Search

band annie's Weblog

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

Category

freedom march

A CALL FROM GAZA in Support of the Freedom Flotilla II

A CALL FROM GAZA in Support of the Freedom Flotilla II

12.6.2011

Besieged Gaza, Occupied Palestine

We the Palestinians of the Besieged Gaza Strip, on this day, five years after closures began on Gaza , are saying enough inaction, enough discussion, enough waiting – the full siege on the Gaza Strip must end.

Shortly after 2006 democratic election which were supervised by people and bodies from the international community, nations formerly supporting aid and cultural organizations in Gaza withdrew their support. In mid-2007, our borders, controlled by Israel and Egypt, fully closed, locking Palestinians within and preventing imports and exports from crossing our borders.

From December 27 2008 to January 18 2009, Israel waged an all-out slaughter on Gaza, killing over 1500 Palestinians, the vast majority innocent civilians and among them over 430 children, and destroying thousands of homes, businesses, factories and buildings including universities, schools, hospitals and medical care facilities, and damaging vast tracts of our water and sanitation system.

Two and a half years following the cessation of Israel’s attacks, almost no homes and few buildings have been rebuilt, our sanitation and sewage system is more dire than ever, raw waste continues to be pumped into our sea –for want of proper treatment facilities –polluting our water and the fish along the coast which fishermen are forced to harvest –banned from entering the 20 nautical miles of sea accorded to Palestinians under the Oslo agreement—contaminating our drinking water and food supply.

Our farmers continue to be shot at, maimed and killed by Israeli soldiers along our border, prevented from working, growing and harvesting their land, denying us a rich supply of produce and vitamins. Nutrient deficiencies and malnutrition continue to rise, affecting our children’s growth and their ability to study. Our economy is shut down by lack of functioning factories and electricity. Our students hold little to no prospects of exiting for study abroad, even when placements and scholarships have been secured, due to the Israeli control of the Erez crossing and the Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing being closed more often than opened. Our ill suffer for want of necessary medications and medical supplies and equipment.

Since 2005, over 170 Palestinian organizations have called for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions to pressure Israel to comply to international law. Since 2005, Palestinians have weekly met in villages in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, to protest Israel ‘s occupation policies.

Creative civilian efforts such as the Free Gaza boats that broke the siege five times, the Gaza Freedom March, the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, and the many land convoys must never stop their siege-breaking, highlighting the inhumanity of keeping 1.5 million Gazans in an open-air prison.

On the 2nd of December, 22 international organizations including Amnesty, Oxfam, Save the Children, Christian Aid, and Medical Aid for Palestinians produced the report ‘Dashed Hopes, Continuation of the Gaza Blockade’ calling for international action to force Israel to unconditionally lift the blockade, saying the Palestinians of Gaza under Israeli siege continue to live in the same devastating conditions. Human Rights Watch published a comprehensive report “Separate and Unequal” that denounced Israeli policies as Apartheid, echoing similar sentiments by South African anti-apartheid activists.

The recent announced opening of the Rafah crossing has yet to be fully enacted. Even when open, it will mean little with respect to the imports and exports of goods to and from Gaza and will not improve the plights of fishermen, farmers and Gaza ‘s unemployment and manufactured poverty rates.

We request that the citizens of the world oppose this deadly, medieval blockade. The failure of the United Nations and its numerous organizations to condemn such crimes proves their complicity. Only civil society is able to mobilize to demand the application of international law and put an end to Israel ‘s impunity. The intervention of civil society was effective in the late 1980s against the apartheid regime of South Africa . Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have not only described Israel ’s oppressive and violent control of Palestinians as Apartheid, they have also joined this call for the world’s civil society to intervene again.

We call on civil society organizations worldwide to intensify the anti-Israel sanctions campaign to compel Israel to end to its aggression. We call on the nations and citizens of the world participating in the Freedom Flotilla 2 to continue their plans to sail to Gaza where they would be welcomed by Palestinians. The civil society initiatives of the Freedom Flotillas are about taking a stance of justice and solidarity with besieged Palestinians when your governments will not. We call on the Flotilla movement to grow and continue to sail until the siege on Gaza is entirely lifted and Palestinians of Gaza are granted the basic human rights and freedom of movement citizens around the world enjoy.

