Regarding the breakout from Gaza into Egypt, I have only a sense of bafflement.
The anti-Zionists have been hammering away for months that a Gazan genocide is imminent, that Gaza is like the Warsaw ghetto, that Gazans are starving. Although I knew that the population of Gaza was burgeoning, that Gazans have visits from the likes of Daniel Barenboim, and that while a humanitarian crisis, a blight on an entire economy, a postponement of prospects, a radicalising influence on an entire generation, and a great threat to the very young, very old and ill or disabled, that the blockade is not a genocide and Gazans are not starving – despite knowing this, I have read one too many Gaza – Warsaw Ghetto comparisons. When Hamas blew holes in the wall I was inordinately relieved.
But what happened was somewhat reminiscent of those anecdotes about German and British WW1 soldiers playing football in no-man’s land on Christmas day. 300, 000 Gazans made the trip out. Then we saw crowds of people Mubarak was describing as starving returning with carpets, donkeys, cigarettes, toilet roll, apparently ready to settle back into the siege again. Were the anti-Zionists shouting at the telly? Were they shouting “Run away, be free, live again! No! No! Don’t go back! What are you doing, Gazans? Save yourselves!!” Because seriously, they weren’t acting like a population that thinks it’s in mortal danger – from Israel or Hamas.
The border was open for days – based on the picture painted by the anti-Zionists, you’d have expected them to have gathered up their families and rushed to save their skins. But there didn’t seem to be much of that. People were calmly going about the business of what was repeatedly described by the BBC as ‘stocking up‘.
It might be family ties. Or jobs (though 60% of Gazans are now unemployed). It might be nationalism – a determination to stay on their land. It might be an assessment that life in Egypt as a Palestinian would be worse than life in Gaza. What it didn’t look like was a suicidal, Spartan defiance in the face of a genocide, even a slow one.
So it’s not a genocide. All is not well with Gaza. My only point is that the everyday appearance and behaviour of the Gazans who streamed through the gaps in the border didn’t fit with the exaggerated, destitute, piteous picture the anti-Zionists paint to make us hate, rather than just criticise, Israel.