Egypt ‘deports aid convoy leader’

Egypt ‘deports aid convoy leader’

George Galloway, the British MP leading the Viva Palestina international aid convoy to the Gaza Strip has been forced to leave Egypt, the group has said on its website.

Galloway was apparently picked up by Egyptian officials at the Rafah border crossing on Friday and driven to Cairo where he was placed on a flight back to London.

Galloway told Al Jazeera by telephone from the airport that he had been harassed by about 25 Egyptian police officer as he attempted to re-enter Gaza to join the rest of the Viva Palestina activists.

He said Egyptian officials told him he was being sent out of the country and was now “persona non grata”. [continued...]

Eunice Wong on ‘Footnotes in Gaza’

Joe Sacco’s latest volume of comic book journalism, “Footnotes in Gaza,” is a detective story drawn from the Greek tragedy of Palestinian-Israeli history. It is a search for the truth about a bloody 50-year-old incident almost obliterated from historical memory. Rigorous journalism and moral and philosophical musings are wrangled into an explosive feast of a comic book.

On Nov. 3 and Nov. 12, 1956, in the Gaza towns of Khan Yunis and Rafah, large-scale killings of Palestinian men—275 dead in Khan Yunis and 111 in Rafah, according to the United Nations—were carried out by invading Israeli troops. There is almost nothing written in English about these massacres.

“This is the story of footnotes to a sideshow of a forgotten war,” writes Sacco. Over a drawing of a crowd of Palestinian men, their hands up and their faces contorted, the text continues: “Well, like most footnotes, they dropped to the bottom of history’s pages, where they barely hang on.” [continued...]

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Viva Palestina convoy’s arrival in Gaza

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Viva Palestina convoy entering Gaza

Viva Palestina convoy entering Gaza

Although it’s very slow moving, vehicles in the Viva Palestina aid convoy have finally started entering Gaza:

The Viva Palestina aid convoy entered Gaza Wednesday, after it received the approval of Egyptian authorities to bring into the besieged, impoverished coastal sliver several tons of humanitarian supplies.

The activists entered Gaza through Rafah border crossing. More than 500 international activists accompany the convoy organized by the British-based group Viva Palestina, a Press TV correspondent reported. — Press TV

V slowly we r moving out 2 Rafah. Many still at port, but first vehicles 2 leave r already in #Gaza. It’s finally happening! #vivapalestina — joti2gaza

An Egyptian soldier has been killed and at least eight Palestinians hurt in clashes at the Egypt-Gaza border. — BBC News

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Viva Palestina convoy heading to Rafah

Viva Palestina convoy heading to Rafah

After a battle between Egyptian riot police and convoy members in Al-Arish last night, the convoy finally started out on the last leg of its journey a couple of hours ago:

“Vehicles very slowly exiting port gates now, heading to Rafah, insyaAllah.” – juanajaafar

An Egyptian border guard was shot dead Wednesday and about 55 people were injured late Tuesday in clashes between Egyptian police and pro-Palestinian activists trying to get a relief convoy into the Gaza Strip, militants, medics and officials said.

Some 520 activists belonging to the convoy – led by charismatic and outspoken British MP George Galloway – broke down the gate at El-Arish to protest an Egyptian decision to ship some of the goods through Israel.

They blocked the two entrances to the Sinai port with vehicles, and clashed with police. Forty militants were injured, a source close to them said, while medical sources said 15 policemen were also hurt.

An Egyptian official said Wednesday that the border guard was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper while Gazan youths hurled stones across the border at the Egyptian security forces.

The protests were sparked by an Egyptian decision to allow 139 vehicles to enter Gaza through the Rafah bordering crossing, about 45 kilometers from El-Arish, but requiring a remaining 59 vehicles to pass via Israel. Talks in which Galloway and a delegation of Turkish MPs sought to change the Egyptian’s minds proved unsuccessful. — Hurriyet Daily News

At the beginning, it was a peaceful protest, singing and making noise. The Egyptians were there to be provoked, no doubt, but they needed a reason. This went on for about 1 hour 30 mins, and then all hell broke loose. I don’t know who threw the first stone but the Egyptians seemed to have prepared stones to be thrown. A running battle went on for about 30 minutes, mainly the Egyptians hurtling stones at us. Some people fought back with stones and sticks against the riot police with batons. Five seasoned Derry men stood at the back. Ole hands at these riots.

The end result was up to 20 people injured, head injuries and even worse it appears. There was news that the Turks had captured 3 Egyptians police as hostages but they were later released. There was a deadly atmosphere amongst the compound. This wasn’t the way it was suppose to work out, we should of been heading for Gaza. At this point, it’s too early to see where the blame lies.

Galloway made his way onto the stage, looking very shaken and holding prayer beads, he recalled the progression of events that I have just told, and once again, encouraged people to protest throughout the world against the Egyptians. He said we wouldn’t be going anywhere soon’. We went to bed after that.

So another massive change of events, and I think the whole thing has had a negative rather than positive effect on proceedings. A lot of people think this way and I could see a lot of people going home. — Derry to Gaza

“Galloway challenged in open convoy mtg to resign leadership!” — zhat

Jordan’s Islamic Action Front (IAF) on Wednesday condemned Egypt’s alleged assault on members of the Viva Palestina humanitarian convoy in the Egyptian port of El Arish.

