On 13 May 2011, just four months after mass protests had forced Hosni Mubarak out of power, Egyptian protesters from different political orientations gathered in Tahrir to mark the Nakba day.
Tens of thousands of young protesters gathered: Nasserists from the Al Karama party, the April 6 Youth Movement, the Youth in Support of Al Baradei, and young members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Their message was clear: complete solidarity with the Palestinians, a united stand against the Israeli violence meted out to civilians in Gaza and the West Bank, and the Zionist ideology. The groups – who also united under the Revolutionary Youth Coalition – released a statement saying: “We affirm our complete support for the right of the Palestinian Arab people and their right to use whatever means of resistance to achieve their rights”.
But more than two years later, another wave of protests, followed by a military takeover, removed Mohamed Morsi from power and the cards were flipped. The removal of the Muslim Brotherhood from the highest echelons of state power hindered relations between Egypt and Hamas.
Hamas is a very valuable card when it comes to Egyptian diplomacy and if Qatar funds Hamas, it is with Israeli approval because jihadists need to be contained and this also comes through sustaining the administration of Hamas.
The new government led by Adly Mansour, with Abdelfattah al-Sisi as minister of defense, mistrusted Hamas and claimed the movement was a proxy of the Muslim Brotherhood. They claimed that the Palestinian islamists, who control the dense Gaza strip today, smuggled weapons to the Brotherhood and were involved in terrorist attacks in Sinai; reports that were emphasised by Egyptian talkshows and newspapers.
This has simultaneously led to a campaign of demonisation against Palestinians and the halting of contacts between the Egyptian General Intelligence and Hamas, that has been in power since 2007. This led to the closure of the Rafah borders, the only route for smuggled goods and medical aid to go in. The Egyptian military also destroyed at least 80% of tunnels linking the two territories, to establish stricter controls over the borders.