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Home arrow Blog arrow December 2009 arrow December 28, 2009

December 28, 2009
December 28, 2009: "The WORLD composed of people with hearts, holds its breath." 4 PM EST UPDATE LEADS

 

 

 Gaza Freedom March
Second Letter: December 27-28



The first day in Cairo was a bit chaotic: Organizers struggled to communicate with over 1,300 people dispersed in various hotels throughout Cairo, many of whom did not have email or phone service.  Some of us found that our hotel reservations were imaginary, and so we had to make alternative arrangements. Despite the challenges, it was an amazing day.



In the morning, about a hundred people brought flowers, ribbons and poems to leave on the Kasr el Nil Bridge that spans the Nile River, in memory of the hundreds of Gazans killed by the Israelis exactly one year ago. People walked onto the bridge in groups of six or less—a gathering of more than six is illegal, we had been told. Nevertheless, the police soon came and ordered everyone off the bridge.



We planned another action for the early evening:  An ancient type of sail boat called a felucca has plied the Nile for centuries. March organizers had rented ten of these, reserving them in advance, and we intended to sail our feluccas on the Nile and place candles in paper cups in the water. 



We imagined hundreds of candles floating in the Nile at sunset, each candle commemorating an innocent person killed in the Israeli assault on Gaza.  But in the end, we were unable to get to the boats; the police closed down the felucca operations and surrounded our group on the sidewalk, where we remained for a couple of hours, chanting “Free Gaza” and waving banners and flags.



Months ago, March organizers had obtained a permit for our entire group to meet in a church in downtown Cairo in the evening, where final decisions would be made and instructions given.


However, a week ago, the Egyptian government revoked the permit, and so, after leaving the felucca protest, we all converged in a large, open-air square for our meeting. It was a bit difficult to hear, given the traffic noise and the size of our group, but we soon broke up into smaller groups where we could discuss our next steps.



In the meantime, a group of about 200 French people gathered at the French Embassy, where they were originally supposed to board buses to take them to the border. But the government prohibited the bus companies from transporting anyone from the Gaza Freedom March, and so the French mounted a protest in front of the Embassy. First, they lay down in the street—a major thoroughfare—and kept the street for about five hours. The French Ambassador, supportive of the protesters, negotiated with the police, and subsequently the group moved onto the sidewalk where they set up tents and spent the night. Over twenty-four hours later, they are still there. I went to the Embassy this morning to see the protest and found a double row of police in riot gear lining the entire block, with the French group inside the police line. Some 20 paddy wagons were parked across the street.  I believe that the French protesters will stay camped out there for a long time, unless they are arrested.




We were all supposed to go to Gaza today, but as with the French group, our buses were prohibited from transporting us.


This afternoon, all of us except the French gathered on the plaza outside the offices of the United Nations. We chanted, waved signs, and planned next steps, encircled by police, for five hours. Several people initiated a hunger strike, including one 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, Heddy Epstein. While we waited outside, three of the March organizers negotiated with UN representatives inside, to see if  the UN could persuade the Egyptian government to allow us into Gaza—or even allow some of us in—and to allow in the humanitarian aid we had brought with us.  But these talks were unsuccessful.



Meanwhile, six Germans attempted to get to the border via public transportation, but their bus was stopped at a checkpoint and they were taken off and detained. The bus, full of Egyptians, was held up for seven hours as the police sorted out what to do. The Germans reported that the Egyptian people on the bus were incredibly kind and appreciative, even though they had been greatly inconvenienced by the seven-hour delay. Finally, the Germans were put on another bus and returned to Cairo.



Tomorrow, we Americans will go to the American Embassy to urge the U.S. to pressure Egypt to open the border to Gaza.  Other nationality groups will engage in other actions.



We are determined to break the siege. The situation of the people of Gaza is intolerable, and the world must respond.





FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Monday, December 28, 2009
Contact: Hedy Epstein


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.

In 1939, when Epstein was just 14, her parents found a way for her to escape the persecution, sending her on the Kindertransport to England. Epstein never saw her parents again; they perished in Auschwitz in 1942. After World War II, Epstein worked as a research analyst at the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi doctors who performed medical experiments on concentration camp inmates.