“The attack by the Egyptian authorities on the Viva Palestina convoy late Tuesday is heinous and cruel. We condemn the assault on the convoy members who seek to break the siege imposed on Gaza and such behaviors do not reflect the history of Egypt,” the IAF, the political arm of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood, said in a statement posted on its website. — Xinhua

In Istanbul, thousands of protesters staged a demonstration to condemn the Egyptian police crackdown on the Gaza-bound aid convoy. The protestors marched towards the Egyptian Consulate in the Turkish capital and held a picture of assassinated Hezbollah commander Imad Mugniyah and a picture titled “the picture of betrayal”, showing Egyptian President Hosni Muabark shaking hands with former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

Tuesday’s demonstration joined a wave of protests against Mubarak across the Arab world. The Hamas organization in Gaza called on Palestinians on Wednesday morning to stage protests calling on the Egyptian authorities to allow the entry of the foreign activists. — Ynet

An Egyptian soldier was killed and four Palestinians were wounded in a gunbattle on Wednesday during a protest against an anti-smuggling wall Cairo is building on the Gaza border. — Reuters

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Viva Palestina convoy attacked in El-Arish – Press TV

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Twitter roundup from the Egyptian port of Al-Arish where the Viva Palestina convoy has been attacked

Twitter roundup from the Egyptian port of Al-Arish where the Viva Palestina convoy has been attacked

The following tweets cover key moments from the last two hours in Al-Arish where Joti says: “All quiet for now. Six arrested, lots of head wounds as cops started the rock throwing. One serious injury stretchered out.” (It’s currently 6.35PM US Eastern Tuesday, 1.35AM Wednesday in Egypt and the tweets below appear in chronological order):

Riot cops have moved their barriers and look to be gearing up 4 a fight. Our boys preparing to defend the port. #vivapalestina – joti2gaza

Full-on battles between convoy boys and Egyptian riot cops. Tear gas, water cannons, rocks throwing. #vivapalestina – joti2gaza

For Gaza siege. We have bend over backwards to come to Elarish cause EGY said we’d be welcomed here, instead welcomed with violence – juanajaafar

Galloway here with TUR MPs to negotiate movement of convoy since 530pm local time. EGY asked for 59 of our vehicles to give to Israel. – juanajaafar

59 vehicles = 25% of our convoy which includes 2 big trucks from GBR and TUR. This contradicts written agreement EGY gave to TURs in Aqaba – juanajaafar

Galloway says Viva has video taken from meeting room to show special police starting violence. Police then threw stones at meeting room – juanajaafar

RT @Irish4Palestine: ppl were attacked by outsiders who came with stick and stones and entered compound, this was a set up #vivapalestin – peter2gaza

RT @viva_palestina: RT @juanajaafar: Arrested are from GRB, USA, Msia and Kuwaiti. (via @Stand4Liberty) – peter2gaza

All quiet for now. Six arrested, lots of head wounds as cops started the rock throwing. One serious injury stretchered out. #vivapalestina – joti2gaza

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Viva Palestina are faced with 2,000 riot police in the port of Al-Arish!

Viva Palestina are faced with 2,000 riot police in the port of Al-Arish!

To all friends of Palestine

Our situation is now at a crisis point! Riot has broken out in the port of Al- Arish.

This late afternoon we were negotiating with a senior official from Cairo who left negotiations some two hours ago and did not return. Our negotiations with the official was regarding taking our aid vehicles into Gaza.

He left two hours ago and did not come back. Egyptian authorities called over 2,000 riot police who then moved towards our camp at the port.

We have now blocked the entrance to the port and we are now faced with riot police and water cannons and are determined to defend our vehicles and aid.

The Egyptian authorities have by their stubbornness and hostility towards the convoy, brought us to a crisis point.

We are now calling upon all friends of palestine to mount protests in person where possible, but by any means available to Egyptian representatives, consulates and Embassy’s and demand that the convoy are allowed a safe passage into Gaza tomorrow!

Kevin Ovenden
Viva Palestina Convoy Leader

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

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Turkey helps Viva Palestina deliver aid to Gaza

Turkish MPs to enter Gaza with Viva Palestina convoy in Egypt

Five Turkish MPs will on Monday join an international aid convoy that has reached Egyptian port one-week later after the date that they initially hoped to reach Gaza Strip on the first anniversary of Israel’s 22-day offensive.

Viva Palestina Convoy is now at the Egyptian port of El-Arish with Turkish ship ULUSOY-6, which carried the convoy from the Syrian port of Lattakia to Egypt.

The aid volunteers who stay at Lattakia will fly in the day in 3 separate flights to Al-Arish to join the convoy. After everyone arrives at the Al- Arish port, the convoy will make an hour-drive to the Rafah border.

It is expected that the convoy will enter Gaza on Tuesday evening. It will be able to stay in Gaza for 24 hours only. During this time, all aid, drugs and medical tools will be delivered to the Gazan authorities. After 24 hours, all volunteers who travel with the convoy will go to Egypt and then fly back to their own countries. [continued...]

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The iron wall

The iron wall

Egypt considers itself as the leader of the Arab world. It is the most populous Arab country, situated at the center of the Arab world. Fifty years ago the president of Egypt, Gamal Abd-al-Nasser, was the idol of all the Arabs, especially of the Palestinians. How can Egypt collaborate with the “Zionist enemy”, as Egyptians called Israel then, in bringing 1.5 million brother Arabs to their knees?

Until recently, the Egyptian government had been sticking to a solution that exemplifies the 6000-year old Egyptian political acumen. It participated in the blockade but closed its eyes to the hundreds of tunnels dug under the Egyptian-Gaza border, through which the daily supplies for the population were flowing (for exorbitant prices, and with high profits for Egyptian merchants), together with the stream of arms. People also passed through them – from Hamas activists to brides.

