24 August, 2008
To the Honorable President Hosni Mubarak, Honorable Omar Suleiman, Interior Minister Habib Ibrahim El Adly and Members of Cabinet,
We, the hundreds of Palestinians waiting at the Rafah crossing in Egypt, call upon your honorable government to allow the entrance of over 600 Palestinians stuck in Egypt and separated from our homes in Gaza due to the continued Rafah border closure.
Egypt has historically played an integral and active role in the Palestinian struggle for justice, holding numerous negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli leaders, as well as between our different Palestinian political parties. We greatly appreciate this support which has meant an alleviation of some of our problems and the resumption of stalled peace discussions, as well as the continuous efforts of the Egyptian government to help reunite Palestinians.
But, as we wait and suffer, silent and out of the international spotlight, we state clearly that Palestinian suffering should not be politicized. The closure of Gaza for over one year, including the continued closure of Rafah, has created a humanitarian crisis that Egypt has a very tangible role in solving, immediately. Egypt should not partake in the immoral sanctions and border closures imposed on Palestinians, sanctions which the justice-seeking people of the international community have recognized as collective punishment imposed because Hamas is in power.
We beseech you, above all, to keep in mind that the politicians who may be sparring, vying for power, are not in the same dire situation as the thousands of civilians stuck at the border on either side, people waiting only to enter to be with families or to exit for medical treatment, schooling, work…
Our money is running out –for many it is completely depleted –as we have waited for weeks, without working. Many of us have come from countries where we have work permits, taking vacation time to visit families not seen in years. We risk losing our jobs and our residency permits, or otherwise leaving Egypt without having seen our families in Gaza. Indeed, we are now merely running on hope and faith that the border will open one day.
But we are weary and that faith is worn-out.
There are approximately 450 Palestinians in Al Arish waiting to enter Gaza. There are approximately another 100 in Cairo. Most of us have been waiting since June 1st. Others among us have been exiled in Egypt for over a year, outside of Gaza when the border was sealed closed in June 2007 after Hamas took control. Approximately 200 of the Palestinians waiting to re-enter Gaza are in dire financial circumstances, many of whom must beg for and borrow money, some of whom are sleeping in the streets. This is without even mentioning the over 3,500 terminally ill Palestinians within Gaza who await the opening of the Rafah Crossing for treatment in hospitals outside Gaza. Nor does it include the thousands of others who need to leave Gaza to study and work in other countries where they hold residency permits.
On Wednesday morning, one of the hundreds stuck in Al Arish lost his father to a chronic illness. The son had been waiting for the border to open so that his father could see his grandchild and the son could say a last goodbye. He has lost this chance. The pain of his father’s death is amplified by the knowledge that if the border had been opened two days earlier as promised, let alone months earlier, he would have been able to bid his father farewell.
It is with overwhelming sadness that we acknowledge that this man’s loss is not an isolated case. As we sit, just 50 km from our land, we ask again and again: “when will the border be opened? Why are we, the people, being punished? Will our Egyptian brothers and sisters see us waiting close but cut off from our land as our families die, get married, go on with their lives separated.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu said in May of this year that the international community’s “silence and complicity on the situation in Gaza shames us all.” As the honorable Tutu said, “Gaza needs the engagement of the outside world.” We add that Palestinians need the engagement of Egypt to open the Rafah border and end this inhumane situation.
The Palestinians waiting in Al Arish for the Rafah Crossing to Open