Signed by:

University Teachers’ Association

Palestinian Nongovernmental Organizations Network

Al-Aqsa University

Palestine Red Crescent Society in Gaza

General Union of Youth Entities

Arab Cultural Forum

General Union for Health Services Workers

General Union for Public Services Workers

General Union for Petrochemical and Gas Workers

General Union for Agricultural Workers

Union of Women’s Work Committees

Union of Synergies—Women Unit

Union of Palestinian Women Committees

Women’s Studies Society

Working Woman’s Society

Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel

One Democratic State Group

Palestinian Youth against Apartheid

Association of Al-Quds Bank for Culture and Info

Palestine Sailing Federation

Palestinian Association for Fishing and Maritime

Palestinian Women Committees

Progressive Students Union

Medical Relief Society

The General Society for Rehabilitation

Afaq Jadeeda Cultural Centre for Women and Children

Deir Al-Balah Cultural Centre for Women and Children

Maghazi Cultural Centre for Children

Al-Sahel Centre for Women and Youth

Ghassan Kanfani Kindergartens

Rachel Corrie Centre, Rafah

Rafah Olympia City Sisters

Al Awda Centre,

Rafah Al Awda Hospital,

Jabaliya Camp Ajyal Association,

Gaza General Union of Palestinian Syndicates

Al Karmel Centre,

Nuseirat Local Initiative,

Beit Hanoun Union of Health Work Committees

Red Crescent Society Gaza Strip

Beit Lahiya Cultural Centre

Al Awda Centre, Rafah

Al-Quds Bank for Culture and Information Society

women section -union of Palestinian workers syndicate

Middle East Childrens’ Alliance -Gaza

Local Initiative -Beit Hanoun

Mahalia Jackson-I’m on my way

Police: Soldiers looted flotilla ships

Ynet learns military police suspect officer, soldier sold laptop computers stolen from aid ships while they docked in Ashdod, after controversial IDF raid. Officials say investigation likely to prove ‘highly shameful’ for Israel

Hanan Greenberg
Published: 08.18.10, 22:20 / Israel News

An officer and a soldier are suspected of selling goods they took from the highly controversial aid flotilla to Gaza, which was raided by the IDF on May 31, Ynet learned from the military police on Wednesday.

One of the suspects in court (Photo: Avishag Shaar-Yeshuv)

Investigators say they are currently trying to ascertain whether laptop computers were sold by a soldier to three other soldiers, and whether they were initially taken from the flotilla vessels by an officer.

A high-ranking officer familiar with the case said the suspicions are highly likely to prove true. “The investigation has just begun, but as it appears now it will prove embarrassing and shameful,” another official said. “These are soldiers who don’t understand what their uniform represents.”

The investigation could prove extremely harmful to Israel as the state strives to fend off global criticism for the raid, which resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish citizens. Recently the Turkel committee, which is investigating the raid on behalf of the state, has called various leaders to testify before it, and a UN committee is not far behind.

The soldier suspected of selling the computers was arrested late Monday night, along with three soldiers suspected of buying them. In the process police say they discovered additional stolen goods in the soldier’s possession, including more laptop computers and cellular phones.

Later an officer was arrested on suspicion he sold the goods to the soldier. The officer, a second-lieutenant in rank, is a commander of an army unit who had access to the ships while they docked at Ashdod port, awaiting their return to Turkey.

Police say the officer stole 4-6 laptops from the ship and then sold them to the soldier, who in turn sold them to three other soldiers two months ago. The three have already admitted to making the purchases during questioning, and the computers were confiscated by police. They were found to be brand new, and not meant for sale in Israel.

They also told interrogators that the soldier who sold them the goods told them they had been stolen from the flotilla ships, yet they did not pass the information on to their commanders.

