“ Just when the Palestinians in Gaza thought they were facing this new Israeli attacks alone and with their backs against the wall, they found out they forgot, over the years, that they had brothers in Egypt who are willing not only to accompany them in their struggle against Israel but to protect their backs as well”
Dr. Ashraf Ezzat
On this very day, April 8th since 41 years the Israeli air force struck the village of Bahr el-Baqar – an Egyptian small village near Suez Canal. The raid resulted in the total destruction of an elementary school full of school children. Five bombs and 2 air-to-ground missiles struck the single-floor school. Of the 130 school children who attended the school, 46 were killed, and over 50 wounded, many of them maimed for life. The school itself was completely demolished.
That tragic day marked the first encounter of the Egyptian people with the brutality and the indiscriminate aggression of the Israelis that targeted the innocent and unarmed civilians. This air raid demolished not only the school building but also the remains of any hopes for Israel to be seen as a friendly neighbor state.
From then on Israel was the absolute enemy in the eyes of every average Egyptian.
This terrorist attack on the innocent Egyptian school children has been deeply engraved in the memory of all Egyptians. And to make sure that no one forgot what Israel had done on that day, Egyptians made April 8th a mourning day for the killed school children of Bahr el-Bakar and to be commemorated every year for the last 41 years.
Only this year it was rather different.
Egypt-Israel relations in the last 40 years
Egypt has just emerged from its worldwide celebrated revolution which managed to topple the long lasting in power dictator, Hosni Mubarak.
So many things happened in Egypt since the Israeli raid on April 8th, 1970.
- – Egypt retaliated against years of Israeli military aggression and political arrogance in the glorious October war 1973 against Israel.
- – President Sadat signed – on an individual initiative- a peace treaty with Israel 1979 (based on Camp David accords) that never managed to naturalize relations between Egyptians and Israelis.
- – Mubarak ruled Egypt since 1980 and began a long era of not only observing the terms of the peace treaty but to acting as the closest friend of Israel and the White House in the Middle East.
- – Mubarak, through his corrupt reign, helped Israel tighten its shameful siege on Gaza and even supplied Tel Aviv with the natural gas they needed for power and electricity production with prices well under the world rates. (enriching himself in the process) But his most appreciated contribution to the Zionist regime in Israel was the complete Egyptian withdrawal from actively participating in the key issues of the Arab- Israeli conflict.
Gaza under fire again
Lately, the unrest began to resurface again at the border line between Gaza and Israel. On Friday April 8th Five Palestinians have been killed and around 45 wounded in Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip following an offer of a ceasefire from Hamas after a surge in cross-border violence that was dramatically reduced by Israel and sold to the world as the usual “selective” Palestinian attack, by their most primitive handmade rockets, on a school bus – an area of specialty long mastered by the Israelis since Bahr el-Bakar school massacre.
Thus began another expected scenario of disproportionate Israeli attacks on the civilians and children in Gaza with the civilized world muted and turning a blind eye as usual.
The world has grown numb and painfully insensitive to the crimes of Israel against the Arab Palestinians in Gaza and the west bank.
And with judge Richard Goldstone bowing out and going back on his indictment of the Israeli crimes committed during the war on Gaza 2009; the world seems like a barren place for the Palestinians devoid of any free voices left to stand up against the Israeli insolence.
And just when the Palestinians in Gaza thought they were facing this new Israeli attacks alone and with their backs against the wall, they found out they forgot, over the years, that they had brothers in Egypt who are willing not only to accompany them in their struggle against Israel but to protect their backs as well.
Embassy under siege
On the very same day of April 8th and as Egyptians were protesting in Tahrir square demanding that Mubarak and his inner circle of aids to be put on trial and as the news of the Israeli attacks on Gaza made its way to the square at the heart of Cairo, thousands immediately took to the district where the Israeli embassy in Cairo is located.
Egyptians held back – by the military forces- from advancing into the building where the embassy lies practically surrounded the embassy in what seemed like a gigantic human shield. The angry protesters held flags of both Egypt and Palestine and raised big posters of al Aqsa mosque– temple mount in Jerusalem.
On a live coverage by Aljazeera of the march to the Israeli embassy- that somehow failed to make it to the news headlines- some of the protesters expressed their anger at the recent unjust Israeli attacks on Gaza and they made it clear they expected nothing less than the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador out of Egypt and taking the Israeli flag off the embassy building.
Some of the protesters went far as to demand the immediate end to the siege imposed on Gaza from the Egyptian side and a freeze of the Egyptian supply of natural gas to Israel. But the most daring request came by many protesters who called for a public referendum to allow the Egyptian people to have their say about the peace treaty president Sadat had signed 30 years ago.
Amidst that overwhelming atmosphere of antagonism to Israel and its unacceptable and inhuman war of ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians the Israeli embassy at the top floor of the building on the other side of the Nile opposite to Tahrir square found no other option than to dim out the lights and keep its staff hiding inside.
While the Egyptian crowd down in the streets were still swelling in great numbers around the embassy with the intensity of their enthusiasm rising high as they chanted for eternal solidarity with Palestinians the Israeli embassy’s lights were almost turned off with the Israeli flag kept as unapparent and way out of sight as possible.
On this April 8th night, and on the very same day that witnessed the massacre of Bahr el-Bakar the Israeli embassy with all the Israeli diplomatic mission in Cairo seemed under siege.
It must have been a terrible night for the Israeli diplomats in Cairo but at least they have experienced, even it was for few hours how it feels to be vulnerable, threatened and under relentless siege.
This public display of the Egyptian anger and dissatisfaction with the Israeli aggressive policy against the Palestinians may pass unreported by the main stream media but never unnoticed by the analysts of the Arab- Israeli conflict especially in the post-Mubarak era in Egypt, for what happened on that night of April 8th, 2011 might well depict the scene of the coming Egyptian-Israeli state of affairs.
On this day of commemoration, May the souls of innocent Egyptian and Palestinian children, massacred by the Israeli criminal forces, rest in peace.