Monday, December 28, 2009

As Gaza Freedom Marchers persist in Cairo, solidarity actions across the globe

Reports from Gaza Freedom March participants in Cairo are rolling in so quickly that I am struggling to keep up. Here are just a few of the reports we've been receiving: 1) Emily Ratner of US Campaign member group New Orleans Palestine Solidarity and the New Orleans International Human Rights Film Festival (which the US Campaign has helped sponsor for the past several years), writes at Mondoweiss:
"Yesterday we joined the people of Gaza, the people of all of Palestine, and allies around the world in remembering the anniversary of the inhuman and illegal Israeli attacks that stole the lives of more than 1,400 mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons last December and January. And, in a manner far too appropriately suited to remembering an unfathomably vicious massacre and the preposterous silence of the American and Egyptian governments, we freedom marched in circles throughout the streets of Cairo."
Read her full report here. 2) The front page of Ma'an News was dedicated to the Gaza Freedom March:
"Surrounded by police, an international group of human rights advocates staged a demonstration at a UN installation in Cairo on Monday after the Egyptian government denied their request to enter Gaza....Former EU parliament vice president Luisa Morgantini, Filipino Senator and president of the Transnational Institute Walden Bello and others held a news conference outside the UN building in Cairo in hopes to negotiate their entry in Gaza via the Rafah crossing. Another member of the Gaza Freedom March group, Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstien, 85, declared a hunger strike in protest of Egypt’s decision. More than 600 others joined the demonstration at the UN building...."
3) AFP is carrying this report on Hedy Epstein and other hunger strikers:
"An 85-year-old Holocaust survivor was among a group of grandmothers who began a hunger strike in Cairo on Monday to protest against Egypt's refusal to allow a Gaza solidarity march to proceed. American activist Hedy Epstein and other grandmothers participating in the Gaza Freedom March began a hunger strike at 1000 GMT. "I've never done this before, I don't know how my body will react, but I'll do whatever it takes," Epstein told AFP, sitting on a chair surrounded by hundreds of protesters outside the United Nations building in Cairo."
UPDATE: The BBC is now carrying the report as well, as is the Israeli daily Yedioth. Here's Al Jazeera English's report. UPDATE: Robert Naiman writes at Huffington Post about lack of U.S. press coverage of the march (his article was posted before the New York Times started carrying the longer Reuters piece). UPDATE: Reuters is now reporting on the Gaza Freedom Marchers, and the Reuters report has been picked up by the New York Times. [Not the greatest article ever--good opportunity for letters to the editor]. 4) Democracy Now! is carrying this report as well as an interview with Palestinian journalist Sami Abu Salem: 5) Ken Mayers, National Treasurer of Veterans for Peace, writes of an action at the Kasr al Nil bridge in Cairo:
"This was a small but moving action in which small groups of us moved to the bridge and tied notes to the bridge recording our solidarity with the people of Gaza and our sorrow at the horrors inflicted on them a year ago in the three weeks prior to the inauguration of Barack Obama. The action was schedule to unfold from 11am to 1pm. I was there from 11 to 12:30 or so and saw no security force interference during that period [the memorial was apparently broken up by security forces later on-ed.]. Pictured below is the flower and the note that I tied to the bridge. This is not to say that there were no security forces around. I don't believe I have ever been in a city where police are more visible -- and that includes Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Beijing."
6) Mohammad at KABOBfest breaks down a recent report on the humanitarian situation in Gaza one year after "Operation Cast Lead" in a devastating fashion, including these figures:
  • Since the assault ended, leaving 15,000 buildings damages and 5,000 completely destroyed, only 41 trucks of contsruction materials have been allowed to enter Gaza
  • Prior to 2007, and average of 70 truckloads of exports left Gaza everyday. For the past two years, that number has been zero.
  • Only 35 categories of items are allowed into Gaza. That is, only 35 types of products are allowed in to the 1.5 million prisoners.
The figures highlight the complete failure of governments to act on behalf of justice and peace. When governments--whether Egyptian, Israeli, or U.S.--fail to act, civil society steps up to the plate. This time around it's no exception. As 1400 human rights advocates work to highlight the siege of Gaza in Cairo, people around the world are organizing. Some are contacting the Egyptian government. Others are organizing solidarity actions. Here in the United States, it's important to link these solidarity actions with our ongoing national campaign to change U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine to one that respects international law, human rights, and equality for all. Take action in the media, with Congress; and in the streets. Link your actions with ongoing campaigns against Caterpillar (whose bulldozers were used heavily in Operation Cast Lead), Motorola, Ahava, and U.S. military aid. It's long past time for the siege to end. It's long past time for the Israeli occupation to end. It's long past time for apartheid to end.