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Home arrow Blog arrow December 2009 arrow December 30, 2009

December 30, 2009
December 30, 2009: Back to the Now, Send in The Clowns and related links


 Jean Athey reporting from Cairo:

 

Gaza Freedom March
Letter Three—December 29



Free Gaza actions occurred all over Cairo today, and so the police, who are often in riot gear, have had a busy day—they show up wherever we go. They are incredibly young, maybe 18 or 19. Typically, when the police work a demonstration, they surround us with moveable steel fences, which they line up behind-- sometimes two deep--and they watch us with what seems to be curiosity, not malice.  However, their innocent appearance doesn’t mean they won’t become aggressive; for example, police today were very rough with several Spanish protesters. As internationals, though, we have great protection, not enjoyed by locals. Some Egyptians have joined in these protests, and we find their courage astounding.


 

This morning, I was at the U.S. Embassy with a group of about 40 other Americans. We went hoping to see the Ambassador, but instead we were surrounded by Egyptian police in riot gear and kept penned in for some five hours. The police told us that they did this at the behest of the American Embassy, but later the “political security officer” of the Embassy denied it. So, who is lying?  It is interesting that the French ambassador spent the night outside with the French protesters when they first occupied the sidewalk in front of their embassy, but the American ambassador refused to see us and apparently had us detained, and for no reason.



 

We went to the American Embassy to ask the U.S. to prevail upon the Egyptian government and allow our nonviolent delegation into Gaza. The U.S. has tremendous leverage with Egypt, of course, and if the U.S. asked Egypt to allow us to go to Gaza, the border would surely be opened immediately. Three members of our group were allowed inside the Embassy to speak to an American representative, while the rest of us were prevented from moving outside our temporary pen.  Our spokespersons reminded the political officer with whom they met that when Barack Obama came to Cairo in June, he spoke movingly of the power of nonviolence as a way to resist oppression. The President said,



For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding.

 


The Gaza Freedom March embodies that “peaceful and determined insistence” about which the President spoke.  I wonder if the Ambassador heard his speech.


 

In that same speech, President Obama acknowledged the dire circumstances of Palestinians in general, and Gazans in particular. He said,


 So let there be no doubt: the state of the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own. . . Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. And just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security . . . Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.


 

And yet, it seems that we Americans have turned our backs on the people of Gaza: we are doing nothing to end the siege, which is creating unimaginable suffering. And we have done nothing to compel Israel to end the siege. Indeed, the U.S. is presently facilitating a strengthening of the siege: it was announced last week that the Army Corps of Engineers is assisting Egypt in further isolating the people of Gaza by helping in the construction of a huge underground wall. This wall will cut off the only remaining sources of food, clothes, medicine, and all other necessities of life, which now enter Gaza through tunnels from Egypt.  How shameful that the U.S. is working to increase the suffering of the people of Gaza rather than to diminish it.

 

In his Nobel acceptance speech, President Obama said,



As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King's life's work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak -nothing passive - nothing naïve - in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.



Our President thus applauds nonviolent action and recognizes its strength. The Gaza Freedom March was conceived as a nonviolent response to what President Obama characterized as an intolerable situation and a humanitarian crisis—a crisis that has become increasingly dire since he spoke here in June.



Thus, we are attempting to do exactly what President Obama recommended, and yet when we went to our own Embassy for intervention with the Egyptian government, we were surrounded by police and detained for hours in an open-air pen, an appropriate symbol for Gaza itself, actually.

President Obama said in Oslo,



It is also true that security does not exist where human beings do not have access to enough food, or clean water, or the medicine they need to survive. It does not exist where children cannot aspire to a decent education or a job that supports a family. The absence of hope can rot a society from within.



In Gaza, because of U.S. complicity with Israel in the blockade, people do not have enough food, clean water or medicine. There are no books or paper for school children, and the schools that were bombed cannot be rebuilt because building materials are not allowed into the Strip. Unemployment is at 75%. There is little hope in Gaza.



President Obama ended his eloquent Oslo speech with these stirring words:



So let us reach for the world that ought to be - that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls. . .  Somewhere today, in this world, a young protestor awaits the brutality of her government, but has the courage to march on. Somewhere today, a mother facing punishing poverty still takes the time to teach her child, who believes that a cruel world still has a place for his dreams.



Let us live by their example.