After moving to the US, Epstein became an activist for peace and social justice causes. Unlike most Holocaust survivors, one of the causes she has taken up is that of the Palestinian people. She has
traveled to the West Bank, collected material aid and now she hopes to enter Gaza.

For more information contact:
Ann Wright, Egypt (19) 508-1493
Ziyaad Lunat,  Egypt +20 191181340
Medea Benjamin, Egypt +20 18 956 1919
Ehab Lotayef, Egypt +20 17 638 2628




Thanks to Enrique Ferro for compiling the following NEWS. To receive his hard work, email him a request  @ < >

 




USACBI Statement on 1 Year Anniversary of ‘Operation Cast Lead’

 

USACBI

 

December 26, 2009

December 27, 2009 marks the one-year anniversary of the beginning of 'Operation Cast Lead,’ Israel’s 22-day assault on the captive population of Gaza, which killed 1400 people, one third of them children, and injured more than 5300.  During this war on an impoverished, mostly refugee population, Israel targeted civilians, using internationally proscribed white phosphorous bombs, deprived them of power, water and other essentials, and sought to destroy the infrastructure of Palestinian civil society, including hospitals, administrative buildings and UN facilities.  It targeted with peculiar consistency educational institutions of all kinds: the Islamic University of Gaza, the Ministry of Education, the American International School, at least ten UNRWA schools, one of which was sheltering internally displaced Palestinian civilians with nowhere to flee, and tens of other schools and educational facilities.


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


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


"Cultural workers" who have endorsed our call include well-known author Barbara Ehrenreich, Electronic Intifada founder Ali Abunimah, poets Adrienne Rich and Lisa Suhair Majjaj, ISM co-founder and documentary film-maker Adam Shapiro,  Jordan Flaherty of Left Turn Magazine, and Adrienne Maree Brown, of the Ruckus Society.  


Among the 34 organizations supporting our mission are and the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, the Green Party, Code Pink, INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, .Artists Against Apartheid, and Teachers Against the Occupation.


The Advisory Board of the United States Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) has grown to include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Hamid Dabashi, Lawrence Davidson, Bill Fletcher Jr., Glen Ford, Mark Gonzales, Marilyn Hacker, Edward Herman, Annemarie Jacir, J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Robin Kelley, Ilan Pappe, James Petras, Vijay Prashad, Andrenne Rich, Michel Shehadeh, and Lisa Taraki.


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


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

Specifically, supporters are asked to:

  1. Refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions that do not vocally oppose Israeli state policies against Palestine; 
  2. Advocate a comprehensive boycott of Israeli institutions at the national and international levels, including suspension of all forms of funding and subsidies to these institutions; 
  3. Promote divestment and disinvestment from Israel by international academic institutions;
  4. Work toward the condemnation of Israeli policies by pressing for resolutions to be adopted by academic, professional and cultural associations and organizations;
  5. Support Palestinian academic and cultural institutions directly without requiring them to partner with Israeli counterparts as an explicit or implicit condition for such support.  

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

  1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall; 
  2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and 
  3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

United States Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI)


:: Article nr. 61487 sent on 27-dec-2009 00:23 ECT
www.uruknet.info?p=61487






Ban Ki-Moon: Gaza reconstruction not being addressed

Damaged buildings in Jabalia, Gaza (27 December 2009)
Gazans have not been able to obtain building supplies to repair damage

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said more must be done to repair damage done in the Gaza Strip by Israeli military action one year ago.

Mr Ban said Gazans were being denied "basic human rights" and urged Israel to end its "unacceptable and counterproductive blockade".

He said Israeli well-being depended on conditions improving in the enclave.

Rallies are being held across Gaza to mark a year since the conflict, in which 1,400 Palestinians were killed.

In comments posted on the UN's website, Mr Ban said he was "deeply concerned that neither the issues that led to this conflict nor its worrying aftermath are being addressed".

He said that while levels of violence had been low in the past year, there was still no durable ceasefire after Operation Cast Lead and Gazans were "denied basic human rights".

