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Thursday, January 24, 2008

BULLETIN: Palestinians bust Israeli blockade, break out of Gaza into Egypt.

HISTORY IN THE NEWS:



History never dies. It is reborn every minute of every day.

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DEDICATED TO THE ORIGINS OF CONTEMPORARY EVENTS AROUND THE WORLD.



Gaza and Egypt have ancient links. After Hamas dynamites the wall separating Gaza from Egypt, Palestinians, reduced to desperation by the Israeli blockade break out into Egyptian territory in search of food, building materials and other supplies. Israel, frustrated in its attempt to stop rocket fire into Israeli settlements had attempted to starve Gaza into submission. Egypt, for its part, walks a fine line: on the one hand, heeding popular Egyptian opinion by helping the stream of Gazans entering Egypt and on the other, supporting tough US and Israeli policy on Palestine.

Gaza has been linked to Egypt for thousands of years. Two developments of the early twentieth century- the return of the Jews to Palestine and the transformation of the Muslim provinces of the Ottoman Empire into nation states naturally reproduced geopolitical tensions similar to those in precisely the same regions in antiquity. For Israel, in modern times as in early biblical times there was the question of war or peace with the great power of Egypt. And the hostile land of the Philistines on the Mediterranean coast is now rebellious Gaza.


Habitation in Gaza goes back to 1,500 BCE. It was first an Egyptian garrison town, then a Philistine city state. A crucial deep water Mediterranean port and trading city for the Philistines and all who came to occupy it, Gaza was also a meeting place for Syrian and Egyptian caravans. It was the site of the biblical temple of Dagon said to have been brought down by Samson. The city was part of the Persian Empire from 559-330 BCE. In 330, when Alexander the Great seized the Levantine coast from Persia, only Gaza put up serious resistance. In the end Gaza fell, and Alexander had Batis, the Persian governor, dragged around the city behind a chariot, in memory of Achilles’ vengeance on Hector. Alexander also enslaved the population. Thenceforward ruled by the Seleucid Greeks, the city was put under seige by the Sleucids at the time of the revolt of the Maccabees. The city proper dates from Herod the Great's building projects in Gaza around 20 BCE. It was part of the Roman Empire. From the fifth century AD it was ruled by the Byzantines, with a brief interlude of rule by the Sassanian Persians. In 635, Gaza was taken in the Arab Muslim conquest; it was also the alleged burial site of the Prophet Muhammad’s great grandfather, Hashem Ibn Abdul Manaf. After 1099, during the Crusades, it was taken and retaken by Christians and Muslims. After around 13oo, Gaza was ruled by the Mamelukes of Egypt before being taken by the Ottoman Empire 1517. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, it became part of the British Mandate of Palestine. In the wake of the war that ensued in 1948, upon the creation of the state of Israel, a strip of territory of which Gaza was the capital, was occupied by Egypt. It was from there that the early Palestinian leader Amin Husayni attempted and failed to found a Palestinian state in 1948. During the Suez Cisis, when Egypt's Nasser occupied the Suez Canal, Israel briefly occupied Gaza before taking it permanently in the 1967 war. Afterward it filled rapidly with refugee camps and suffered from deep poverty and lack of infrastructure, the general misery only feeding the fire of radicalism. In 1981, Israel allowed Gaza to have a civilian administration. The First Intifada began in Gaza, the result of a car accident. In 1994, Israel withdrew its military adminstration of the strip. After the end of the Natanyahu government in 1999, Israel committed itself to providing Gaza with proper port facilities and an airport. But little progress has been made.
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