians, Palestinians or foreign nations? Heads up! Yes, the Egyptian people were and will undoubtedly forever remain, overwhelmingly grateful for the worldwide support offered on their behalf during THEIR revolution; however, let us not forget - it is and remains the Egyptian Revolution; not the American revolution, or the British Revolution, or the Aussie Revolution, or the German Revolution, or the Italian Revolution, etc.

The Egyptian Revolution belongs to Egypt and Egypt alone.  

Taking Fathy's sentiments to heart, I shared them with one of the March 4 event organizers, Ken O'Keefe, who replied, "I have already responded to this, we are working with Egyptians, including those in the uprising, and doing everything in line with their wishes. These are the same people who just shed their dictator, I am sure they can decide what they should and should not do."

I countered, "What seems to be overlooked here, again, is the fact that pre-revolution the border had been opened for several months. One of the primary reasons it has been closed in recent weeks is because of the fighting and destruction that occurred during the revolution; damage that needs time to be repaired, as in the case of anything destroyed, in addition to other matters related to security.

"Rather than contribute unnecessarily to unwarranted harm, if the march participants are truly peace-seeking, let them exercise patience and allow for the recovery and change process to run its course. Egypt is already with the Palestinian people, and the Palestinians know this; that is why they were celebrating in their own streets when Hosni Mubarak resigned.

"It stands to reason that after successfully ousting their long-standing, tyrannical president from office that, Egypt can finish cleaning up behind him without interference from outside parties where the Rafah border is concerned. The task at hand, to which the international community CAN and MUST contribute to, is lifting of the illegal Israeli imposed embargo on Gaza. And yes; as an American I have even petitioned against my own government on that count; the embargo and more."

March organizers attempted to further set out that the group was moving forward with the support of Egyptians; that it had no intention of dictating to the Egyptian people, but were working in support of their wishes vs. enforcement of their own, to which I replied, "When I see this demonstration posted on the Facebook page, "We Are All Khaled Said", that is when I will believe it is being supported and promoted by Egyptians."

Subsequently, I emailed the "We Are All Khalid Said" Facebook page administrator; a group, as of 3AM February 20, 2011, represented the collective voices of over 90,000 supporters of the Egyptian Revolution, setting out the points that Fathy outlined above, and adding, "It is, indeed, a very tenuous time here in Egypt already, and the military is already imploring [daily] for a return to as much normalcy as possible so they can do their work; something to seriously think about. The situation on the ground here in Egypt needs to become stabilized. Although this is certainly a worthy cause, it will not contribute to the stability the country needs in these days."

I received the following reply: "Completely agree Aishah. I think that Egypt needs to stabilize before we can actually say or do anything. The border is open at the moment and there is no urgency for such march at this point. I really, really, think we should wait and spend some time thinking on what is best for Egypt at this stage."

Neither Egypt nor Gaza needs an influx, albeit well-intended, of foreign nationals seizing the Rafah border on March 4.

Don't be convinced that burdening Egypt, or its military, with your presence and the added security measures it will command would be doing any favors for the citizens of Egypt or Palestine.

Give democracy the chance the Egyptians fought for; on their own terms, by their own strength in numbers, hearts filled with conviction and dreams of a better life. Now is not the time to impose on Egypt, the Egyptians, Gaza, or the Palestinians. Now is not the time.

You want to know something that is on time? Tonight news agencies reported that Egypt will open Gaza borders in both directions beginning Tuesday, February 22.

One of the last comments on the subject of the proposed march that I read tonight was this: "I decided today after hearing that the Rafah gate restrictions are already going to be eased, that I would no longer be coming to Rafah. I feel like Egypt will do it's best to make the gate free. I am so thrilled to know that my Arab brothers and sisters are free in Egypt and will be helping Palestine now. Hura Hura Falesteen! Salaam."

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Aishah Schwartz, a Muslim American, is an internationally renowned human rights activist and writer focusing on the rights of Muslim women and the plight of the Palestinian people affected by the Israeli imposed illegal embargo on Gaza. Full biography here:
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