This is about to change. Egypt has started building an iron wall – literally – along the full length of the Gaza border, consisting of steel pillars thrust deep into the ground, in order to block all tunnels. That will finally choke the inhabitants.

When the most extreme Zionist, Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotinsky, wrote 80 years ago about erecting an “Iron Wall” against the Palestinians, he did not dream of Arabs doing just that. [continued...]

Hamas urges clerics to reverse Gaza wall edict

Hamas on Sunday urged leading Islamic clerics in Egypt to reverse a recent edict supporting the construction of a metal wall cutting off smuggling tunnels under the border with the Gaza Strip.

It emerged late last week that scholars at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, Sunni Islam’s highest seat of learning, issued a fatwa in favor of the wall.

“It is one of Egypt’s legitimate rights to place a barrier that prevents the harm from the tunnels under Rafah, which are used to smuggle drugs and other [contraband] that threaten Egypt’s stability,” the newspaper Al-Masri Al-Yom quoted the scholars as saying, according to AFP.

“Those who oppose building this wall are violating the commands of Islamic law,” they added, after a meeting attended by Egypt’s top cleric Sheikh Muhammad Said Tantawi, who is a government appointee. [continued...]

Galloway Gaza convoy leaves Syria

A British-led aid convoy bound for the Gaza Strip is on its way to the Egyptian port of Al-Arish after departing Syria by boat, organizers said on Sunday.

The Viva Palestina convoy, led in part by firebrand British MP George Galloway, loaded 210 truckloads of food and medical supplies onto a ferry in the Syrian port of Latakia.

The group, which set out from London nearly a month ago and drove through Turkey and Syria, spent five days stranded in Jordan after Egypt denied it permission to travel to the Red Sea port of Nuweiba, insisting that aid convoys should transit through the port of Al-Arish, on the Mediterranean. [continued...]

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From the Cairo Speech to the Cairo Declaration

From the Cairo Speech to the Cairo Declaration

In early June last year, after Barack Obama gave his Cairo speech, the think tanks in Washington were abuzz as analysts could barely contain their excitement at witnessing the new Democratic president making history.

“The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop,” Obama boldly declared in front of a youthful Egyptian audience giddy with hope inspired by the lofty oratory of America’s visionary leader.

When the embodiment of hope, invested with the authority of the White House, spoke, the world listened.

Six months later Obama’s authority seems to mean nothing and his words of hope have been soured by their apparent lack of authenticity.

Now comes the Cairo Declaration.

A few hundred activists whose hope of breaking the siege of Gaza got squashed like a bug under the heals of Egypt’s security forces, have signed a declaration. Will the world pay much attention?

Maybe not. But what the Gaza Freedom March lacks in authority it makes up for with authenticity and this — not political office — is ultimately what gives language its power.

End Israeli Apartheid
Cairo Declaration
January 1, 2010

We, international delegates meeting in Cairo during the Gaza Freedom March 2009 in collective response to an initiative from the South African delegation, state:

In view of:

* Israel’s ongoing collective punishment of Palestinians through the illegal occupation and siege of Gaza;
* the illegal occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the continued construction of the illegal Apartheid Wall and settlements;
* the new Wall under construction by Egypt and the US which will tighten even further the siege of Gaza;
* the contempt for Palestinian democracy shown by Israel, the US, Canada, the EU and others after the Palestinian elections of 2006;
* the war crimes committed by Israel during the invasion of Gaza one year ago;
* the continuing discrimination and repression faced by Palestinians within Israel;
* and the continuing exile of millions of Palestinian refugees;
* all of which oppressive acts are based ultimately on the Zionist ideology which underpins Israel;
* in the knowledge that our own governments have given Israel direct economic, financial, military and diplomatic support and allowed it to behave with impunity;
* and mindful of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (2007)

We reaffirm our commitment to:

Palestinian Self-Determination
Ending the Occupation
Equal Rights for All within historic Palestine
The full Right of Return for Palestinian refugees

We therefore reaffirm our commitment to the United Palestinian call of July 2005 for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) to compel Israel to comply with international law.

To that end, we call for and wish to help initiate a global mass, democratic anti-apartheid movement to work in full consultation with Palestinian civil society to implement the Palestinian call for BDS.

Mindful of the many strong similarities between apartheid Israel and the former apartheid regime in South Africa, we propose:

1) An international speaking tour in the first 6 months of 2010 by Palestinian and South African trade unionists and civil society activists, to be joined by trade unionists and activists committed to this programme within the countries toured, to take mass education on BDS directly to the trade union membership and wider public internationally;

2) Participation in the Israeli Apartheid Week in March 2010;

3) A systematic unified approach to the boycott of Israeli products, involving consumers, workers and their unions in the retail, warehousing, and transportation sectors;

4) Developing the Academic, Cultural and Sports boycott;

5) Campaigns to encourage divestment of trade union and other pension funds from companies directly implicated in the Occupation and/or the Israeli military industries;

6) Legal actions targeting the external recruitment of soldiers to serve in the Israeli military, and the prosecution of Israeli government war criminals; coordination of Citizen’s Arrest Bureaux to identify, campaign and seek to prosecute Israeli war criminals; support for the Goldstone Report and the implementation of its recommendations;

7) Campaigns against charitable status of the Jewish National Fund (JNF).

We appeal to organisations and individuals committed to this declaration to sign it and work with us to make it a reality. [Read more...]

