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I have a parallel blog in French at http://anniebannie.net

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December 2009

Gaza aid convoy to change course

Egypt accused the French protesters of lying and trying to embarrass it [AFP]

Organisers of Viva Palestina aid convoy, which is trying to reach the Gaza Strip, have now agreed to go via Syria en route for Egypt.

The agreement came after a Turkish mediator reached a deal with the Egyptian consul in Jordan’s Red Sea port of Aqaba.

The convoy will now head to the Syrian port of Latakia to sail from there to the Egyptian port of El Arish, and then to Gaza.

Viva-Palestina which have been stranded in Aqaba for five days is led by George Galloway, a British MP.

Turkey dispatched an official on Saturday to try convince the Egyptians to allow the convoy to go through the Red Sea port of Nuweiba, the most direct route to Gaza after Egypt insisted that the convoy can only enter through El-Arish, on its Mediterranean coast.

Viva Palestina and another convoy, The Gaza Freedom March, were planning to arrive on Sunday to commemorate the first anniversary of Israel’s war on Gaza that killed 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.

Meanwhile, at least 300 French participants of the Gaza Freedom March spent the night camped out in front of their embassy in Cairo, bringing a major road in the Egyptian capital to a halt as riot police wielding plexiglass shields surrounded them.

Egypt angry

Hossam Zaki, an Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman, accused the French protesters of lying and trying to embarrass Egypt.

In depth

[http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/12/2009122703616634537.html CTRL + Click to follow link]
‘Fighting to break Gaza siege’
Video: Gaza aid held up in Jordan
“They claimed they had aid to carry to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, which is a lie,” the MENA news agency quoted Zaki as saying.

“They want media exposure and to pressure and embarrass Egypt,” he said.

On Sunday, police briefly detained 38 international participants in the Sinai town of El-Arish, organisers said.

“At noon (1000 GMT) on December 27, Egyptian security forces detained a group of 30 activists in their hotel in El-Arish as they prepared to leave for Gaza, placing them under house arrest.

“Another group of eight people, including American, British, Spanish, Japanese and Greek citizens, were detained at the bus station of El-Arish in the afternoon of December 27,” they said.

On Sunday, Egyptian police also stopped some 200 protesters from renting boats on the Nile to hold a procession to commemorate those who died in the Gaza war.

On December 31, participants are hoping to join Palestinians “in a non-violent march from northern Gaza to the Erez-Israeli border,” the organisers said.
Source: Agencies
———————
Alice Howard

Gaza Freedom Marchers Walled in Behind Police Barricade in Front of UN Office in Cairo

CAIRO, Egypt – December 28 – Hundreds of activists staged a sit-in outside the United Nations building in Cairo demanding that the world body intervene to facilitate their entry into Gaza.

Egyptian security forces surrounded the demonstration while protesters chanted slogans calling for an end to the Israeli siege. A delegation headed by Filipino senator Walden Bello held negotiations with UN representatives to ask for safe entry into Gaza for all marchers. UN attempts to reach out to the Egyptian government did not yield results, but the UN officials agreed to try to set up a meeting with the Foreign Ministry’s Chief of Staff and to deliver the groups’ letter to President Mubarak.

Protestors dispersed at the end of the day promising to return with more creative actions. Eleven marchers – four Spanish, three Egyptians, one German, one Italian, one American and one northern Irish – vowed to spend the night at the UN building. Egyptian forces are surrounding them and there are fears for their safety.

Meanwhile, Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, 85, began a hunger strike to call the world’s attention to the current impasse. She was joined by eleven other hunger strikers.

“We are determined to enter Gaza, the criminal siege cannot continue”, said Ziyaad Lunat of the Gaza Freedom March organizing committee.
###


Greta Berlin
http://www.freegaza.org

US campaign for academic boycott gaining strength

Press release, United States Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, 24 December 2009
The following press release was issued by the United States Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) on 23 December 2009:

27 December 2009 marks the one-year anniversary of the beginning of “Operation Cast Lead,” Israel’s 22-day assault on the captive population of Gaza, which killed 1,400 people, one third of them children, and injured more than 5,300. During this war on an impoverished, mostly refugee population, Israel targeted civilians, using internationally-proscribed white phosphorous bombs, deprived them of power, water and other essentials, and sought to destroy the infrastructure of Palestinian civil society, including hospitals, administrative buildings and UN facilities. It targeted with peculiar consistency educational institutions of all kinds: the Islamic University of Gaza, the Ministry of Education, the American International School, at least ten UNRWA schools, one of which was sheltering internally displaced Palestinian civilians with nowhere to flee, and tens of other schools and educational facilities.