"The quality and quantity of humanitarian supplies entering Gaza is insufficient, broader economic and reconstruction activity is paralysed," said Mr Ban.

'Hopelessness'

Under Israel's blockade of Gaza, only basic humanitarian supplies are allowed in, meaning Gazans have not been able to obtain materials to repair damaged homes, buildings and infrastructure.

The UN Relief and Works agency (UNRWA) in Gaza told the BBC that public health was suffering as a result of inadequate and unsanitary water supplies, and there had been a rise in infant mortality.

GAZA CONFLICT CASUALTIES
Total Palestinian deaths:
1,409 (PCHR)
1,387 (B'Tselem)
1,166 (Israeli military)
Palestinian children killed:
326 (under 17, PCHR)
252 (under 16, B'tselem)
89 (under 16, Israeli military)
Palestinian civilians killed:
916* (PCHR)
773* (B'tselem)
295 plus 162 unknown (Israeli military)
Israelis killed:
3 civilians
10 security forces (includes 4 by friendly fire)
*Figs exclude about 250 Hamas police officers

PCHR=Palestinian Human Rights Centre, B'Tselem=Israeli human rights group

UNRWA spokesman Christopher Gunness said thousands of tonnes of sewage were being pumped into the sea every day, because material for rebuilding treatment plants and other facilities was so scarce.

An international humanitarian aid convoy of some 200 vehicles is hoping to mark the anniversary by delivering supplies to Gaza.

The convoy is currently in Jordan, awaiting permission to cross the Red Sea and proceed to Egypt.

Hamas, which controls Gaza, is holding 22 days of rallies to mark the anniversary.

Senior leader Ahmed Bahar said Gazans remained "steadfast" after the conflict

"The resistance, which defended its land with honour, was not broken," the AFP news agency quoted him as saying.

Mr Ban called on Israel to end its blockade, uphold international law and make it possible for economic activity and civilian reconstruction to take place. He also urged Hamas to respect the law and bring an end to violence, and for all Palestinians to "work for unity".

He said there was "a sense of hopelessness in Gaza today for 1.5 million Palestinians, half of whom are under 18" and that "a fundamentally different approach to Gaza is urgently required".

"Their fate and the well-being of Israelis are intimately connected."

The BBC's Katya Adler in Gaza City said the mood on the anniversary of Operation Cast Lead was relatively quiet, but uneasy.

Both Israel and Palestinians in Gaza believe 2010 is bound to bring further violence, our correspondent adds.

 
From Al-Ahram Weekly in Cairo

The Viva Palestina convoy is hours away from Egypt while participants of the Gaza Freedom March have started arriving in Cairo. VP organiser Kevin Ovenden asks, "Will they get through?"
 

 
Two groups of largely Westerners, disgusted by their governments' indifference to the plight of the Palestinians besieged by Israel in Gaza, have descended on Egypt, hoping to convince the Egyptian authorities to once again defy the Israeli blockade and help their Palestinian brothers.

Viva Palestina's (VP) long journey from the UK to Gaza is almost coming to an end. The convoy is dubbed "Return to Gaza" by its organisers, who have taken this life-saving journey twice already this year, using different itineraries. They are now appealing to the Egyptian government, both directly and through letters and e-mails to Egyptian embassies around the world, not to impede their advance towards their noble goal to provide succour to the beleaguered Gazans.

As Al-Ahram Weekly was going to press on Wednesday, the convoy was still at its Amman stop where it will remain for another night before heading south to Jordan's Maan then Aqaba. It is expected to land in Egypt on Christmas day and plans to be at the Rafah border crossing with Gaza on 27 December, to commemorate the first anniversary of Israel's brutal invasion of Gaza -- Operation Cast Lead.


Over 200 vehicles -- ambulances, trucks, minivans, passenger cars, minibuses and approximately 420 activists from the UK, the US, Turkey and Malaysia -- have been racing against time and barely sleeping to make it to Gaza on time. Whether or not the donated vehicles, medical aid and food stuffs they carry will be allowed into besieged Gaza or not remains to be seen. Their previous endeavours have not been entirely successful in this regard because of Egypt's refusal to allow entire convoys across the borders, citing security and logistical objections.


