The White House on Wednesday announced it would send over $1 billion in security assistance to Egypt. The Joe Biden administration approved the aid as several top Democratic lawmakers pushed to reduce security assistance for Egypt by $300 million. While Egyptian military dictator Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s government is creditably accused of severe human rights abuses, Cairo is the third-largest recipient of US aid.
Washington sends military aid to Egypt to bribe the government in Cairo to adopt policies favorable towards Tel Aviv. Egypt’s tight control over a key border crossing in the heavily blockaded Gaza Strip – one of few exits from the area not passing through Israeli territory – has been crucial in maintaining Tel Aviv’s dominance over 2 million Palestinians living in the crowded enclave, sandwiched between Israel and Egypt on the Mediterranean Sea.
Sisi swept to power in Egypt by killing hundreds of protesters and persecuting his political rivals. While he claims to hold elections, opposition candidates are frequently subject to imprisonment. Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s only democratically elected leader, died imprisoned by Sisi.
According to the State Department, Sisi’s government has committed a long list of serious human rights abuses:
“Unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings; forced disappearance by state security; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary detention; political prisoners or detainees; politically motivated reprisals against individuals located in another country; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious abuses in a conflict, including reportedly enforced disappearances, abductions, physical abuses, and extrajudicial killings….”
The Biden administration has slightly curbed its military support to Egypt by withholding 10 percent of the annual security assistance the US typically sends to Cario. However, just a week after scaling back the aid, the White House authorized a massive $2.5 billion weapons sale to Egypt. Wednesday’s announcement affirmed the US would cut just $130 million from the $1.3 billion in yearly aid.
Representative Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, spearheaded a letter sent to the White House calling for the aid to be curbed. Though the seven legislators who signed the letter accused Egypt of dire rights abuses, such as recent extrajudicial killings, they called for only a $300 million cut in aid to the repressive state.
The letter also praised Cairo for diplomatic engagement with Israel, which has often come at the expense of Palestinians still trapped in Gaza. “We recognize and affirm the important role Egypt has played in the Middle East, historically in the Camp David Accords and subsequent Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, being the first Arab state to recognize and normalize relations with Israel in a courageous and intrepid diplomatic endeavor,” the lawmakers added.
Though Israeli occupation forces vacated the strip in 2005, Tel Aviv’s strict control over the Gaza ‘border’ grants it nearly absolute power over its hapless residents – up to and including efforts to deliberately restrict Palestinians’ caloric intake. Egypt’s compliance has only enabled the fast-deteriorating situation in Gaza, which the United Nations once predicted would be “unlivable” by the year 2020.
A 2014 report by the Institute for Middle East Understanding outlined some of the more perverse methods of control exerted over Gaza by the Israeli state:
“In early 2006, Dov Weisglass, then a senior advisor to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, explained that Israeli policy was designed “to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” In 2012 it was revealed that in early 2008 Israeli authorities drew up a document calculating the minimum caloric intake necessary for Palestinians to avoid malnutrition so Israel could limit the number of foodstuffs allowed into Gaza without causing outright starvation.”