Gaza blockade: Egyptian harassment meets readers

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ANKARA

Recounting his journey with two companions to reach the Gaza Strip through Egypt’s blockade, a co-author of the book No Way to Gaza detailed the harassment inflicted by Egyptian officials on the Brazilian trio and the Palestinian residents of the city alike.

“This adventure nearly cost us lives. One of our colleagues had a heart attack in Cairo,” Rodrigo D. E. Campos said during the virtual book launch for the chronicle on Thursday.

No Way to Gaza tells the story of a group of Brazilian filmmakers who attempted to reach the Gaza Strip via Egypt to make a documentary on the city.

The Rafah border crossing on the enclave’s southern border was supposed to be an alternative route to the Israeli-controlled Erez Crossing in the northeast.

Nevertheless, the filmmakers’ venture soon became a “dangerous adventure into the depths of Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s dictatorship and his controversial war on terror in the Sinai Peninsula,” according to Middle East Monitor Publishers.

The project failed as the three friends, Campos, Renatho Costa, and Lucas Bonatto Diaz, got entangled in Egyptian bureaucracy. 

Adventure under Egyptian Blockade

Planning to stay one day in Cairo and 25 days in Gaza to work on the documentary, the trio learned when they reached the Egyptian capital that they needed additional papers — a pursuit that would prove futile with days upon days of shuttling from office to the next.

After 25 days of bureaucratic wrangling, they were allowed to ahead, crossing the Suez Canal into the Sinai peninsula.

There, the trio faced multiple setbacks, were pushed back across the Suez three times and had to pay bribe money to soldiers just to reach the city of al-Arish roughly 45 kilometers (28 miles) from Rafah.

“Egyptian intelligence constantly followed us,” Campos said.

The next day, they arrived Rafah and were made to wait there a whole day, only to be kicked out of the town by an Egyptian military officer and returned to al-Arish where they were detained in a hotel.

Campos recounted their predicament: “We did not get any food, and had to drink water from the bathroom.”

They woke up in the morning to find an escort of 10 cars and a tank outside the hotel to take them back to Cairo.

Daily harassment of Palestinians

This account gathering the group’s anecdotes also told the story of the Palestinians who risked everything to get to their homeland.

“Everybody knows about Israeli blockades, but people don’t know that Palestinians suffer equally at the hands of the Egyptian army,” Campos lamented.

Adding that the filmmakers did not face the same degree of harassment that Palestinians suffer every day to enter and exit Gaza, such as that of a Palestinian student who had come from Sweden for the holiday, only to be detained at the border for a week, which is one of the many other stories in the book.

Detained because the Egyptian army claimed to have found material against anti-colonialism on his computer, this story is only one of many similar others in the book.

The Gaza Strip, which has been reeling under a crippling Israeli blockade — by air, land and sea — since 2007, has seven border crossings linking it to the outside world.

Six of these, including the Erez crossing, are controlled by Israel, while the seventh – the Rafah crossing — is controlled by Egypt, which keeps it tightly sealed for the most part since the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi in a 2013 military coup.

Israel sealed four of its commercial crossings with Gaza in June 2007 after Palestinian resistance movement Hamas wrested control of the strip from the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority.

*Writing by Zehra Nur Duz

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