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Simultaneous solidarity marches held on northern and southern borders of Gaza Strip

Simultaneous solidarity marches held on northern and southern borders of Gaza Strip

A s a group of Israeli peace activists gathered near the Erez crossing on the northern border of the Gaza Strip, 1200 international activists with the ‘Gaza Freedom March’ held a rally in Cairo to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Israeli invasion of Gaza. The Cairo march was attacked by Egyptian police, injuring several demonstrators.

After over 1200 international delegates with the ‘Gaza Freedom March’ were denied entry into the Gaza Strip on Wednesday (100 members of the delegation were allowed to enter), the group organized a protest march and rally in Cairo Thursday, which was attacked by Egyptian riot police. [continued...]

the reluctant radical

There was very little discussion of political ideas, and what Mick offered was pithy and inspiring: We were here because it was “an obscenity in the 21st century” that the people of Gaza did not have the freedom to come and go. The walls had come down in Berlin and South Africa, they must come down here.

A lot of the questions were about violence. The Egyptians had shown little appetite for hurting westerners, but you did not know. And what if you felt uncomfortable with the idea of being arrested or clubbed? “The demonstration is for everyone,” Mick said. “There’s always the option of walking away and saying, enough is enough.” Those who wanted to observe and support could do that. There would not be “a scintilla” of pressure on anyone to do what they did not want to do.

Sitting on the stairwell, I wondered what I was doing there. The jammed space had a romance, an air of the many freedom marches before this; and the word “provocateurs” was redolent of socialist activism. I’m not a radical, but a left/liberal; the doorways for my engagement here was not solidarity with suffering people but good old self interest: my concerns about American militarism in the Middle East and Zionism in Jewish life. And yet here I was; and it occurred to me that certain injustices become so disturbing to some people, to their understanding of history, that they must take a stand, and are willing to make great sacrifices to do so; and in that sense I was also a radical, if a reluctant one. [continued...]

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‘Israel resembles a failed state’

‘Israel resembles a failed state’

One year has passed since the savage Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip, but for the people there time might as well have stood still.

Since Palestinians in Gaza buried their loved ones – more than 1,400 people, almost 400 of them children – there has been little healing and virtually no reconstruction.

According to international aid agencies, only 41 trucks of building supplies have been allowed into Gaza during the year.

Promises of billions made at a donors’ conference in Egypt last March attended by luminaries of the so-called “international community” and the Middle East peace process industry are unfulfilled, and the Israeli siege, supported by the US, the European Union, Arab states, and tacitly by the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah, continues. [continued...]

Editor’s Comment — Ali Abunimah, who has just left Cairo after attending the thwarted Gaza Freedom March, adds on his blog:

To talk about the siege of Gaza in the abstract is one thing, but to actually come to Egypt and find that Gaza is harder to visit than a prison is like a bucket of cold water. The Egyptian government may be efficient at few things, but it is highly efficient at maintaining the siege. Buses hired to take all the marchers to Gaza were prevented from showing up. Those who tried to get to Gaza under their own steam were turned back or detained at their hotel in Al Arish. It was very very frustrating. But whatever frustration we felt is one millionth of the frustration of the besieged Palestinian people in Gaza. So perhaps in some way it is better then that we did not get in, because Egypt gave us a small taste of what it serves every day to people in Gaza — and a small taste of what Egyptians face when they challenge their government’s policies.

Report from Gaza: One student’s question to the world – ‘Why the Palestinians? Why are we the only ones suffering?’

The question was like an electric shock to the six or so Palestine solidarity activists, including myself, as we were standing inside a classroom at a school in Gaza City.

“Why the Palestinians? Why are we the only ones suffering?” asked a Palestinian girl who was probably about nine or ten-years-old. And then the enormity of what the people of Gaza go through every day hit me.

Most of us were Americans and one was Canadian, and we were delivering some of the $17,000 in school supplies that Jessica Campbell and Julia Hurley, two members of the Gaza Freedom March student delegation, had brought and raised on their own. [continued...]

Israel’s 10 worst errors of the decade

…there is perhaps no better time than this to review Israel’s 10 Worst Mistakes of the Last 10 Years:

1. The Siege of Gaza – The stated goal of the siege was to undermine Hamas and to goad Gazans into rejecting Hamas rule. The effect of the siege has been to focus and intensify Palestinian anger against Israel, increase Gazans’ dependency on Hamas social welfare arms, enrich Hamas coffers through tunnel taxation and foreign donations, and sap Palestinian support for Fatah, which, through its back-channel encouragement for the siege, is seen as a betrayer and a boot-licker in the eyes of many Palestinians.

2. The Siege of Gaza – The blockade was ostensibly a means to stem the influx of weaponry into Gaza. In practice, with shipments the size of automobiles flowing through the tunnels, the Hamas arsenal has grown ever more sophisticated, now believed to include Iranian-manufactured rockets capable of striking Tel Aviv and Ben-Gurion Airport from the Strip.

3. The Siege of Gaza – In the eyes of the world community, the overwhelming collective punishment – and the relative silence of Israelis in response – has gutted Israeli claims to the moral high ground. It has undercut sympathy for Israelis living within Qassam range. It has kept open the moral wounds of the Gaza War, cramping rebuilding efforts, enshrining universal unemployment, and ensuring agonizing homelessness as the coastal winter gathers full force. Israeli officials have quietly take steps of astounding insensitivity, arbitrarily barring such goods as school supplies.

4. The Siege of Gaza – The siege has been presented in the past as a means of pressing Hamas to release Gilad Shalit. Not only does he remain captive, the terms of a prospective deal appear not to include lifting the siege. The siege has been presented in the past as a means of pressuring Gazans to end rocket fire. But rocket fire only increased after the siege was put in place. Finally, Cast Lead, the Gaza war a year ago, might have been prevented altogether, had Israel adhered more closely to the Egyptian-brokered Hamas-Israel truce agreement of June, 2008, and lifted the siege more completely in response to a drop in rocket fire.