Activists complained of theft

The soldier and officer have yet to appear before the court for a hearing on the remand of their arrests. Police say other soldiers are yet to be arrested, but refuse to give further details.

Meanwhile investigators are intent on discovering where exactly the goods came from, and whether they were stolen from flotilla passengers. One investigator said that if indeed the goods were found to belong to activists on board, they would be recompensed.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Office confirmed reports of an investigation Wednesday, but said that it was “not at all certain the equipment was taken from the flotilla”.

Complaints by flotilla passengers about stolen equipment surfaced not long after the raid. Activists told the British Guardian in June that credit cards confiscated by the IDF had been used.

The Guardian reported that soldiers had used the cards to purchase various items, including iPod accessories. Claims regarding calls made from confiscated cell phones followed.

The IDF responded to the claims by stating that all of the personal effects brought by the activists to Israel had been placed aboard planes that transported them from the country, but that audio and video cassettes had been confiscated for security reasons.

Source : Ynetnews

Richard Falk intervieuw

Dennis Bernstein: We don’t have a lot of detail, but Israel itself is clearly admitting they carried out this raid. … Based on what you know and what you’ve seen, what can we say about what happened here in terms of human rights violations and international law?

Richard Falk: I think the fundamental reality is fairly clear at this point, namely that these were ships that were carrying humanitarian supplies for blockaded Gaza, that the passengers were unarmed and were situated at the time of the Israeli attacks on the high seas, that these attacks, therefore, were unlawful and by most interpretations would be regarded as criminal.

The statement of the Turkish Prime Minister, that the attacks constituted state terrorism, seem to me at least to correspond with the tragic reality that we’ve been witnessing over the past twenty-four hours.

DB: The Israelis say that these commandos who they say were armed with hand guns and paint guns were only defending themselves from armed and dangerous attacks by people on the boat. Your response to that?

RF: There are two lines of response, and this is an area where the facts are contested and difficult to disentangle at this stage. The witnesses on the boats themselves, particularly the Turkish boats where most of the violence took place, claim that the commandos landed shooting, and that it was only after the initiation of that violence that there was some attempt at defense on the basis of very contrived and primitive weapons, as opposed to the kind of weaponry that the Israeli commandos were carrying.

Beyond that, it’s fairly clear if unlawful attack of a vessel on the high seas is occurring, the passengers on that ship have some sort of right to self defense. So that’s one aspect of it. The second aspect is that even if there was some kind of defensive violence on the ship, that’s no excuse for an unprovoked attack carried out in this manner.

If Israel didn’t want the ships to go to Gaza, they could have diverted them, and if they did what the other boats did in the Freedom Flotilla, except for the larger Turkish one, it seems pretty clear that this was a deliberate attack designed, I suppose, to punish the effort to carry out this humanitarian mission, which would obviously have disclosed the brutality of the blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gone on now for almost three years.

The Israeli arguments are not really seriously plausible. Given the overall circumstances it’s very difficult to give them any kind of serious credibility, and this seems to me to be as clear a violation of international humanitarian law, international law of the seas, and international criminal law, as we’re likely to see in the early part of the twenty-first century. …

DB: In terms of the responsibility, you are the UN Special Rapporteur for the Palestinian territories. What is your responsibility now? What is the United Nations responsibility? What should happen in terms of an investigation?

RF: My responsibility is to report to the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly on the Israeli violations of the human rights of the occupied Palestinian people. This incident is sort of at the edge of my responsibility because it didn’t occur within the occupied territories, but it so directly affects the people within that I treat it as part of my responsibilities.

In my judgment, the Security Council, if one takes the UN Charter seriously and avoids double standards, should really do three things: One, it should condemn the attack as a violation of international law; secondly, it should demand a lifting immediately of the blockade, of the people of the Gaza Strip, allowing food, medicine, reconstruction materials and fuel to enter freely; and thirdly it should refer the allegations of criminality associated with the attack to the International Criminal Court for investigation and action.

