Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Gaza Freedom March Rejects Egypts Offer

So really late last night we got word that Egypt was going to allow two buses today of only 100 people to go to Gaza. Originally the GFM, said okay we'll accept and then tried to come up with a 'fair' list of people from the different countries within a short period of time. This really upset a lot of people (myself included) and one of the students said it best that "This is the Gaza Freedom March, not the Gaza Freedom Bus". A lot of delegations, from New York, Switzerland, etc, decided to completely relinquish their spaces on the bus because of how unjust this was. I agree with them that we should not accept this petty offering especially when 1300 people have come to Cairo to go to Gaza and that this seems like a slight offering to get Egypt off the hook.

Well, fortunately, GFM understood and agreed with these criticisms also and they have all refused to get on the buses and go because its not fair, its not what we came to do, and if 100 people can go then all 1300 should be able to go.

These next fews days are going to be insane so I'll keep you all posted as best as I can.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

WTF is Going on in Egypt

A great article from The Palestine Chronicle breaks it down:

Here's the new official rationale for Egyptian policy - we're not participating in the siege of Gaza, we're not trying to prevent medicine, food and building supplies from reaching the survivors of last years devastating bombardment that snuffed out 1,600 civilians - we're only out to stop Palestinians from smuggling goods our way without paying duties. We're just protecting our borders against the Gazan hordes. We're not against allowing the aid convoys entering Gaza - we just want to make sure they enter Egypt from Al-Arish - not Nuweiba. Whatever you think about Egyptian policies, you have to tip your hat to Abu El Gheit for being so creative.

Of course, if you don't get your paycheck from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry or your annual bonus check isn't issued by Al-Ahram - you'd have a much easier job explaining Egypt's policy.

Under pressure from the Israeli Lobby, the Congress and the State Department have, in turn, pressed the Egyptian government to cooperate with Israel and tighten the siege of Gaza, close the tunnels and starve Hamas out of power. The government of Hosni Mubarak, after weighing its options and taken into consideration that Hamas is a natural extension of the Muslim Brotherhood, has adopted a rigid policy that complies with the American demands. This has been state policy for two years and Egypt did not waiver from implementing that policy even when Israeli soldiers were committing war crimes in Gaza. Moreover, the Egyptian government is not about to reverse its policies under pressure from the Viva Palestina convoys.

See, that took just one paragraph to explain. There's and even a shorter version - Gazans have no Friends in Egypt

Monday, December 28, 2009

Feteer Is Delicious.

So today I went to meet up with Matt and his mom Patty at the Extended Stay contingency meeting but it turns out that was cancelled, and my guess is its because of what was going down at the UN earlier in the morning. I guess I should have known it was going to turn out bad when my cab driver, Mohammed, got lost for like 45 minutes trying to find the Sun Hotel :/

So then the three of us went for a bit to Islamic Cairo and saw the Sultan Hassan Mosque which was just epic. I'll post pictures as soon as facebook starts cooperating w/ my computer here in Egypt but until then you'll have to believe me when I say I was at a loss for words.

I then went with Sherif and Rania to Khan el-Khalili and bought a few things. And they, being the super amazing people they are, bought me a birthday present which in fact turns out to be this ring that said "Allah" which we looked at in one of the stores/stands and the shopkeeper was being really difficult so I left it and it so happened that when Rania went to the "bathroom" she went and bought the ring for me. It was honestly the nicest thing ever, and I can understand now why the two of them are a couple because they are both such sweet people. I am so lucky to know people like that, alhumdulilah. They are really great :)

Afterwards we went to eat and I finally tried fateer/feteer (however you spell it) and it was sooo delicious. Oh my goodness. Its like this doughy pie but with different fillings like cheese or meat and we had one with cheese, one with meat, and another one with chocolate. Both the cheese and meat one were amazing but unfortunately the chocolate one had a fly in it so we didn't eat it haha
Maybe next time :)

I posted below the plan for tomorrow and I'm really excited for the day especially the Netanyahu protest. I've tried to keep a low profile in terms of political action so far but I think given that Netanyahu is coming and that Egypt needs to be held just as accountable as Israel for the suffering of Palestinians - whether by shutting out Viva Palestina in Aqaba or Gaza Freedom March in Cairo - I think its time to escalate.

I've been really confused as to what direction GFM is really going in because the wall (no pun intended) that we keep running into w/ Egypt has really fragmented the groups efforts. I'm sure you all have heard/read about the French delegates that are sitting in right now in front of the French Embassy, and the hunger strike led by the Ms. Epstein the 85 year old Holocaust survivor, but nothing as a solid group has been done yet. Well nothing until this Netanyahu protest so far. So I'm excited to show our numbers and stand our ground.


This one's for Gaza,

Don't Tell Me You Thought This Was Over -

Gaza Freedom March URGENT UPDATE

December 29, 2009

9:30 am - 12 noon: Embassy visits

11 am: Press Briefing including hunger striker Hedy Epstein

2 pm: Hunger Strikers Hold Candle Light Vigil

6 pm: Protest of Netanyahu's visit with Egyptian groups

This will be a demonstration against Netanyahu's visit to Cairo and Egypt's role in the siege on Gaza. Egyptian activists are calling for international solidarity, which is vital in showing those in power that we will not be deterred by their attempts to divide us and that we, Egyptians and internationals side by side with Palestinians, will stand fast in our opposition to the crippling Israeli siege on Gaza and Egypt's complicity in it.