5. The Siege of Gaza – The siege works to the detriment of U.S. support for Israel. In February, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signaled anger at Israel over obstacles to humanitarian aid entering the strip. The message came soon after Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, visiting Gaza, learned that Israel had blocked shipments of pasta, ruling it off the list of permitted humanitarian aid items.

6. The Siege of Gaza – The fact that the siege has failed so completely in achieving its stated aims, reinforces the impression that its real purpose is punitive.

7. The Siege of Gaza – The siege places Israeli officials in jeopardy of being charged with violating the Fourth Geneva Convention and other international codes, as outlined in detail in the Goldstone Report. Referring to the siege, paragraph 1335 of the report states that: “From the facts available to it, the Mission is of the view that some of the actions of the Government of Israel might justify a competent court finding that crimes against humanity have been committed.”

8. The Siege of Gaza – With the siege under the direct aegis of Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his deputy, Matan Vilnai, the moral failings of the siege could prove the coup de grace to an already foundering Labor Party.

9. The Siege of Gaza – The siege threatens to destabilize the rule of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, posing a potential threat to Israeli-Egyptian peace and Israeli security.

10. The Siege of Gaza – The siege corrupts the moral values of all Israelis, who, whether or not they are aware of what is being done to the people of Gaza, bear ultimate responsibility for all acts being carried out in their name. [continued...]

A year ago: Yonatan Schapira, a former Captain in the Israeli Air Force, speaks out on Israel’s war crimes

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GAZA UPDATE

A taboo question for Israelis

There’s a question we Israelis won’t ask ourselves about the Palestinians, especially not about Gaza. The question is taboo. Not only won’t anyone ask it out loud, but very, very few people will dare ask it in the privacy of their own minds.

However, I think it’s time we start asking it, privately and in public. If we don’t, I think there’s going to be Operation Cast Lead II, then Operation Cast Lead III, and each one is going to be worse than the last, and the consequences for Palestinians and Israelis are going to be unimaginable.

The question we have to ask ourselves is this: If anybody treated us like we’re treating the people in Gaza, what would we do?

We don’t want to go there, do we? And because we don’t, we make it our business not to see, hear or think about how, indeed, we are treating the people in Gaza. [continued...]

Update from protests in Gaza and at the Erez checkpoint

Word from Gaza is that 6,000 marched — the maximum allowed by Hamas in absence of international shield — civil society march under Palestinian flag only. Govt felt march route too exposed and too narrow for more to march if Israeli attack was possible. [continued...]

Press release: Protesters are being brutalized in Tahir Square right now – 500+ protesters violently forced into pens, others barricaded in their hotels

From a Gaza Freedom March press release:

Members of the Gaza Freedom March are being forcibly detained in hotels around town (Lotus, Liala) as well as violently forced into pens in Tahir Square by Egyptian police and additional security forces. Reports of police brutality are flooding a delegate legal hotline faster than the legal support team can answer the calls. The reports span from women being kicked, beaten to the ground and dragged into pens, at least one confirmed account of broken ribs, and many left bloody. The assault is ongoing, legal team and other spokespeople can be reached at the Nile Hotel or by contacting the phone numbers listed above. [continued...]

Cairo meets the movement, with tears and chaos and exaltation

Today the Gaza Freedom March fragmented slightly when in the face of stern opposition from their fellows about 80 people headed off to Gaza on buses, the rest staying in Cairo.

But wait, weren’t you trying to go to Gaza? Yes, but it has been quite a drama. How to state this clearly…

Over the last week, as the international marchers arrived in Egypt, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry made it very clear that it did not want them going into Gaza, and it would arrest them short of that goal. But these 1400 are not tourists or milquetoasts, they are activists; and they were not going to be stopped by any old Ministry, even the ministry of a police state. Many set out by bus and taxi to the Sinai desert, while the 300 members of the French group camped out in front of the French Embassy across from the Cairo Zoo, demanding to go even as they were ringed by riot police. [continued...]

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GAZA UPDATE

Activists reject Egypt’s Gaza offer

Members of an international group gathered in Cairo to protest against the siege of Gaza have rejected an Egyptian offer to allow 100 of them entry into the Palestinian territory.

Organisers of the Gaza Freedom March (GFM), which is comprised of 1,300 people from 42 different countries, declined the offer on Wednesday, saying “we refuse to whitewash the siege of Gaza”. [continued...]

Egypt’s role in the Gaza blockade

While Egypt is reported to be receiving technical assistance from the United States in constructing an underground steel barrier along Gaza’s southern border, Egypt’s foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, told The National: “The Egyptian state and people paid a very high price and paid with their blood for more than 50 years in support of the Palestinians. No one should compare himself with what Egypt did and is still doing for the Palestinians.”

In Beirut, Hizbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah urged Egypt to stop building the barrier which could cut off the tunnels that currently provide a lifeline for the Palestinian territory which remains under an Israeli-imposed siege.

The Daily Star reported: “Nasrallah told a crowd of tens of thousands of Lebanese Shiite Muslims marking the Ashura religious ceremony that Egypt should be condemned if it does not halt the wall building. [continued...]

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GAZA UPDATE

Egypt blocks US activists’ march

Egyptian security forces have attempted to prevent dozens of US activists from reaching their embassy in Cairo.

Hoping to ask the American ambassador for help in reaching the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, some 41 American citizens instead found themselves surrounded by riot police.