Given the geopolitics that exist within the Security Council, it is highly unlikely that this appropriate course of action will actually be followed. Technically the General Assembly could try and do these kinds of things if the Security Council fails to act, and it remains to be seen whether there’s the political will in the General Assembly to do this.

If the UN is stymied in this way, it does shift the responsibility and, in a way, the opportunity to civil society to augment the ongoing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, that in any event has been gaining momentum, and presumably this latest incident will create a great deal more strength for that campaign, which has been so effective in opposing the Apartheid regime in South Africa in the early 1990s and late 1980s.

DB: Is there any kind of special protection for the people who risked their lives—and now we see that they really did risk their lives—going into a situation where the world knows that there are terrible things happening, that people are being treated in terrible ways, that they are dying because of that treatment, and because they are being warred against and having bombs dropped on them where they cannot even flee. Is there some sort of role for legal action within the constraints of international law?

RF: Yes, there is, as you very well expressed. There is a great opportunity to provide protection to people who are courageous and morally motivated, and at the same time are vulnerable to this kind of violence and brutal treatment, but the political will is lacking at the governmental level and at the international institutional level to provide that kind of protection.

One has the norms, has the responsibility to protect concept which has been endorsed by the Security Council and has the support of international lawyers, but it can’t be implemented without the requisite political will, and that’s what’s missing.

Of course our government is the lynch-pin of what makes effective or futile international initiatives of this sort. If we had indicated a firm desire to establish some kind of protective capability for missions of this sort, individuals like this would be protected.

I thought that however little Israel respects international law, they wouldn’t do something as crudely violent and alienating as what they did do with these commando attacks on the freedom flotilla.

It was not in my political imagination that they would seek by such means to prevent the delivery of these humanitarian necessities that pose no security threat whatsoever to Israel — it only posed a public relations threat in the sense that it would have revealed the inability of governments to break the blockade and place pressure on them to do something in the future, and at the same time would have added to the willingness of activists around the world to push harder against the Israeli occupation policy so that what was at stake from Israel’s point of view was the de-legitimation of their policies, and they apparently, and I think wrongly, calculated that they would lose less from this kind of violent disruption of this humanitarian mission that it would have by allowing it to quietly deliver the humanitarian materials that the ships were carrying.

DB: They certainly could have surprised a lot of people and gained a lot of supporters if they had shifted their policy and let the aid arrive.

A final question: Just before you got on the air we spoke with Shakeed Saed, he’s the Executive Director of the Islamic Shura Council in Southern California, there’s a thousand people gathering in front of the Israeli consulate in LA and there are protests around the world; but he was saying that it’s not only a spiritual thing, but a legal matter because the United States is supplying a good deal of the equipment that Israel uses and that these commandos may have been using.

Does that make the US responsible?

RF: We are certainly morally and politically implicit and responsible in these kinds of Israeli tactics and undertakings. Whether we are legally responsible is a trickier question. There are American laws that forbid the equipment that we do provide from being used except in defensive roles.

We’ve never taken that legislative restriction seriously in the context of Israel, but it is a definite legal concern, and it could be pursued by those that were eager to test the degree of legal responsibility that the United States government possesses.

I personally believe such a test would be beneficial for the American people because it would allow the public to express more of its changing view of the conflict, and send a message to Washington that it has yet to hear that the American people would rather see our government pursue a genuinely balanced law-oriented approach to the conflict than this unconditional partisanship with the kind of criminal tactics that Israel has just employed against the Freedom Flotilla.

Dennis Bernstein and Jesse Strauss produced this interview for Flashpoints on the Pacifica network, which was broadcast on May 31 from the KPFA studio in Berkeley, California. You can access the audio archive of that entire show on their website, http://www.flashpoints.net. From our website you can also sign up to the Flashpoints mailing list, and also follow Flashpoints on twitter at twitter.com/FlashpointsNews.

Gaza freedom march looking ahead

Bio

Medea Benjamin is a co-founder of CODEPINK a grassroots anti-war group that seeks “positive social change through creative protest, non-violent direct action, and community involvement. Medea is also a member of the advisory committee for The Real News.

