Not being an Israel-Palestine afficianado, it may well be that I'm missing something. But it has often struck me as strange that in all the acres of coverage of the Gaza dispute there is almost never any mention of the border with Egypt.
Thus Israel is routinely criticised for blockading Gaza - and thus starving its inhabitants of vital supplies - yet the same criticism is rarely extended to Egypt which is at least as rigorous as Israel when it comes to keeping its side of the border closed. "Israel withdrew in 2005 but has kept tight control over access in and out of Gaza and its airspace," explains a report on the BBC website - glossing over the fact that Israel has no power to control access along the southern border with Egypt. If Gaza is cut off, it is cut off by both its neighbours, not just one.
Here's the Guardian, for another example:
We do not know how many civilians died in the assault which Israel launched on Hamas in Gaza at 11.30am on Saturday, because Israel prevents foreign journalists as well as Israeli ones from entering the strip.
That should be Israel AND EGYPT.
It was reported by the Press Association yesterday that Egyptian border guards had opened fire on Palestinians who were attempting to flee the Israeli assaults by crossing into Egypt. Which, considering that (we are told) that the inhabitants of Gaza were being blown to bits indiscriminately by the wicked Israelis, seems a little bit, well, disproportionate.
An Egyptian security official said there were at least five breaches along the nine-mile border and hundreds of Palestinian residents were pouring in. At least 300 Egyptian border guards have been rushed to the area to reseal the border, the official added on condition on anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the press.
You won't have heard this on story on the BBC, any more than you would hear it on the government-controlled Egyptian media. Why not? Hamas propaganda? Unlikely: even Hamas want to talk about it. Reuters quoted Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh as saying on Saturday, "The simplest response to the massacre today is to reopen Rafah crossing once and for all. I tell our Arab brothers that the simplest response to the massacre is to end the siege."
For the Israelis, the justification for keeping the border - much of the time - closed is security. No-one questions the fact that Hamas, since it came to power in Gaza, has turned the overcrowded statelet into a terrorist camp, firing rockets into Israeli territory on an almost daily basis. Their tactic resembles that of someone who, finding himself trapped in a cage with a fierce but generally lethargic lion, thinks it's a good idea to poke the beast repeatedly with a stick - and then complains loudly when the lion turns round and starts to bite. It is an idiotic tactic as well as a cynical one. Designed to provoke Israel to acts that can be portrayed in the western media as "disproportionate" and in the Arab world as murderous aggression, it is not what one that would make any sense if Hamas actually cared about the people of Gaza - or at least if it cared about them as much as it cares about destroying Israel.
But what of Egypt? What's their excuse for blockading Gaza? In many ways, they don't need one, because their blockade goes unreported. Unlike Israel, Egypt isn't subjected to daily barrages of Iranian-supplied rockets aimed at its civilian population. On the other hand, the Egyptian government clearly has no love of Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood which for several decades now has pursued its aim of taking over Egypt and turning it into an Islamic state. Perhaps they worry that if it allowed free access to and from the territory it would effectively become part of Egypt, and that they would be forced to deal with Hamas themselves. There's little doubt (though you won't hear them publicly admit the fact) that the Egyptian authorites were delighted to get shot of the place in 1967, just as the Israelis were almost four decades later when they pulled out in 2005. I expect they're also worried about immigration, and want to keep the Americans happy. All excellent reasons, no doubt. But I can find no such good explanation for the silence about these facts in the western media.
Is it, perhaps, that an Arab regime behaving badly simply isn't news?