All those rounded up were members of the Gaza Freedom Marchers organisation, a group planning to travel to Gaza to protest an Egyptian and Israeli blockade of the besieged territory.

However, one activist, Ali Abunimah, a co-founder of The Electronic Intifada website, told Al Jazeera that the US embassy did eventually allow US citizens to enter their embassy in groups of ten.

“We met with a political rep. in the embassy, Greg Legrefo, and talked about the dire situation in Gaza and international complicity for more than hour …. but the bottom line is the US supports the siege of Gaza.

“The US Army Corps of Engineers is even providing technical assistance to build an underground wall [to stop the Gaza tunnel networks from operating].” [continued...]

Exclusive excerpt from Joe Sacco’s groundbreaking new book: Footnotes in Gaza

As we approach the one year anniversary of Israel’s attack on Gaza, we are proud to be able to share with you an exclusive peek at Joe Sacco’s new book Footnotes in Gaza. Rather than focus on the current phase of the conflict, the book deals with an often forgotten, or unknown, event – the massacre of 111 Palestinians by Israeli forces in the Gaza towns of Rafah and Khan Younis in 1956. While these southern Gazan towns are currently in the news as the Gaza Freedom March and Viva Palestina convoy try to enter Rafah from Egypt, Sacco’s book takes us back to 1948 and 1956 to show us how we arrived at the point we are today.

We’ll be posting more on the book in coming weeks, including a more formal review and an interview with Sacco, but as we turn our eyes towards Gaza on this solemn anniversary, let us remember everything that came before it. [continued...]

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GAZA UPDATE

Gaza: the war of words

Gaza aid convoy to take longer route after hold-up in Egypt

he aid convoy, stranded in Aqaba, Jordan, for five days, on its way to the Gaza Strip, turns back to Syria after Cairo’s refusal to let it cross through its territory.

Members of the convoy, led by British MP George Galloway, were hoping to reach a solution through Turkish mediation and enter Gaza through the Red Sea port of Nuweiba, the most direct route.

“After talks between the Turkish government’s envoy and the Egyptian consulate in Aqaba, we agreed to go to Syria,” Zaher Birawi, spokesman for the convoy, told Agence France-Presse.

“We have told the Egyptians that we were not trying to challenge them and urged them to help us, but they refused,” Birawi said. [continued...]

Editor’s CommentToday’s Zaman says: “Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he supports the convoy and urged Egypt to allow the Turkish deputies to enter.” And the Viva Palestina Twitter feed adds: “Seems Turkish pressure means convoy will move to Syria (maybe on the road tonight) and Turkey will fund a chartered ship from Syria for ALL.”

85 year old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein begins hunger strike to open Gaza borders

Hedy Epstein, the 85 year old Holocaust survivor and peace activist, announced that she will begin a hunger strike today as a response to the Egyptian government’s refusal to allow the Gaza Freedom March participants into Gaza.

Ms. Epstein was part of a delegation with participants from 43 countries that were to join Palestinians in a non-violent march from Northern Gaza towards the Erez border with Israel calling for the end of the illegal siege. Egypt is preventing the marchers from leaving Cairo, forcing them to search for alternative ways to make their voices heard.

Ms. Epstein will remain outside the UN building at the World Trade Center (Cairo) – 1191 Cornish al-Nil, throughout today, accompanied by other hunger strikers. “It is important to let the besieged Gazan people know they are not alone. I want to tell the people I meet in Gaza that I am a representative of many people in my city and in other places in the US who are outraged at what the US, Israeli and European governments are doing to the Palestinians and that our numbers are growing,” Epstein said. [continued...]
(Photo credit: Ali Abunimah)

Freedom marching in circles while winding our way to Gaza

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.

The Egyptian government has revoked the contracts for the buses that would take us one step closer on our journey to Gaza and has forbidden us from leaving Cairo. Military police have torn down our small hand-written cards tied to the Kasr al Nil Bridge, following the Israelis’ lead in trying to disappear the names and numbers of Gaza’s martyrs. Candles meant to float along the Nile in remembrance are still in their boxes, their hundreds of distributors never permitted to board the feluccas (river boats) waiting just beyond overwhelming security forces. We regroup, circle again, and find another path to remembering and reminding, another way through the many checkpoints and the impossible border ahead. [continued...]

A man-made humanitarian disaster

One year after the Zionist entity’s savage assault on the besieged refugee population of the Gaza Strip, a group of 16 international human rights and aid groups released a report documenting the wretched conditions under which the people of Gaza are inexplicably left to suffer.

We hear much of this suffering, but all too often it’s just an afterthought in the heat of political discussion. And for those who have never gone through such conditions, it will be impossible to understand the comprehensive breadth of the restrictions placed upon every facet of daily life in Gaza.

I hardly ever read these reports in full, usually just perusing the conclusions, but reading the detailed facts and figures mentioned in this one (entitled ‘Failing Gaza: No rebuilding, no recovery, no more excuses‘) really drives home the extent of the oppression. [continued...]

One year since Gaza war: no access by the numbers

Despite the fact that a year has passed since the start of the Gaza military operation, the damage caused by three weeks of war and the near total closure preceding it has yet to be repaired. The reason: Israel’s ongoing policy blocking goods from entering the Gaza Strip, including a near total ban on reconstruction materials. [continued...]

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GAZA UPDATE

The Children of Gaza share their experiences of “Cast Lead”

Viva Palestina convoy held up in Jordan

Gaza aid convoy members prepare for hunger strike

Members of the Viva Palestina international aid convoy to Gaza will begin a hunger strike at 11.25am local time 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. [continued...]

