Don’t mess with Palestine

Don’t mess with Palestine

The Egyptian government continued its crackdown on individuals who protest in support of Palestinians on Saturday. According to the Muslim Brotherhood, at least 16 members from the group, including top-ranking leader Mohamed Abdel Ghany of the political bureau, were detained after holding a pro-Palestine demonstration in the Sharqiya governorate over what they called the “barbaric” measures of the Israeli government’s actions at the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

A statement released by the group said that hundreds of people went to the streets on Saturday morning to show their support of Palestinians who are demanding the Israeli government end its “attacks” on the holy site.

“They went to the street to voice their anger at the barbaric measures in which the Israeli Palestinian Occupation have tried to enter al-Aqsa Mosque, damaging its sanctify and injuring Palestinians defending the mosque and all that it stands for during the last week,” the Brotherhood statement said.

Abdel Ghany, who is the third-ranking Brotherhood official of the group’s political bureau, is the most recent MB leader to be arrested and detained in recent months as part of the government’s crackdown on the Islamic group. He now joins popular reform-minded leaders Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh and Gamal Heshmat in police custody, which has sparked widespread outrage among the group’s members, especially the younger generation who want to see the modernization of the country’s most popular opposition group.

“There needs to be action taken in order to show that this government’s actions cannot be let to continue and I hope the international community sees that the regime is not open and is violating human rights left and right,” said Brotherhood spokesman Mohamed Badr.

Palestine appears to be a touching issue for the Egyptian government in recent months. It has become an almost single-issue for the state security, who have deported two foreigners from Cairo International Airport over their alleged involvement in planning and participating in pro-Palestinian demonstrations.

Per Bjorklund, a Swedish journalist, and Travis Randall, an American freelance USAID consultant, were sent away from Cairo upon arrival in the country last month. The government has argued they were “planning further demonstrations in the country.” Both Bjorklund and Randall have denied any involvement in planning pro-Palestinian demonstrations, but they still remain outside Egypt, with little hope of returning in the near future.

“I just want to come home,” Randall told Bikya Masr recently after he received word from Egyptian officials that his name was not going to be removed from a list of persons not welcome in Egypt.

Egyptian activists and rights groups, both domestic and global, have called into question the Egyptian government’s crackdowns on activism, real or imagined in the country, stating that Cairo should “respect international law” and allow citizens back into the country.

Ironically, the Palestinian issue, which has been long supported verbally by Arab nations, has become red herring. Activists who show support for Palestinians are often detained and held without charges, or deported.

“We are supposed to be supporting Palestine and the government claims to be a leader in this, but their actions and arrests show us that we cannot have solidarity with our troubled brothers and sisters in Gaza or Palestine. It doesn’t make any sense,” said Kefaya activist Karim Reda earlier this year after being beaten by security forces after attending an anti-Israel protest over the Egyptian government’s decision to sell natural gas to the Jewish state at a rate well-below the international standard.

For the Brotherhood, the Palestinian cause is something they have long been in support of, but as recent actions reveal, the Egyptian government hopes to curtail any hope for protest and support, even as Egyptian diplomats hustle to achieve a reconciliation agreement between Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank.

“It is unfounded that they would act this way, when all we want to do is show our solidarity,” added Badr.