See transcript here

A full report on the Gaza Freedom March

by Barnabe Geisweiller on January 18, 2010 · 2 comments

“It was meant to be a historic non-violent protest in Gaza against Israel’s blockade. But forces are quick to converge in the Middle East against those who work for peace.”

The author of the following report, Barnabe Geisweiller, a Canadian student at the Columbia Journalism School who has lived in Palestine, went to Egypt and Gaza with the Gaza Freedom March. He spent weeks reporting on the organization of the march. [There will be reports on the march this week, on Thursday in NYC, and on Saturday in Woodstock, NY].

read on

Gaza freedom march wrap up

By Sana (Keffiyeh And Onions)

I’m sure its going to take me some time to process everything that has happened in Cairo with the Gaza Freedom March over the past week or so but here are some of my initial thoughts and feelings. Bear in mind, these are my own opinions and reflections and they surely are not the same as the 1300 other people who were in Cairo. So for what its worth – here it goes:

This whole political experience here with CODEPINK, for me, has been honestly disappointing and angering. I’m going to be honest here, I did not participate in many of the protests that took place in Cairo because I had serious issues with the way everything was being handled and the way that the March really seemed to have fallen apart and unraveled once everyone realized that our chances of getting into Gaza were really slim to none. From the very first meeting that was held in Tahrir Square, the individuals who were going to be staying in Gaza longer (past January 2nd) were told to not participate in any of these demonstrations because if we did somehow come up with a way to get into Gaza, if we had any record or history with problems with the Egyptians – this would effectively eliminate any chance of us getting in. People told us to completely “disassociate from the March” and that because Egypt is not a democracy, “nothing we do will change their minds” – which sadly, ended up being quite true despite how often people demonstrated, were barricaded in by people, and some even beaten up. Moral of the story: This is not the U.S., they don’t care that you’re Americans, and we did not fly thousands of miles to protest in Egypt.

Aside from this though, there were so many critical problems with the way things were being done and decisions were being made that I really felt uncomfortable with doing anything that GFM was doing in Cairo.

I felt as though there was no insight to the way the Egyptian government works, or the greater public opinion in Egypt, at all. We cannot simply think that a country, who has religiously served the agenda of the U.S. and Israel, will do a complete 360 and open the borders when a group of activists show up, no matter how big. Anyone who has any familiarity with the politics of this conflict, know that Egypt’s role in ensuring the Palestinian suffering is not a new or novel concept. Given that, the fact that CODEPINK did not prepare for the very unsurprising setback that Egypt delivered by closing its borders, really baffled me. When we got news on Monday, that the borders were going to be closed and no one would enter, I figured that this was a very expected move (especially after news of Egypt’s steel wall just was released as well) and that the steering committee and whoever else also saw this coming and that surely back up plans and strategies were on hand now that Egypt played its cards. But after a couple days when everyone started arriving and it was time to figure out what we were going to do, it just seemed like these small fragmented actions (the hunger strike here, french sit-in there) were things that groups were doing on their own, hardly with any support from the mass collective. There was no unified message besides come out in the streets and protest. It felt like everyone kind of went their own way and that now instead of focusing on the occupation we were going to go after the Egyptian government – which as much as I have issues with that they are doing and how they add to the Palestinian suffering – that is not why I came here.

Lets clarify something here. As much as I hate Egypt, Egypt is NOT occupying the Palestinian territories. ISRAEL is. I mean, to a certain degree, by doing of all this, I feel, we took a lot of heat off of Israel b/c the press coverage just shows a bunch of people demonstrating in Cairo, which is giving the message that we have a problem with Egypt for what they are doing wrong when we were here to raise awareness of the ISRAELI OCCUPATION and Operation Cast Lead which was carried out by ISRAEL one year ago. Why are people shouting “Free Egypt” at the demonstrations? It makes no sense, we had no focus.