Lift the siege on Gaza!

A massive mobilization between December 27, 2009 and January 1, 2010 with candlelight vigils, concerts, marches, demonstrations, art installations and movie screenings will assemble all over the world to send a clear message to world leaders: end the siege on Gaza.

To tackle the blockade against Gaza, grassroots activists are moving quickly and acting in unison for an absolutley crucial time. Dec. 27 will mark one year since the Israeli attack and invasion of the Gaza Strip. Although the Israeli tanks have left, the complete closure of the borders continues.

In order to unite the public to influence public leaders behind the Gaza Freedom March goals, solidarity action organizers harnessed the power of the internet to coordinate a global week of actions. There will be actions at many places around the world: France, United Kingdom, Turkey, Ireland, Germany, Spain, United States, Afghanistan, Australia, Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden, Jordan, Canada, Israel/Palestine, Poland, Denmark, and Greece. [continued...]

Gaza Freedom Marchers: 38 detained by Egypt

Egyptian security forces detained 38 participants of the Gaza Freedom March from a hotel in Al-Arish on Sunday at noon, according to a statement issued by the event’s organizers.

“Egyptian security forces detained a group of 30 internationals in their hotel in el-Arish and another group of 8 at the bus station. They also broke up a memorial action commemorating the Cast Lead massacre at the Kasr al Nil Bridge,” the statement asserted. [continued...]

Police detain 16 Israeli leftists on Gaza border

Police detained 16 left-wing activists as they were trying to cross into Gaza on Sunday to mark the one year anniversary of Operation Cast Lead.

Chief Superintendent Shimon Nahmani, commander of the Sderot police station, said the leftists held a rally without prior authorization. [continued...]

Hezbollah chief asks Egypt to stop Gaza border wall

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Sunday called on Egypt to stop building a steel wall along the Gaza border that could obstruct tunnels which provide a lifeline for the blockaded enclave.

Nasrallah told a crowd of tens of thousands of Lebanese Shi’ite Muslim marking the Ashura religious ceremony that Egypt should be condemned if it does not halt the wall building. [continued...]

A year later, Gaza and Israel both under siege

A year after the Israeli attack on Gaza, a scorecard of “winners and losers” suggests that nobody won anything, but Israel has probably suffered political losses that it could not have envisioned when it decided to invade Gaza. I count seven main aims that Israel had in mind when it launched its war a year ago and tightened its siege of Gaza; one of them was achievable without a war, and the six others have not been achieved, or have turned things to Hamas’ and the Palestinians’ favor. [continued...]

Cast Lead 2

This week hundreds of thousands gathered in the Gaza Strip for a demonstration in support of Hamas. Judging from the photos, there were between 200 and 400 thousand. Considering that there are about 1.5 million inhabitants in the Strip, most of them children, that was quite an impressive turnout – especially in view of the misery caused by the Israeli blockade that has continued throughout the year and the ruined homes that could not be rebuilt. Those who believed that the pressure on the population would cause an uprising against the Hamas government have been proved wrong.

History buffs were not surprised. When attacked by a foreign foe, every people unites behind its leaders, whoever they are. Pity that our politicians and generals don’t read books.

Our commentators portray the inhabitants of Gaza as “looking with longing at the flourishing shops of Ramallah”. These commentators also derive hope from public opinion polls that purport to show that the popularity of Hamas in the West Bank is declining. If so, why is Fatah afraid of conducting elections, even after all Hamas activists there have been thrown into prison?

It seems that most of the people in the Gaza Strip are more or less satisfied with the functioning of the Hamas government. In spite of the misery of their lives, they may also be proud of its steadfastness There is order in the streets, crime and drugs are decreasing. Hamas is trying cautiously to promote a religious agenda in daily life, and it seems that the public does not mind.

The main aim of the operation has failed completely. [continued...]

Such brutal folly – but now prepare for Cast Lead II

There were no winners in the Gaza war that Israel launched a year ago today, but no shortage of losers. And failure to address its underlying causes – the economic siege through which Israel, Egypt and the US hope to force Hamas from power, and that organisation’s ability to respond by firing rockets into Israel – means that far from anyone learning the lessons of the brutal folly that was Operation Cast Lead, a repeat may be imminent. [continued...]

European Israel-advocacy group files suit against Goldstone report in Belgium

As Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders act to remove Israel from the international criminal justice system, some Israelis and their supporters in Europe are fighting back. The following was published in Yedioth Aharonoth on December 24, 2009.

Yesterday the pro-Israel lobby, the European Initiative, submitted in Belgium a lawsuit of a kind never filed before. The prospective defendants are the entire Hamas leadership; the plaintiffs are people with Belgian citizenship who live in the Gaza periphery communities and who have been targeted by dozens of rockets in the past number of years.

In the aftermath of the wave of lawsuits that were filed by pro-Palestinian organizations in the past number of years in Europe to have top Israeli officials arrested, yesterday a legal counter-assault was staged. Following six months of preparatory work, yesterday the pro-Israel lobby lodged an itemized legal complaint to the Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s Office with the demand that the top Hamas leadership in Gaza and Damascus be prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The suit, incidentally, is based on the Goldstone Report, as well as on reports by B’Tselem and Amnesty International.

Not only does the suit explicitly accept the principle of international jurisdiction over criminal offenses committed in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is based on reporting by NGOs whose integrity is frequently attacked by the Government of Israel. The most surprising component of this development is, however, the endorsement of the validity of the Goldstone Report. [continued...]