And yet, when we U.S. citizens attempt to speak with representatives of our own Embassy--in a client state--about our desires to help alleviate a dire humanitarian situation, we are detained for hours like animals and refused an audience.  Is this the audacity of hope? Is this change we can believe in?



We ask our government to live by the words of our President and to help us end the illegal and immoral siege of Gaza.






On May 23, 2009 I wrote:

 Hope for
Gaza: Send in the Clowns
 


United Nations human rights investigators announced this week that they intend to enter Gaza in early June to hold public hearings on whether war crimes were committed between December 27 to January 18th, during Israel's invasion on Gaza which killed more than 1,400 Palestinians-over 900 were civilians- and destroyed over 4,000 homes and buildings and displaced over 50,000 on top of a brutal three years of economic blockade.


Israel's investigation of its armed forces last month exonerated the troops, but "international human rights groups have called for a credible independent investigation into the conduct of Israeli troops in Gaza, including the destruction of several Gazan residential areas and firing artillery shells containing white phosphorous which can cause severe burns...The U.N. team will also investigate allegations that Hamas fighters fired rockets at civilian targets in southern Israel."[1] 


Richard Goldstone, the South African jurist who heads the June four-member team, has requested Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu allow their entry; but no official response has yet been received. Richard Falk, the U.N. human rights investigator for the Palestinian territories, was detained and refused entry by Israel when he tried to conduct a separate mission last December. 
 


On May 21, 2009, Ori Nir, Journalist and Spokesman for
Americans for Peace Now, reported on the Obama and Netanyahou White House meeting in a conference call hosted by Churches for Middle East Peace:


"Israel is no longer America's favorite son…The clear message from the USA was that the tight siege was unacceptable and needed significant change in regards to the restrictions at the checkpoints…The US demands are sweeping and not dependent on Palestinian performance…The friendship between Israel and the US has been one of warmth that showed empathy to the extent they supported without objection Israeli policies…Israel's greatest asset is its relationship with the USA…Recognition of Israel as a Jewish State are stalling tactics and Obama will not buy into it… A source of hope is that Netanyahu is pragmatic and pressure able [and] progress in the Jewish camp in the US is gaining strength and momentum. We need to push together as Jews, Christians and others on the path for peace."



President Obama admitted that, "The fact is, that if the people of Gaza have no hope, if they can't even get clean water at this point, if the border closures are so tight that it is impossible for reconstruction and humanitarian efforts to take place, then that is not going to be a recipe for Israel's long-term security or a constructive peace track to move forward."



In an email to the Network of Spiritual Progressives, Rabbi Michael Lerner wrote that, "Hillary Clinton told me when I met with her in the White House: that when FDR met with labor leaders in 1934, after four hours of meeting, he said the following: 'You've convinced me that you are right. Now, go out there and FORCE ME TO DO IT.'



"What he meant, Hillary explained to me, was that the pressures on a President to stay with the status quo and the forces of the economic and political elites of the country are enormous, so that even when a President wishes to move in a different direction, he needs to be able to point to forces from the progressive world that are equally vociferous and pushing him in the direction he wished to go."

One of many Americans who are pushing Obama in the way to go if there is to ever be security for Israel and peace in the Holy Land, is Dr. Hunter Campbell "Patch" Adams, a social activist and professional clown who inspired the Robin Williams film,
Patch Adams. Adams wrote:


"While President Obama and the Middle East leaders talk endlessly about talks, we can actually DO SOMETHING to lift the siege and flood Gaza with love and laughter.  As a 'doctor/clown'  I have traveled the world over to bring the healing power of laughter to children and adults in virtually every corner of the world -- from Afghanistan, to Bosnia, to Haiti. Right now, there is a group of children who are really in need of healing -- the children of the Gaza Strip.

"The 1.5 million people of the Gaza Strip (more than half of them children) have had their homes destroyed, their playgrounds crushed and their schools gutted in the recent Israeli attack on this small, crowded corner of the world. Their borders -- both on the Israeli and Egyptian sides --are closed, making it impossible to rebuild.

"For the first time ever, we'll be part of a coordinated effort to push open the borders by land and by sea! On June 5, I will join CODEPINK: Women for Peace, the Coalition of Women for Peace (Israel) and more than 100 American and Israeli peace activists -- Jews, Muslims, Christians and everything in between. We will set up an encampment on the Israeli border calling for a lifting of the siege. We will be joined by over 150 people trying to enter Gaza through Egypt and others coming by sea.