I want to believe that GFM tried to do the best that it could, given the circumstances, but honestly it just led to many people feeling as if they had to do something, anything, since we weren’t being allowed in Gaza. Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer in public resistance and demonstrating, even getting arrested when its necessary, etc – but you cannot do these things without tons of planning, proper escalation tactics leading up to massive direct action like that, and a solid SOLID solid foundation in Egypt (resources, connections, lawyers, etc) for the people that do take those risks. Otherwise, you just end up looking like a bunch of stupid foreigners (mostly Americans) who are protesting, sitting in, going on hunger strike – for what? We came here to deliver aid and stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza – if that was not going to happen then we could have held all of these actions back in our home towns where we know how things work, we know what resources we have, and we can accurately assess what type of risk we are willing to take for this dire cause. After these past few days, I feel that all we’ve done is agitate Egypt for a brief period of time, spent a lot of money fueling this unjust country’s economy, and made the daily lives of the Egyptian people harder.

When our plans fell through, and it did not seem like we were going to get in, there should have been a massive meeting/discussion with a vote with all of the delegates who have come from around the world as to what we think would be the best thing to do. But when people were told to figure it out and come up with ideas, you had serious fragmentation and people, like the French delegates, who were occupying the area in front of the Embassy feeling like they did not have support or instances like when the entire Japanese delegation just left after the first day for the West Bank. All I’ve been asking myself these past few days is “What the hell is going on?” and “What is all of this?”. And to tell the truth, I still really don’t know because I don’t think GFM really even knows.

The “100 people to Gaza” stunt was also another fiasco that only further divided this group and our efforts. At first, CODEPINK accepts this offer and takes credit for it since the women went and talked to Suzanne Mubarak. They come up with a list in a very short time of these people who would get to go, not realizing what a bad mistake this is. After a few hour, they do realize its a bad idea, send out an official message saying how they have ‘rejected’ this offer, and yet, lo and behold people STILL got on the buses and went? Again, “What is going on?”

I realize that this has gotten really long already and these are just some of my preliminary thoughts from the past few days. As of right now this is how I feel: as much as I’d like to really blame fully the repressive Egyptian dictatorship for the Gaza Freedom March falling apart and not succeeding, I believe that CODEPINK, and the same old foreign arrogance/ignorance we have, has a lot to do with it this time as well. Sadly, the Palestinian people are still under occupation and I wish the best of luck to the VIVA Palestina convoys who seem to have a better grasp on how to deal with all this nonsense than we do.

Until later, free free Palestine,

-Sana

Protests held against Gaza siege

Members of Gaza Freedom March, denied entry to Gaza, demonstrated in Cairo [Ali Abunimah]

Activists, both from Gaza and abroad, have held demonstrations on either side of an Israeli border crossing to the Palestinian territory, protesting against its continued siege by Israel.

Hundreds of protesters gathered around the Erez crossing on Thursday, to denounce the blockade that has caused immense suffering to those living in Gaza.

Nisreen el-Shamayleh, Al Jazeera’s correspondent who was on the Israeli side of the crossing, estimated that about 600 protesters were present, many from mainly Arab neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem.

“They represent Israeli-Palestinians as well as other Arab civil society organisations inside Israel and also with the support of some Israeli groups,” she said.

“Their major demand is for Israel to stop the siege on Gaza and to stop the suffocation of Gazans living under this blockade. They’re also calling on the international community to intervene.”

The Gaza Strip has been under Israeli blockade since 2007 when Hamas seized power in the territory.

The Erez crossing is the main entry and exit point to and from Gaza used by medical patients, journalists, diplomats and aid groups.

International support

On the Gaza side of the border, the demonstration was slower to get started, but protesters there were joined by 86 activists from the Gaza Freedom March, an international group that has been trying to get into Gaza with food and supplies.

Most of the Gaza Freedom March’s 1,300-strong group were refused entry into Gaza by Egypt, which controls the Rafah crossing point, because of what Egyptian authorities said was the “sensitive situation” in the territory.

in depth

Many of those remaining in Egypt held separate demonstrations in Cairo.

Ali Abunimah, the co-founder of the Electronic Intifada website, who was at the Cairo protest, told Al Jazeera the group had been surrounded by the police.

