Ahmed Moor, The Electronic Intifada, 21 January 2010
Egypt is constructing a subterranean wall along the border with Gaza. (The Electronic Intifada)
The Campaign to Stop the Wall of Shame, a newly-formed activist movement based in Beirut, Lebanon, held a press conference this morning to publicize the Arab Contractors construction company’s role in the building of an underground steel wall along the Egypt-Gaza border.
Since June 2006, following the Palestinian legislative elections, Israel has imposed nearly total closure of the Gaza Strip — also enforced by Egypt — preventing the normal movement of goods and people to and from the territory. A smuggling trade has emerged as a result, via tunnels running between Gaza and Egypt. Egypt’s construction of the underground border wall is designed to undermine the tunnel trade, cutting off Palestinians in Gaza from what has become a lifeline.
The alleged role of Arab Contractors in assembling the steel wall was first reported by Al-Jazeera and Egyptian journalist Lina Attalah. Local sources identified the Egyptian company by name. According to the BBC, the wall’s steel panels were engineered and manufactured in the US. Press reports also implicate French engineers in the construction of the wall.
The campaign has attempted to independently confirm the company’s role in constructing and assembling the wall. After an initial call to the company’s Cairo headquarters, activist Abir Saksouk-Sasso sent a letter to the company on 8 January 2010. On 12 January, activist Rania Masri received a call from the Egyptian Embassy’s Consul General in Beirut, Ahmad Hilmi, who said of Arab Contractors’ role in the building of the wall: “It is an Egyptian government company, and [building the wall] is an Egyptian decree.”
Responding to the campaign’s concerns about the subterranean wall’s impact on the population of the besieged Gaza Strip, Hilmi said, “We have never hurt Palestinians.” He added, “All Palestinians — each one — in Gaza is fine.”