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Date

December 26, 2009

OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT MUBARAK FROM THE GAZA FREEDOM MARCH

December 26, 2009

Dear President Mubarak;

We, representing 1,362 individuals from 43 countries arriving in Cairo to participate in the Gaza Freedom March, are pleading to the Egyptians and your reputation for hospitality.

We are peacemakers. We have not come to Egypt to create trouble or cause conflict. On the contrary. We have come because we believe that all people — including the Palestinians of Gaza — should have access to the resources they need to live in dignity. We have gathered in Egypt because we believed that you would welcome and support our noble goal and help us reach Gaza through your land.

As individuals who believe in justice and human rights, we have spent our hard-earned, and sometimes scarce, resources to buy plane tickets, book hotel rooms and secure transportation only to stand in solidarity with the Palestinians of Gaza living under a crushing Israeli blockade.

We are doctors, lawyers, students, academics, poets and musicians. We are young and old. We are Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists and secular. We represent civil society groups in many countries who coordinated this large project with the civil society in Gaza.

We have raised tens of thousands of dollars for medical aid, school supplies and winter clothing for the children of Gaza. But we realize that in addition to material aid, the Palestinians of Gaza need moral support. We came to offer that support on the difficult anniversary of an invasion that brought them so much suffering.

The idea of the Gaza Freedom March-a nonviolent march to the Israeli Erez crossing– emerged during one of our trips to Gaza in May, a trip that was kindly facilitated by the Egyptian government. Ever since the idea emerged, we have been talking to your government through your embassies overseas and directly with your Foreign Ministries. Your representatives have been kind and supportive. We were asked to furnish information about all the participants-passports, dates of birth, occupations-which we have done in good faith. We have answered every question, met every request. For months we have been working under the assumption that your government would facilitate our passage, as it has done on so many other occasions. We waited and waited for an answer.

Meanwhile, time was getting short and we had to start organizing. Travel over the Christmas season is not easy in the countries where many of us live. Tickets have to be purchased weeks, if not months, in advance. This is what all 1,362 individuals did. They spent their own funds or raised money from their communities to pay their way. Add to this the priceless time, effort and sacrifice by all these people to be away from their homes and loved ones during their festive season.

In Gaza, civil society groups–students, unions, women, farmers, refugee groups–have been working nonstop for months to organize the march. They have organized workshops, concerts, press conferences, endless meetings–all of this with their own scarce resources. They have been buoyed by the anticipated presence of so many global citizens coming to support their just cause.

If the Egyptian government decides to prevent the Gaza Freedom March, all this work and cost is lost.

And that’s not all. It is practically impossible, this late in the game, to stop all these people from travelling to Egypt, even if we wanted to. Moreover, most have no plans in Egypt other than to arrive at a predetermined meeting point to head together to the Gaza border. If these plans are cancelled there will be a lot of unjustified suffering for the Palestinians of Gaza and over a thousand internationals who had nothing in mind but noble intentions.

We plead to you to let the Gaza Freedom March continue so that we can join the Palestinians of Gaza to march together on December 31, 2009.

We are truly hopeful that we will receive a positive response from you and thank you for your assistance.

Tighe Barry, Gaza Freedom March coordinator
Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK, USA
Olivia Zemor, Euro-Palestine, France
David Torres, ECCP, Belgium
Germano Monti, Forum Palestine, Italy
Ziyaad Lunat, Gaza Freedom March, Europe
Ehab Lotayef, Gaza Freedom March, Canada
Alessandra Mecozzi, Action for Peace-Italy
Ann Wright, Gaza Freedom March coordinator
Kawthar Guediri, Collectif National pour une Paix Juste et Durable entre Palestinens et Israeliens, France
Mark Johnson, Fellowship of Reconciliation
Thomas Sommer, Focus on The Global South, India

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Egypt blamed for Gaza convoy delay

British politician George Galloway has criticised Egypt for denying a humanitarian aid convoy permission to enter the Gaza Strip.

The Viva Palestina aid convoy, containing some 210 vehicles and 500 people, is currently stranded in Jordan with Cairo refusing to allow it passage to Gaza through the Red Sea port of Nuweiba.

The lorries are laden with European, Turkish and Arab aid – both food and medical supplies.

“It’s a strange Christmas for us. We are stuck … hundreds of tonnes of aid which is desperately needed in Gaza,” Galloway said in an interview with Press TV on Friday.

“We are very sad not yet angry, but we will get angry if the days go by”.

But Hossam Zaki, an Egyptian port official, insisted that there would be “no entry from Nuweiba”, saying “entry can only be through El-Arish”.

