‘CiF’ contributor: Israel launched Operation Cast Lead “from the heart of Cairo”

Electronic Intifada contributor Rana Baker just published a commentary at ‘Comment is Free’ (‘Egypt’s coup does not bode well for Palestinians‘, July 10), which should have been titled ‘Egypt’s coup does not bode well for Hamas‘ – for it’s the autocratic leadership in Gaza City whose fortunes clearly evoke her sympathies.

However, whilst the essay itself – arguing that, whichever political movement ultimately attains power in Cairo, the Islamist led territory will suffer – is unspectacular, the opening paragraph contained two remarkably dishonest claims.  Baker writes, thusly:

When Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February 2011, Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip joined the celebrations of millions of Egyptians. Mubarak, after all, was the enforcer of Israel’s siege on Gaza and allowed Tzipi Livni, then Israeli foreign minister, to initiate “Operation Cast Lead” from the heart of Cairo.

The first claim, that Mubarak enforced Israel’s siege on Gaza – suggesting that his decision to keep the Rafah crossing mostly closed after Hamas ousted Fatah was made at the behest of Israel – is extremely dishonest, imputing Israeli control over Egypt’s government and ignoring the real factors, such as Cairo’s refusal to recognize Hamas due to concern over their own Islamist opposition. 

As AP reported in 2009:

[Egyptian Foreign Minister] Aboul Gheit repeated Egypt’s argument that it cannot open Rafah unless Abbas’ Palestinian Authority – which runs the West Bank – controls the crossing and international monitors are present.

He said Hamas wants Rafah opened because it would represent implicit Egyptian recognition of the militant group’s control of Gaza. Of course this is something we cannot do, Aboul Gheit said, because it would undermine the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority and consecrate the split between Gaza and the West Bank.

Further, whatever additional considerations were at play in Egypt’s policy vis-a-vis the Rafah crossing, to suggest that Jerusalem was pulling Cairo’s strings borders on conspiracy.  

However, the second claim made by Baker in the sentence – that Mubarak “allowed” former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni “to initiate Operation Cast Lead from the heart of Cairo” – is even more bizarre.  Indeed, Baker’s link from the sentence leads to a Guardian report which doesn’t even suggest such a thing.

The only report even hinting at this seems to be a 2010 WikiLeaks cable (from the U.S. State Department) which claimed that “Israel had tried to coordinate Operation Cast Lead with Egypt and Fatah, offering to allow [Egypt] and the Palestinian faction to take control of Gaza after an Israeli defeat of Hamas.” However, the report concludes by stating quite clearly that “the GOI [government of Israel] received negative answers from both.” The WikiLeaks document does include a vague and unsurprising observation that “Israel, the PA and Egypt were in contact before [Cast Lead],” but nothing to support Baker’s absurd allegation that Livni launched Cast Lead “from the heart of Cairo.”

Baker’s dishonest narrative alleging Israeli control of Arab lives – in an essay which, interestingly, doesn’t appear on the Guardian’s Israel page – may play well on the streets of Cairo and Gaza City, but you have to scratch your head over the credulity in the face of such risible claims by “professional” editors in London.  

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