Convoy leaders stress their politico- humanitarian message. For British MP George Galloway, who came up with the idea last January, VP is more of a political statement, an attempt to break the siege imposed on Gaza since June 2007. The convoy's 200 plus vehicles with their aid are a symbolic gesture as Gaza requires at least 400 such trucks of aid daily just to survive. He was quoted on 21 December telling the Internet news site Bikyamasr: "these convoys are a statement that we won't rest until this illegal siege is broken."


So far the convoy's journey has been without major incident. Ignored by the media in Western Europe, it started getting attention in Greece. In Turkey, where the convoy met up with its Turkish arm, the local IHH relief organisation, VP received a "royal" welcome from both officials and the public throughout their three-day stay. They were joined by more activists and donations (vehicles and aid).


On 20 December VP crossed the border to Syria where the government hosted the activists in hotels and organised several publicity receptions for them. In Damascus, the convoy was joined by more volunteers from Italy and Malaysia and found its aid supplies and equipment supplemented with donations from Syria.


Kevin Ovenden, convoy organiser, said, "the level of support has been tremendous, and I would like to thank Syria for welcoming us so warmly. Unlike in Britain and the United States, in Turkey and Syria the issue of Palestine, the people, the civil society and the government are as one."


He added, "the international nature of this convoy demonstrates the depth of popular support for the Palestinian people around the world, and more governments need to recognise this reality, including those in Britain and the US."


Meanwhile in Egypt, organisers of the Gaza Freedom March (GFM), a coalition of international organisations and activists from 42 countries, received a blow from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry on Monday after it issued a statement saying it will not "cooperate" with the march, citing security and logistical concerns. Ann Wright, a retired US diplomat and organiser of the march has been in Cairo for almost three weeks to carry out the required procedures with the authorities in Egypt to get approval for the 1,361 activists to cross the Rafah border on 29 December. The GFM, like VP, aims at breaking the siege. While both groups are different and are not working together, VP and GFM are likely to be held up at Rafah at the same time.


In response to the Foreign Ministry's statement, GFM organisers issued a press release saying they are "determined to break the siege" anyway. "Although we consider this as a setback," said the statement, "it is something we've encountered -- and overcome -- before. No delegation, large or small, that has entered Gaza over the past 12 months has received a final OK before arriving at the Rafah border. Most delegations were discouraged from even heading out of Cairo to Rafah. Some had their buses stopped on the way. Some were told outright that they could not go into Gaza. But after public and political pressure, the Egyptian government changed its position and let them pass."


The GFM will include amongst its participants Pulitzer Prize winning author Alice Walker, leading Syrian comedian Dureid Lahham, French Senator Alima Boumediene-Thiery, author and Filipino MP Walden Bello and former European Parliament vice-president Luisa Morgantini from Italy.


The world, at least the world composed of people with hearts, holds its breath.





 Egyptian Security Forces Detain Gaza Freedom Marchers in
 el-Arish and shut down Gaza Memorial in Cairo

What: Egyptian security forces detain internationals in el-Arish, break up memorial actions in Cairo

When: Sunday, December 27, noon: the 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

At noon on 27 December, Egyptian security forces detained a group of 30 activists in their hotel in el-Arish as they prepared to leave for Gaza, placing them under house arrest. The delegates, all part of the Gaza Freedom March of 1,300 people, were Spanish, French, British, American, and Japanese.

The Egyptian security forces eventually yielded, letting most of the marchers leave the hotel, but did not permit them to leave the town. When two younger delegates, a French and Japanese woman, attempted to leave el-Arish, the Egyptian authorities stopped their taxi and unloaded their luggage.

Another group of eight people, including citizens from American, British, Spanish, Japanese and Greece, were detained at the bus station of Al Arish in the afternoon of December 27. As of 3:30 PM, they were still being held.

