There is no doubt that the siege of the Gaza Strip is not only an Israeli siege, but it is a siege imposed by the Arab countries, with the direct involvement of Egypt.
While Israel and Egypt are the two main visible parties, there are many other states implicated in this inhuman siege, including the Arab states, European countries, and the United States.
When I write about the siege of the Gaza Strip I immediately remember the siege which was imposed on the Iraqi people after Saddam Hussein headed to Kuwait in august 1990. The world then rushed without thinking or hesitation to set up the worst embargo in history, which resulted in the death of more than a million Iraqis, most of them children, women, the weak and the sick.
The embargo on Iraq was also implemented, in a severe way, by the so-called “brother countries,” the Arab states neighboring Iraq. They were strict in controlling their borders with Iraq, preventing anything from entering the country including medicine and food.
When I compare what I saw and experienced living in Iraq during the embargo with what is happening now against the Strip, I feel that this current siege is carried out by the same so-called Arab brother countries.
The number of victims in the Strip is not comparable with the number of casualties in Iraq, but there are many reasons for this. For example, the population of the Strip is not more than one and a half million people while Iraq is more than 25 million; the period of time the siege was forced on the Gaza Strip is still shorter is than that on Iraq.
The reasoning behind the two embargoes is also different. The Arab countries shouldn't be involved in the siege of the Gaza Strip especially the Arab League pledged to do its best to left the siege. The League of course did nothing to implement this decision. Last week, for example, the Egyptian embassy in Amman refused to even receive a letter from some activists calling the end of the siege on the Strip and urging the Egyptian government to open Rafah Crossing.
Israel decided to withdraw from Gaza three years ago in a step they called ''disengagement,' but this disengagement never meant that the Strip was liberated. According to international law, the Strip is still an occupied territory which means that it is the Israeli responsibility to provide the people of the Strip with all their services and cover their basic needs. The problem is that the Israeli government refuses to deal with the Strip as it is an occupied territory and in the same time refuses to deal with it as a liberated territory.
Israel should decide if the Gaza Strip is an occupied area or not. If it is still under the Israeli occupation, then it is the Israeli responsibility, than it should pay for its occupation by providing services to the people. If not, they should leave the Gazans to decide what they want and give them free choice about who they deal with, and to move freely in and out of the Strip, and Israel should stop pressuring Egypt to continue the closure of the borders.
I would also say that the world is strongly involved with the Israeli occupation. The world has been a partner of the Israeli occupation at least since 1994 when the Palestinian Authority (PA) was established. In that bad and sad year, the international community, especially the western countries, started to say "support the PA with money and other donations.'' Yet through these donations - of money or anything else - they are aiding the Israeli state. These "donations" should be paid by Israel. When the world started to pay the bills of the occupation, they become, whether they like it or not, partners of the Israelis in this occupation.
We should remember that since the occupation of the Palestinian lands in 1967 up to 1994, Israel used to pay for public services, including health and education, in the occupied territories.
Since the establishment of the PA, nothing has changed. The Israelis are still occupying Palestinian lands, building the separation wall, demolishing homes, confiscating lands, building new and expanding old settlements, killing Palestinians, and launching arrest campaigns on a daily basis. Only now, the world started to pay what Israel should pay.
Donor countries are not partners of the Palestinian. When the Palestinians refuse to comply with the Western conditions, even if these conditions are not fair, they stop paying what they say or describe as ''donations.'' They should be ashamed of that.
* Published in Palestine's MAAN NEWS AGENCY on September 2, 2008. Rashid Shahin is a Palestinian writer and journalist based in Bethlehem.