"We will bring materials to build playgrounds, sports equipment, children's medicines -- and performances that will get the children to forget their dire circumstances for a little while and laugh."



More than 160 Americans and internationals have already arrived in Cairo, but operators of Egyptian bus services say they have been prohibited by the Egyptian tourist police from transporting them to the border.


“We had chartered a private bus company to take us from Cairo to Al-Arish, the closest town to the Rafah crossing into Gaza,” explained Sandra Ruch, who is leading a delegation of Canadians on the humanitarian mission. “However, the operators told us that the government had prohibited them from taking us anywhere near the border. They obviously believe this tactic will keep us away, but we are determined. The Gazans are completely isolated and struggling to survive. We cannot abandon them.”


 
The 10-member Canadian delegation will be followed by a 14-member group from New York and a contingent of 40 students. The largest of the CODEPINK delegations, numbering about 80, will set off for the border on May 29, invited to the Gaza Strip by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, to visit schools and hospitals and work with Gazans to build an International Friendship Playground.



Delegation coordinator Pam Rasmussen said, “The majority of Gazans are under 18, and many of the youth are traumatized and depressed. Thousands are now living in rubble or cramped tents, while mourning the deaths of loved ones and struggling to support their families despite an unemployment rate in excess of 50 percent. It’s important for us to go there to show that the international community cares about their plight.”


 
 Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK: Women for Peace, stated, “President Obama is coming to Egypt on June 4 to speak to the Arab world. He claims he wants to stand for peace and justice. We need to start by lifting the blockade of Gaza.”



This reporter will be embedded the CODE PINK delegation arriving at Erez Checkpoint; driven by a spirit of dissent for 2009 is the final year of the UN Decade of Creating a Culture of Nonviolence for All the Children of the World, and America is on the record in the UN as abstaining from voting because "it would make it harder for us to go to war."



Israel, Zimbabwe, Burma and North Korea remain the ONLY states in the world that denies international media and humanitarian aid workers access.


On November 18, 2008, I was one among forty seven international ecumenical Christians and other people of faith who rolled out of bed before 5 AM to travel from Jerusalem to the Erez Crossing to stand up as a united people of conscience in NONVIOLENT Solidarity with the people of Gaza and in support of all the NGO’s that have been denied access into the Gaza Strip.

We went in love and for love of all of God’s children; 
Be they the oppressed or the oppressors
Those imprisoned by walls and those who erect them,
Those who are denied clean water and their deniers,
Those whose fears rule their hearts and the heartbroken,
Those whose ideology, greed, apathy, and power blind them to their culpability, responsibilities and obligations.


We went with hope to arouse the consciences of the leaders of the world to seek peace through justice; equal human rights for all. I return with hope that the consciences of the leaders of the world can be accessed for the sake of the children of Gaza Palestine and Israel, for "HOPE has two children. The first is ANGER at the way things are. The second is COURAGE to DO SOMETHING about it."-St. Augustine


Send in the clowns.
Don't you approve?
One who keeps tearing around,
One who can't move.
Where are the clowns?
Send in the clowns.
But where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns.
Quick, send in the clowns.
Don't bother - they're here.- Stephen Sondheim


Learn more and do something:

http://www.womensaynotowar.org/article.php?id=4817

 

1. http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSTRE54J1QF20090520?feedType=RSS&feedName=worldNews



 

December 11, 2009: President Obama's Nobel Speech, Just Wars and just Stop It! 

Read more...

 

 

September 20, 2009: IMAGINE: A President who keeps Promises, True Christians, a Holy Land, and a Nuke Free World Read more...

 

July 31, 2009: The 64th Anniversary of USA Terrorism Enlightened by the Wisdom of Nonviolence Read more...

 

June 7, 2009: It's All About the Children  Read more...

 

June 8, 2009: Israel's Future Leaders  Read more...

 

June 9, 2009: An Evening in Sderot Read more...

 

June 11, 2009: Winning the War of Legitimacy   Read more...

 

June 12, 2009: Getting Gassed in Bil'in Read more...

 

June 13, 2009: MasterCard and the Extremist Settlers of Silwan  Read more...













 

 


 

   
 
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"HOPE has two children.The first is ANGER at the way things are. The second is COURAGE to DO SOMETHING about it."-St. Augustine

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