While world leaders have tragically failed to come to Gaza’s help, civilians everywhere are rallying to show their solidarity with the Palestinian people, with anniversary vigils taking place this week in New York, Washington DC, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles, and many more cities and towns in the US and world-wide.

The United States Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel was formed in the immediate aftermath of Operation Cast Lead, bringing together educators of conscience who were unable to stand by and watch in silence Israel’s indiscriminate assault on the Gaza Strip and its educational institutions. Today, over 500 US-based academics, authors, artists, musicians, poets and other arts professionals have endorsed our call. Our academic endorsers include postcolonial critics and transnational feminists Chandra Talpade Mohanty and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Indigenous scholars J. Kehaulani Kauanui and Andrea Smith, philosopher Judith Butler, Black studies scholars Cedric Robinson, Fred Moten, evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers, and intellectual historian Joseph Massad.

“Cultural workers” who have endorsed our call include well known author Barbara Ehrenreich, The Electronic Intifada cofounder Ali Abunimah, poets Adrienne Rich and Lisa Suhair Majjaj, International Solidarity Movement cofounder and documentary filmmaker Adam Shapiro, Jordan Flaherty of Left Turn Magazine, and Adrienne Maree Brown of the Ruckus Society.

Among the 34 organizations supporting our mission are and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, the Green Party, Code Pink, INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, Artists Against Apartheid and Teachers Against the Occupation.
The Advisory Board of the United States Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) has grown to include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Hamid Dabashi, Lawrence Davidson, Bill Fletcher Jr., Glen Ford, Mark Gonzales, Marilyn Hacker, Edward Herman, Annemarie Jacir, J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Robin Kelley, Ilan Pappe, James Petras, Vijay Prashad, Andrenne Rich, Michel Shehadeh and Lisa Taraki.

Israeli academics listed among the organization’s International Endorsers have also joined us, including Emmanuel Farjoun, Hebrew University; Rachel Giora, Tel Aviv University; Anat Matar, Tel Aviv University; Kobi Snitz, Technion; and Ilan Pappe now at Exeter.

The USACBI Mission Statement calls for a boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions in support of an appeal by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. Individual Israelis are not targeted by the boycott.

Specifically, supporters are asked to:

(1) Refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions that do not vocally oppose Israeli state policies against Palestine;

(2) Advocate a comprehensive boycott of Israeli institutions at the national and international levels, including suspension of all forms of funding and subsidies to these institutions;

(3) Promote divestment and disinvestment from Israel by international academic institutions;

(4) Work toward the condemnation of Israeli policies by pressing for resolutions to be adopted by academic, professional and cultural associations and organizations;

(5) Support Palestinian academic and cultural institutions directly without requiring them to partner with Israeli counterparts as an explicit or implicit condition for such support.

This boycott, modeled upon the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement that put an end to South African apartheid, is to continue until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by:

1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;

2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

Update on the Viva Palestina convoy

Joti Brar 26 December at 21:00 Reply
The Egyptians have placed three conditions on the convoy if it wants to enter Egypt.

1. We hand all our vehicles and aid over to UNWRA.

2. We drive 500 miles abck to Syria, and take a 24-hour ferry through the Suez Canal. (Actually, we would have to hire five boats, since the port of Al Ariesh couldn’t handle a boat big enough for the convoy.)

3. We have to ask Israel for permission to cross from Egypt to Gaza.

All three conditions have been flatly rejected by everyone on the convoy, as we want to cross into Gaza and hand our aid over to the Palestinians ourselves.

Would you phone Canada to ask permission to enter the US? Would you ask France for permission to go to Germany? For the first time, Egypt has now openly admitted that it is subject to control of Israel/US.

