Egyptian-Israel peace process stumbles over itself

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While most of the world was focusing on the Palestinians who protested against Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque, very few paid attention to the Palestinians who were killed the same day by Israeli forces.

In fact, nearly everyday, Israeli soldiers raid a Palestinian civilian area and kill Palestinian civilians and no one cares. Well, if they do care, we don’t hear about it because the Israeli-embedded American news media doesn’t report much about it.

But the media did report extensively on the so-called "Palestinian extremists" who booed, jeered and even shoved Maher while he attempted to pray at the al-Aqsa Mosque, a place that is denied to most Christian and Muslim Palestinians from even visiting, let alone praying.

An Israeli force consisting of hundreds of soldiers and 40 Israeli tanks, dozens of assault helicopters and even a few jets for safekeeping raided the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip the same day that Maher was at the mosque.

During the raid, eight Palestinians were killed including at least five civilians. More than 41 other Palestinian civilians people were wounded by Israeli gunfire, hospital officials said.

Four of the injured were in critical condition, hospital officials said. One of those killed, Ahmed Majar, 32, was a Palestinian police officer heading to his job at the Rafah border crossing. He was shot in the head, his family said. I wonder when the last time Majar was allowed by Israel to pray at the Haram al Ash Sharif?

The Israelis offered the same excuse they always offer: they were trying to expose underground tunnels used for terrorist attacks (that have not taken place in more than a month) and they will continue the attacks.

The Associated Press reported that refugee camp residents fled the area in their pajamas as Israeli snipers fired from rooftops. Helicopters flew overhead and fired missiles that destroyed at least seven civilian houses.

Although some newspapers made mention of the terrorist attacks by the Israeli government, few included any of these details. But all included great detail about Maher’s tragic confrontation, as the pro-Israel American media certainly hoped the stories might drive a wedge between the Egyptian government and the Palestinian cause.

Maher was taken to a hospital. Thank God he was not seriously hurt. I wonder if, during his brief hospital stay to care for the mental stress he experienced, he bumped into the corpses of the Palestinians killed by Israel’s assault, like Majar, or maybe had a chance to see any of the survivors of the attacks.

Maybe, if Maher had a chance to see this kind of Israeli terrorism firsthand, he would have been able to report back to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. I wonder if it would have made a difference in how Egypt views Israel’s current government.

Maher was just trying to pray at the al-Aqsa Mosque, which is where Ariel Sharon, surrounded by hundreds of fully armed Israeli police and soldiers, stormed in September 2000 provoking the current Intifada. This second Intifada is named in honor of the al-Aqsa Mosque and that Sharon inspired act of terrorism.

The plaza where the al-Aqsa Mosque is also home to the Dome of the Rock. Israeli soldiers have controlled the plaza, known as the Haram al- Ash Sharif to Palestinians, ever since it was occupied by force in the 1967 war. During that time, only a few Christian and Muslim Palestinians are allowed to pray at the mosques. Most are denied access.

It’s Israel’s very clever way to avoid the claims it made against the Arabs who prevented travelers with Israeli passports or visas from visiting the same area, which is adjacent to the Wailing Wall prior to 1967. By allowing a few to visit the plaza, the Israelis can argue that they do not prevent people from visiting there. Only most Palestinians.

When Palestinians try to access the plaza, they are beaten and viciously assaulted, an experience that far exceeds the threat that faced Maher when he visited there escorted by Israeli soldiers and police. Maybe it was the image of this Arab subservience to Israel that enraged the protestors who confronted Maher. Maybe it was the fact that everyday, Palestinian civilians are murdered by Israeli soldiers on the trumped up claims of "battling terrorism."

I thought the Wall, which CBS 60 Minutes brushes off as "mostly a fence," was supposed to prevent this kind of terrorism from occurring. If it is a fence, it is offensive and certainly towers above any fence in terms of height and razor wire bundles that I have ever seen.

After Maher’s roughing-up, Israel and the Egyptians leaked word that Israel’s leader, Ariel Sharon, would agree to a cease-fire if the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire.

But that seems pretty far-fetched. Sharon has also already agreed to stop building new settlements and the confiscation of Palestinian owned lands, but the land confiscations and the construction of new settlements – which racistly exclude Christians and Muslims – have continued at a frenzied pace under Sharon exposing his promises as more lies.

Maybe Maher should have visited these settlements, protested there, and prayed there for peace. Maybe Maher should have joined the Palestinians in solidarity to protest Israel’s continued state terrorism and the killing of innocent Palestinian civilians. Maybe Maher should go back to Cairo and sit down with President Mubarak and design a new foreign policy, one based on fairness and justice.

I’m sorry Maher was "roughed up." But I cry for the Palestinian civilians who were murdered by Israel’s military and I pray that a new Israeli government driven by respect for human life will someday replace Sharon’s government.

I wonder what Maher was praying for?

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