“I’ve spoken to some people who were pushed or kicked by police and a few people have [had] their cameras taken away,” he said.

“I’d say there are about 200 people here. We had anticipated quite a few more, but earlier today police barricaded some of the hotels where we are staying … I can’t tell you how many people have been prevented from joining us.”

A separate aid convoy has also been trying to reach Gaza through Jordan’s Red Sea port of Aqaba.

Lorries from the Viva Palestina convoy began crossing from Jordan into Syria on Thursday.

The events around Gaza coincide with the one-year anniversary of Israel’s devastating 22-day war on Gaza which left about 1,300 Palestinians dead. Thirteen Israelis also died in the conflict.

Shoeless in Cairo

Written by Mary Hughes-Thompson, part of the GFM convoy that has been trying to
get into Gaza.

In about an hour the Gaza Freedom Marchers in Cairo will be meeting in Tahrir
Square to celebrate the beginning of 2010. January 1st will be the fifth day
of my hunger strike.

It was an eventful and exhilarating day for all of us here in Cairo. This
morning we began to arrive in small groups at a couple of locations in downtown
Cairo, intending to join and up and begin a solidarity march to Gaza. We
didn’t expect to get far before being stopped, so we took what things we had
that would make it easier to spend the night in the street. As soon as we got
out of our taxi near the Museum, Hedy and I and Hedy’s two friends from St
Louis were immediately surrounded by security police who tried to lead us away
from the area.

All around us we saw other small groups receiving the same reception. After
sitting on a bench in front of the Nile Hilton for half an hour, with half a
dozen police standing close and trying to persuade us to continue walking away,
we suddenly saw a surge of people crossing the street a few yards from us, and
we quickly rushed to join them. Free Gaza signs appeared, chants of “Free
Gaza” were heard. Passengers in cars and buses gave us a wave and a smile. We
were immediately encircled by several hundred policemen who placed barriers
around us and began to push us more tightly together. We tried to keep space
around Hedy, as we were pushed and squeezed. I feared my ribs would be
crushed as I was squeezed tighter and closer to people around me. A few people
fell or tried to sit in the middle of the circle and the police went after
them.

Suddenly I was pushed to the ground and fell flat on my face. As people around
me were pushed more tightly to the center, I feared I would be trampled.
Perhaps the police thought I had been sitting, because they grabbed my arms and
began to drag me along the ground. I felt my one shoe fall off, then the other
I tried to hang onto my things as some French people came to my rescue,
reaching out to help lift me to my feet, then leading me away next to the wall
and away from the police.

My shoes and my cane were swallowed up and could not be located amid the mass
of people. We stayed together for many hours, held tightly in our circle by
the police. It was very warm, but as always spirits were high, some enormous
signs were raised by young men who climbed the only tree we had in our
enclosure. It was a laurel tree, and many people raised branches above their
heads as we called for peace and freedom for Gaza. At the moment we knew the
march was taking place inside Gaza we chanted again: Free Gaza, Free Gaza.
Someone began to play an accordian, and I was pulled, shoeless, into a circle
of women, including Hedy, as we danced in a circle while people around us
cheered.

Eventually, after several hours, some members of American Veterans for Peace
who had been watching over Hedy persuaded her it would be safer if she left.
They felt the police were getting more threatening and were worried they
wouldn’t be able to keep her safe if we were rushed and attacked. Hedy
reluctantly agreed to go outside the circle to talk to some press who wanted to
interview her, so Hedy, Sandra, J’Ann and I were, after some negotiations,
escorted outside where Hedy was greeted by reporters.

So here I stay in Cairo, grateful to be merely shoeless, somewhat bruised and
only slightly battered, still strong and determined, proud and humbled to be a
part of this amazing family that has come together from around the world to
stand in solidarity with Gaza, Palestine and to remember what happened in Gaza
a year ago. We may not get to Gaza this time, but we believe we have made a
joyful noise in Cairo.

Happy New Year everybody. Free Gaza. Free Palestine.

PS: One of my shoes was later found.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