The Sinai Peninsula is burning this week, and not only because of the oppressive desert heat. Egypt has deployed troops, tanks, armored cars and attack helicopters to the ostensibly “demilitarized” zone, in efforts to snuff out — and stamp out — what the foreign press calls “militants.”
These “militants” are actually terrorists with blood on their hands and jihad in their hearts. But let’s not nitpick over terminology.
Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi is not concerning himself with linguistic nuances. He is busy giving orders to track down and kill anybody suspected of having a part in the massacre of 16 border policemen whose throats were slit and torsos riddled with bullets just as they finished breaking their daily Ramadan fast.
He is also letting his army loose on the area to signal to all radical Islamist groups who are not under his direct control that there is a new sheriff in town — one who knows their tricks inside and out.
These terrorists include members of Hamas, who have been running the show ever since Israel relinquished control of the Philadelphi Corridor (a narrow strip of land situated along the border between Egypt and Gaza), as part of the 2005 disengagement from Gaza. In the absence of Israeli security and settlements in the Gaza Strip, and with lax policing on the part of Egypt along its own border with the radical Palestinian enclave, a vacuum was created.
This vacuum enabled Palestinian terrorists from Gaza to build tunnels to Sinai, virtually unhindered. The tunnels became the conduit for the smuggling of contraband, such as drugs, and for massive amounts of weaponry. Israel’s attempts to put a stop to this were not fruitful, and members of the Egyptian police were undoubtedly getting their palms greased by drug lords and terrorists on either side of the tunnels, to keep them looking the other way.
It clearly never occurred to the Egyptian police that they, one day, would end up being targeted by those very terrorists, and murdered by those very arms. After all, whatever the internecine strife among the neighboring Arab populations to the south of the Jewish state, they all hated Israel.
Morsi hates Israel, too. But his honor was badly bruised this week — and that is a major no-no in Muslim Brotherhood-land. That the new Egyptian president was booed by families of the slain guards made his wrath all the more potent. And he went apoplectic when he learned that his chief of intelligence, Murad Muwafi, had been tipped off by Israel about the impending attack — but had chosen not to act on the information, because he “never imagined that a Muslim would kill his Muslim brother at iftar" (the meal breaking the fast).
So the first thing he did was to sack Muwafi and North Sinai Governor Abdel Wahab Mabrouk. His next step was to begin to block all the tunnels and close the Rafah border crossing, while going into the Sinai with all his guns blazing.
Poor Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. None of his assurances that Gazans had nothing to do with the attack on the Egyptian police made any difference. Nor have his appeals to keep the tunnels and the Rafah crossing open for “humanitarian purposes” had the desired effect.
It must have slipped Haniyeh’s mind that his buddy, Morsi, is an Islamist himself, not an American, European or Israeli leftist who goes weak at the knees when told that the people in Gaza will suffer if their “lifeline” is severed. When their “lifeline” threatens Morsi’s rule, they can all drop dead, as far as he is concerned.
Where, you may ask, is the “international community”? Why is it not uttering a peep at this turn of events?
Not to worry; help is on the way. A new “ship to Gaza” group — backed primarily by Swedes and Norwegians — is about to set sail for Gaza from Oslo on Tuesday. Organizers say they hope that other boats will join the protest along the way over the course of the two months it will take to reach its destination.
The group’s Norwegian leader, Torstein Dahle, defined the seaborne mission as follows: “We have the same goal as the previous flotillas, to put an end to the blockade of Gaza by challenging the Israeli navy.”
This must be comforting to Morsi. While he is in the process of sealing every nook and cranny connecting Egypt to Gaza — in addition to bombarding the “demilitarized” Sinai with everything he’s got — Western apologists for Palestinian terrorism are still going after Israel.
Ruthie Blum is the author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the 'Arab Spring,'” now available on Amazon and in bookstores in Europe and North America.