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GAZA UPDATE

Viva Palestina convoy blocked from entering Egypt

Deserts, delays and Christmas cheer

Once more, kind hosts among the Palestinian community in Amman provided food and hotel accommodation for us, as well as a full programme of rallies and press conferences. Many of our hosts invited volunteers to their houses, where they enjoyed home-cooked food and convivial company.

By now, the convoy had become a major news story (in some cases the lead story) across the Middle East. The Turkish president even appeared on Syrian TV asking Egypt to facilitate its smooth passage.

Sadly, however, this appeal seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Despite Viva Palestina’s organisers spending months trying to coordinate and cooperate with the Egyptian authorities regarding the convoy’s passage from the Red Sea to Rafah (only half a day’s drive), at the last minute, the Egyptian consulate in Aqaba announced that all aid for Gaza must either be handed over to UNWRA, travel through Israel, or be approved by Israel (!) before coming to Rafah, and that therefore we would not be allowed to land at Nuweiba.

In a meeting with the convoy volunteers on Christmas morning, George Galloway pointed out that if we thought UNWRA was up to the job, we could have simply written them a cheque months ago! He also reiterated that we had no intention of asking Israel for its permission to deliver aid to a sovereign people via a third, also sovereign, country. He begged the Egypian authorities to change their minds, emphasising that on Sunday 27 December, the anniversary of the bombardment of Gaza, the world’s attention should be on Israel and its war crimes, not on Egypt, a fellow Arab nation. [continued...]

What would Jesus do in Gaza?

Maybe it seems beside the point, even on the eve of Christmas, to ask ourselves what would Jesus do in the Holy Land today. The narrow confines of Gaza, Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria are places where God’s love was long ago supplanted by war for land and ill will among men. It has been a year now since the bloody and fruitless Israeli effort to crush Hamas in what amounts to a massive prison for a million people. Peacemakers in the Middle East are rarely blessed, and often reviled; just ask special envoy George Mitchell. And the truth rarely sets anyone free, as proved most recently by the fact-filled United Nations report by South African Judge Richard Goldstone, which was dissed by Washington and dismissed by Israel.

But given that it’s Barack Obama who’s president of the United States, the Jesus question has a relevance today it wouldn’t have had even a year ago. No, Obama is not the messiah. I’m not saying that. But Obama actually uses the word love in a way that Jesus would have understood. So while the question of what Christ might do in today’s Holy Land is hypothetical, the question of what Obama will do is not. And some of his most cherished ideas about peace, love, and understanding could be put to the test Dec. 31 when activists are hoping to stage a massive Gaza Freedom March. [continued...]

Open letter to President Mubarak from the Gaza Freedom March

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. [continued...]

What is the aim of the Gaza Freedom March?

As the days of December 2009 draw in, two events which each have a role to play in world peace draw closer. The first is on the 27th and is commemorating the start of the 22 day attacks on Gaza, an operation which targeted unarmed civilians, schools, hospitals, journalists and emergency staff. The second, The Gaza Freedom March will take place on the 31st. The Gaza Freedom March is a historic moment, the magnitude of which has not been seen in Palestine since 1967. Chiseled on the lessons learnt from South Africa’ struggle for liberation against apartheid and from Gandhi’ Satyagraha approach during the campaign for India’ independence, the Gaza Freedom March is walking in the same shoes.

In order to find out more about the Gaza Freedom March I met up with Dr. Haidar Eid, a member of the Steering Committee for the March in Gaza. [continued...]

Trend #GAZA instructions

[SUNDAY'S THE #GAZA TREND DAY.]

Only 2 days to go before our attempt at trending #GAZA on twitter to raise global awareness on commemorating one year since the massive Israeli assault and siege. You can read the initial post here. Here are some updates and instructions I thought would be useful for all of us involved in the campaign:

How does a topic trend on twitter and why is that important?

At every given time, twitter lists a number of “trending,” i.e. popular topics being discussed frequently by a large number of people. These topics get a lot of needed attention – especially if we know they are otherwise going to be ignored by mainstream mass media. With all the odds against the Gaza Freedom March and Viva Palestina, we need to make sure that we are reporting the news of what’s happening with their campaigns, as well as reminding the world of the one-year commemoration. Topics trend on twitter when a large number of people mention it frequently over a substantial period of time. It also depends on the percentage of tweets, the hour, how active the twit-o-sphere is, etc. Based on a little research I did today, here’s how we can get it done: [continued...]

Inside Story – The world has failed Gaza

‘They planted hatred in our hearts’

Joe Sacco’s gripping, important book about two long-forgotten mass killings of Palestinians in Gaza stands out as one of the few contemporary works on the Israeli-Palestinian struggle likely to outlive the era in which they were written.

Sacco will find readers for “Footnotes in Gaza” far into the future because of the unique format and style of his comic-book narrative. He stands alone as a reporter-cartoonist because his ability to tell a story through his art is combined with investigative reporting of the highest quality.

His subject in this case is two massacres that happened more than half a century ago, stirred up little international attention and were forgotten outside the immediate circle of the victims. The killings took place during the Suez crisis of 1956, when the Israeli Army swept into the Gaza Strip, the great majority of whose inhabitants were Palestinian refugees. According to figures from the United Nations, 275 Palestinians were killed in the town of Khan Younis at the southern end of the strip on Nov. 3, and 111 died in Rafah, a few miles away on the Egyptian border, during a Nov. 12 operation by Israeli troops. Israel insisted that the Palestinians were killed when Israeli forces were still facing armed resistance. The Palestinians said all resistance had ceased by then. [continued...]

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