El-Arish is a port on Egypt’s Mediterreanean coast, while Nuweiba is on the Red Sea.

The Egyptian decision means the convoy would have to travel hundreds of kilometres by ferry around the Sinai peninsula and through the Suez Canal.

Egyptian condition

In a statement, the Egyptian foreign ministry said: “The Egyptian government welcomes the passage of the convoy into the Gaza Strip on December 27, on condition that it abides by the mechanisms in place for humanitarian aid convoys to the Palestinian people.

“This includes most importantly, the entry of convoys through the port of El-Arish”.

Gaza has been under a stifling Israeli siege since a Hamas election victory and its decision to push Fatah armed forces from the territory in June 2007.

The blockade has severely restricted essential supplies and placed Gazans in a dire situation, made worse by Israel’s military assault last winter that reduced much of the territory to ruins.

According to the latest UN report on the situation in Gaza, the ongoing Israeli blockade has triggered a “protracted human dignity crisis” with negative humanitarian consequences.

“At the heart of this crisis is the degradation in the living conditions of the population, caused by the erosion of livelihoods and the gradual decline in the state of infrastructure, and the quality of vital services in the areas of health, water and sanitation, and education,” adds the report.

The anguish of the murderous occupiers: the liberal Zionism of Eric Alterman

Since I came to this country, I have always believed that the worst Zionists in the US are the liberal Zionists–because they are so bad and don’t even know it. They are bad and yet they think they are good. Right-wing Zionists in the US are blatantly racists and are bigoted toward Arabs and Muslims and make no bone about it. Not the case with liberal Zionists. Take this guy, Eric Alterman: I have mentioned him before. He is callous and insensitive toward the Palestinians but yet have a very high opinion of himself as a sensitive liberal when all his writings on the Palestinians and Arabs in general drip with racism and contempt for the natives. And I can tell you this: whenever I read in any article the use of the word “anguish” I know immediately what I will get. As in: “Israeli anguish is also front and center.” This word is used always to imply that the suffering of the oppressed and occupied matches the suffering of the murderous occupiers because when they kill (as in the movie Waltz with War Crimes) they sometimes spend sleepless nights and that you therefore should show sympathy for the killers because the killing business sometimes distress them. And then this Alterman guy argues that the lives of the Palestinians under Israeli occupation in the West Bank is not bad. His evidence? A reporter for the occupiers in Haaretz. What is the difference between this contention by Alterman and those white supremacist writers in the 19th century who argued that slaves are content and that they should be left in their conditions of slavery. But then again: what do you expect from somebody who seeks the moral voice in the writings of Amos Oz, who more than anybody else in contemporary Zionist writings popularized the dehumanization of the Palestinian people? Amos Oz who never met a war (including the Israeli war on Lebanon in 2006 and the recent war on Gaza) by Israel that he did not endorse: although he usually comes out towards the end of every war to say, that Israel has rightly killed enough Arabs and now may stop. That is considered by Alterman and by other Zionist advocates of Israeli supremacy as a moral stance.

update Viva Palestina

Dear friends and comrades,

As most of you know, the Viva Palestina humanitarian aid convoy has been forcibly trapped in Aqaba, Jordan as the Egyptian authorities have denied them entry. Convoy members are in high spirits and have requested that we contact our embassies and local MPs to contact the Egyptian authorities and grant them safe passage through Egypt to Gaza.

TEMPLATE LETTER:

[Your address]

Dear ——

I have been following the progress of a convoy taking aid to the Gaza strip. The convoy consists of over 200 vehicles carrying many thousands of pounds worth of aid, and has been organized by Viva Palestina and Code Pink. Many of the activists taking part have gone from the United Kingdom.

It has recently come to my attention that Egyptian authorities have blocked the progress of the convoy by denying entry to Egypt. The convoy is currently waiting in Jordan to be permitted to board a ferry across the Red Sea. I have heard from one person in the convoy who has described how they are cold and have little access to food at the moment.

I am kindly requesting that you use your position and influence to help us persuade the Egyptian authorities to permit the convoy to pass safely. This is very important to me, both for my hope that the people in Gaza will receive the much-needed aid, and also out of concern for my friends in the convoy.