Simultaneously, Egyptian security police broke up a commemoration of the Israeli invasion of Gaza organized by the Gaza Freedom March at Kasr al Nil Bridge, one of the main bridges connecting Zamalek Island, in the middle of the Nile, to Cairo. As a nonviolent way of commemorating the more than 1300 Palestinians killed in the Israeli assault on Gaza that began a year ago on December 27, 2008, Gaza Freedom Marchers tied hundreds of strings with notes, poems, art and the names of those killed to the bridge.

“We’re saddened that the Egyptian authorities have blocked our participants’ freedom of movement and interfered with a peaceful commemoration of the dead,” said Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK, one of the March’s organizers.

Benjamin added that the Gaza Freedom March participants are continuing to urge the Egyptian government to allow them to proceed to Gaza. They visited the Arab League asking for support, various foreign embassies and the Presidential Palance to deliver an appeal to President Mubarak.

They are calling their supporters around the world to contact Egyptian embassies and urge them to free the marchers and allow them to proceed to Gaza.
 
From the organizers of the GFM. Please call the Egyptian Embassy in Washington DC tomorrow and POLITELY ask them to 'let our people go' to Gaza. DC +1 (202) 895-5400  UK +44 20 7499 3304/2401



Mubarak blows his big chance to behave decently

 

Stuart Littlewood

 December 26, 2009


Gee, thanks President Mubarak... Thanks for ruining Christmas for so many.

But that’s par for the course in the cesspit of treachery that is the Middle East.

The human tragedy of Gaza just gets worse and worse. Nobody seriously believed the Viva Palestina convoy would get through unmolested; and so it came to pass… It is stranded at Aqaba, and its precious cargo is spoiling in the heat, because Mubarak’s henchmen will not allow it to enter Egypt through the port of Nuweiba.

The excuse, we hear, is that the road across the Sinai from Nuweiba to Rafah runs close to the border and the sight of 250 trucks and ambulances laden with food and medical supplies might distress the oh-so-sensitive Israelis. Some vehicles might cause "a big infiltration problem".

Surely Egypt is capable of providing an escort to ensure that no trucks leave the column and defect to Israel. Why would they wish to do so anyway when they have taken great trouble and gone many hundreds of extra miles especially to avoid Israel?

That’s not the only nonsensical thing about the situation. Fully 24 hours before Viva Palestina owned up to it, news reports were saying that Egypt’s foreign ministry had issued a statement announcing that "the Egyptian government welcomes the passage of the convoy into the Gaza Strip on December 27, on condition that it abides by the mechanisms in place for humanitarian aid convoys to the Palestinian people, including most importantly the entry of convoys through the port of El-Arish."

Local pressures being what they are, it might well make things awkward for President Mubarak if the convoy were to travel close to the border with Israel. But one would expect a powerful man like him to overcome any difficulties for human decency's sake and for the sake of his brothers and sisters imprisoned and bombarded by Israel.

Nevertheless the convoy organisers must have obtained prior permission for their route. Were they aware of the El-Arish stipulation? Although asked to be precise about what the Egyptian authorities told them, the organisers remain vague. This makes it difficult to explain to well-wishers, and particularly to waiting Gazans, why the convoy is kicking its heel in Aqaba and going nowhere.

Egypt, sadly, has failed miserably to honour its obligation under the Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA) treaty, in which it undertook to keep the Rafah crossing open.

Now, incredibly, this Arab country is actually collaborating with Israel and the US in the construction of an iron wall to hermetically seal the tiny enclave of Gaza and ensure its inhabitants suffocate to death – a project of unspeakable evil.

The convoy’s request for easy passage was Mubarak's big chance to show that he was not, after all, the cruel and unprincipled Zionist stooge that civilised people across the world had already consigned to the dustbin of history. It is not too late to make amends. But if he doesn’t act quickly he’ll blow it for everyone, including himself.

Stuart Littlewood
26 December 2009


   
 
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The Paradoxical Commandments
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People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

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The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

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Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

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"On the day of the termination of the British mandate and on the strength of the United Nations General Assembly declare The State of Israel will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel: it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion it will guarantee freedom of religion [and] conscience and will be faithful to the Charter of the United Nations." - May 14, 1948. The Declaration of the Establishment of Israel
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