Urgent: take action for Gaza

Ban Ki-Moon: Gaza reconstruction not being addressed

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said more must be done to repair damage done in the Gaza Strip by Israeli military action one year ago.
Mr Ban said Gazans were being denied “basic human rights” and urged Israel to end its “unacceptable and counterproductive blockade”.
He said Israeli well-being depended on conditions improving in the enclave.
Rallies are being held across Gaza to mark a year since the conflict, in which 1,400 Palestinians were killed.
In comments posted on the UN’s website, Mr Ban said he was “deeply concerned that neither the issues that led to this conflict nor its worrying aftermath are being addressed”.
He said that while levels of violence had been low in the past year, there was still no durable ceasefire after Operation Cast Lead and Gazans were “denied basic human rights”.
“The quality and quantity of humanitarian supplies entering Gaza is insufficient, broader economic and reconstruction activity is paralysed,” said Mr Ban.
‘Hopelessness’
Under Israel’s blockade of Gaza, only basic humanitarian supplies are allowed in, meaning Gazans have not been able to obtain materials to repair damaged homes, buildings and infrastructure.
The UN Relief and Works agency (UNRWA) in Gaza told the BBC that public health was suffering as a result of inadequate and unsanitary water supplies, and there had been a rise in infant mortality.

UNRWA spokesman Christopher Gunness said thousands of tonnes of sewage were being pumped into the sea every day, because material for rebuilding treatment plants and other facilities was so scarce.
An international humanitarian aid convoy of some 200 vehicles is hoping to mark the anniversary by delivering supplies to Gaza.
The convoy is currently in Jordan, awaiting permission to cross the Red Sea and proceed to Egypt.
Hamas, which controls Gaza, is holding 22 days of rallies to mark the anniversary.
Senior leader Ahmed Bahar said Gazans remained “steadfast” after the conflict
“The resistance, which defended its land with honour, was not broken,” the AFP news agency quoted him as saying.
Mr Ban called on Israel to end its blockade, uphold international law and make it possible for economic activity and civilian reconstruction to take place. He also urged Hamas to respect the law and bring an end to violence, and for all Palestinians to “work for unity”.
He said there was “a sense of hopelessness in Gaza today for 1.5 million Palestinians, half of whom are under 18” and that “a fundamentally different approach to Gaza is urgently required”.
“Their fate and the well-being of Israelis are intimately connected.”
The BBC’s Katya Adler in Gaza City said the mood on the anniversary of Operation Cast Lead was relatively quiet, but uneasy.
Both Israel and Palestinians in Gaza believe 2010 is bound to bring further violence, our correspondent adds.

See the article here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/8431652.stm

International Aid Convoy Members Prepare for Hunger Strike

Members of the Viva Palestina international aid convoy to Gaza will begin a hunger strike at 11.25 am tomorrow (27th) in protest at the Egyptian government’s refusal to allow the convoy entry onto its soil.

Diplomatic negotiations are also taking place between the Turkish and Egyptian governments over the convoy’s entry to Egypt. IHH, Turkey’s main humanitarian aid agency, has 63 vehicles travelling on the convoy.

The Syrian government has also provided aid and vehicles, as has the government of Malaysia. More than 400 people from 17 countries are travelling on the 150 vehicle convoy, which is taking medical, humanitarian and educational aid to Gaza.

The convoy departed London on 6 December and have travelled nearly 3,000 miles across Europe and the Middle East. However, the convoy and its cargo of aid is now stopped in the Jordanian port town of Aqaba, having been denied entry into Egypt.

British MP, George Galloway, who is travelling with the convoy, said: ‘Israel has kept Gaza under siege for three-and-half years against international law. It has not allowed aid or rebuilding materials in following its attack on Gaza earlier this year. Our convoy is determined to break the siege and take in urgently needed supplies Spirits are high in our camp in Aqaba, and we are going nowhere except to Gaza.’

It was at 11.25 am on December 27 2008, that Israel dropped its first bombs on the besieged population of Gaza. Three weeks later, following a sustained air, land and sea assault, more than 1,400 Palestinians had been killed.

The Viva Palestina hunger strikers will consume only liquids until the convoy is allowed entry into Egypt.

Convoy members will also mark the first anniversary of the beginning of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead by holding a march through Aqaba, jointly with the Jordanians. In the evening, more than 1,400 candles will be lit for a vigil.

The convoy has been jointly organised by the charity Viva Palestina and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the UK’s largest organisation campaigning for solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Ends

For more information on Viva Palestina and updates visit http://www.vivapalestina.org

Press information from Alice Howard on Tel: 07944 512 469 or via email: alice@vivapalestina.org

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

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

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.

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