Kind regards,

[Your full name]

CONTACTS:

Your local MP: http://www.facebook.com/l/457ba;findyourmp.parliament.uk/

Egyptian Embassy in London
020 7499 3304/2401
eg.emb_london@mfa.gov.eg

Jeremy Corbyn (Labour MP for Islington North)
corbynj@parliament.uk
020 7561 7488

Clare Short (Independent MP for Birmingham Ladywood)
shortc@parliament.uk
020 7219 4264/4148

David Miliband (Foreign Secretary/Labour MP for South Shields)
milibandd@parliament.uk
(0191) 456 8910

Nick Clegg (Leader of Lib Dems, MP for Sheffield Hallam)http://www.facebook.com/l/457ba;www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/dec/22/lift-the-gaza-blocade-nick-clegg
nickclegg@sheffieldhallam.org.uk
cleggn@parliament.uk

British Embassy in Egypt
Tel: +(20)(2)27916000
information.cairo@fco.gov.uk

NB. The embassy email addresses are only meant for information, so you could include a kind note to forward the message to the appropriate diplomatic staff.

Huge thank you to the Queen Mary University of London Palestine Solidarity Society for providing this information.

Please share this note with your friends and let us do everything we can to help our comrades, who are tired and cold waiting for a ferry to Egypt!

IN SOLIDARITY!

———————
Alice Howard
Viva Palestina UK – Administration Manager
Tel: 07944 512 469
Email: alice@vivapalestina.org
Website: http://www.vivapalestina.org/

update Gaza Freedom March

December 25, 2009
Dear Gaza Freedom March delegates,
We’re here in Cairo and things are hopping. People are coming in from all over the world with all sorts of great ideas. Can’t wait to see you all here!!!
As you may have heard, the Egyptian government has denied our request to go into Gaza and has cancelled our permits for our orientation at the College Holy Family for December 27 at 7pm.
To update people we will do briefings each morning at 8:30 am, starting on Sunday, at the Lotus Hotel, Sun Hotel and Select Hotels and share evolving plans. We have come too far to be tourists as the Egyptian Government has suggested. Recognizing that our creativity and flexibility are one of our most powerful tools we are exploring new and exciting ways to get our message out and keep the pressure on!
This may mean some increased risks. We are asking you and your group, if you are part of one, to consider what kinds of risks you may be willing to take. In theory any gathering over six people is considered illegal. But challenging laws is part of our work and the worse consequence you could expect is arrest and deportation which becomes an action itself.
If we do it right, this may be politically difficult for Egypt to do. We need people who are willing to take such risks, people who are willing to support them and people who will take minimal to no risks. No matter what risk you are willing to take, there is important work for you to do here.
Around the world people are watching and are taking action demanding that Egypt open the border.

Plans for December 27
Commemoration of the Dead of Gaza on the One Year Anniversary of the Israeli Attack
For those delegates in Cairo on December 27, from 11 am to 1pm, delegates can go individually or in small groups to the 6 October Bridge to tie flowers or letters with the names of the dead on the wrungs of the bridge on the south side of the bridge facing Semiramis Hotel. Talk with your group leader or the coordinator in your hotel (Select Hotel-Lisa Fithian; Sun Hotel-Billy Kelly; Lotus-Ann Wright)

In a more concerted effort to commemorate those killed in Gaza during the Israeli attack on Gaza, we are going to meet at 4:30pm on December 27 on the Nile River Corniche across from the Grand Hyatt hotel. We are going to take tens of feluccas (Nile river boats that hold 25 people each) onto the Nile and place 1400 lighted candles in bio degradeable “boats” /baskets into the Nile that will then float down the river.
While we are in the boats, we will have group coordinators on each felucca to brief delegates on plans for the week. You can also purchase your Gaza Freedom March t-shirts $10 each. These will be important for the rest of the week.
December 28, 2009
Our 85 year old Holocaust survivor Edy Epstein will begin a hunger strike demanding that Egypt open the border. Other hunger strikers are welcome! We are asking delegates to wear their Gaza Freedom T-shirt and converge promptly at 11 AM in Taher Square. Everyone is encouraged to support this action by holding the space, whether that be in the Square or surrounding sidewalks.
More actions after December 28 will be discussed at the morning meetings.
Lodging and Food
To give delegates more freedom of movement, we will return 50% of the monies paid to the Gaza Freedom march so delegates can use that money to pay for their own lodging and food whether you stay in Cairo or go towards the border—or get into Gaza!!!
Delegates are responsible for extending their stays in lodging they are in, or finding new housing. For those who need very, very inexpensive lodging, there are dormitory rooms available and we can provide information.
We will ask group leaders to assist us in returning funds to members of their group. For those not in any group, please see Ann Wright.
We are thrilled that you are coming to Cairo for the people of Gaza!
Despite all the changes, this is an experience you and the people of Gaza will never forget!!!

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