Here is a message of solidarity from Roger Waters of Pink Floyd:
A message of solidarity with THE GAZA FREEDOM MARCH

27 December 2009

My name is Roger Waters. I am an English musician living in the USA. I am
writing to express my great admiration for and solidarity with the 1360 men
and women from 42 different countries around the World who are gathering
in Egypt, preparing for The Gaza Freedom March. We all watched, aghast,
the vicious attack made a year ago on the people of Gaza by Israeli armed
forces and the ongoing illegal siege. The suffering wrought on the
population of Gaza by both the invasion and the siege is unimaginable to us
outside the walls. The aim of The Freedom March is to focus world attention
on the plight of the Palestinian people in Gaza in the hope that the scales will
fall from the eyes of all, ordinary, decent people round the world, that they
may see the enormity of the crimes that have been committed, and demand
that their governments bring all possible pressure to bear on Israel to lift the

I use the word 'crimes' advisedly, as both the siege and the invasion have
been declared unlawful by United Nations bodies and leading human rights
organizations. If we do not all observe international law, if some
governments think themselves above it, it is but a few short, dark, steps to
barbarism and anarchy.

The Gaza Freedom March is a beacon to all those of us who believe that
under the skin, we are all brothers and sisters, who must stand shoulder to
shoulder, if we are to make a future where all have recourse to law and
universal human rights. Where life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is
not just the preserve of the few. All the oil in The Middle East is not worth
one child's life. So to those of you who march, I tip my hat. It is a brave and
noble thing you do, and when you reach your goal please tell our Palestinian
brothers and sisters, that out here, beyond the Walls of their Prison, stand
hundreds of thousands of us in solidarity with them. Today, hundreds of
thousands, tomorrow, millions, soon, hundreds of millions. We Shall

Roger Waters

Sunday, December 27, 2009

What's Going on in Cairo Tomorrow

Right NOW: "As we are writing this hundreds of French delegates are camped outside the French Embassy, pitching tents and sleeping bags on the sidewalk, chanting "Palestine Freedom!" The French Ambassador and his wife are outside negotiating with the delegates and the police and Egyptian authorities. It is a powerful action and the French invite solidarity and support - come wherever you can! This is a critical situation and the police are surrounding the group. Check it out if you can. We will send out an update when possible"

11 am - Press Conference

12 pm - Action @ UN / Beginning of Gaza Freedom March hunger strike

3 pm - Women's Contingency Delivers Letter to H.E. Suzanne Mubarak

A group of individuals from Anarchists Against the Wall were arrested for demonstrating the Occupation at the Erez border. They have since been released.

Police detain 16 leftists on Gaza border

Activists marking one year since launch of IDF offensive protest Israeli blockade, prevented from entering Strip. Israel continues to perpetuate destruction, suffering,' one of them says
Anat Shalev

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.

United Nations
Ban: Year after war, sense of hopelessness in Gaza / Yitzhak Benhorin
On one year anniversary of Operation Cast Lead, UN chief issues statement calling for end to 'unacceptable' Israeli blockade, says residents of coastal enclave denied basic human rights
Full Story

"We detained them and had to employ a reasonable amount of force, but we didn’t beat anyone," he said. "They are currently being interrogated at the station, and may be charged with entering a closed military zone without a permit and holding an illegal demonstration."

Several dozen left-wing activists took part in the protest against the Israeli blockade on the Hamas-ruled territory, claiming it was hindering Gaza's rehabilitation.

Adar Grievsky of the "Anarchist against the Wall" group said, "We began walking southward on the beach towards Gaza, but near Zikim large police and IDF forces prevented us from crossing (into Gaza).

"A year after Israel killed 1,400 people during the Cast Lead war, Israel continues to perpetuate destruction and suffering by preventing rehabilitation and denying the transfer of construction materials to Gaza," said the activist.

According to Grievsky, the purpose of the march was to "convey the message that as citizens living in this country, we find the situation intolerable and we must resist it."

One of the protestors claimed that one of the leftists was beaten by police.

22nd Birthday in Cairo <3

If you haven't read already, I published a press release that was sent out earlier today notifying everyone that people affiliated with the Gaza Freedom March were put under house arrest temporarily in hotel in al-Arish and also several people who were trying to leave al-Arish were detained and were still in prison at least up until the afternoon.

The silent candle light vigil that was held today by the lawyers union ended in a really ugly way when the group of mostly local Egyptian nationals were not only surrounded by state security but then also beaten up for holding the memorial.

The 4:30 p.m. memorial that was supposed to take place in dozens of boats on the Nile also encountered many complications when we found out that we weren't allowed to rent or board any of the boats so that we could place the 1400 candles along the Nile. We ended up rallying in front of the Nile anyway, and of course tons of police came and within an hour we also saw these massive armored trucks starting to show up (kind of like the type the SWAT team in the U.S. use) and so pretty soon we dispersed because we clearly did not want to be rounded up and thrown into trucks and taken to jail.

At the 7:30 meeting at Al-Mogamma we also found out the news that the bus company who we had a reservation to take everyone in the March to al-Arish would not be able to any longer because the Egyptian government threatened to revoke their licenses and shut down their business entirely if they took us. So needless to say, we can no longer go. Also - this just might be my inner conspiracy theorist in me speaking - but I am convinced that this place has to be swarming with spies and the like. Its just too political to not be and some people have been super shady, too.

All of these things are so unreal to me right now. I knew that our political presence and demonstrating in Egypt were not really welcome, especially to a government that could care less about public opinion and freedom of speech, but seriously - beating people up? detaining them for hours? shutting down entire companies? Furthermore, we don't WANT to stay in Egypt any longer than we have to. Even though I have my issues with the Egyptian government, I did not come here this time for them and I'm sure as hell that neither did the rest of the 1300+ people. We came to stand with the Palestinians, deliver aid, and bring back their stories. Sigh.

It sounds like Egypt has taken a page out of Israel's book and is acting in an eerily familiar way when people that challenge the state and wish to exercise their "right" to free speech. Its so sad and outrageous at the same time.

As far as getting into Gaza is concerned, things aren't looking so well to be honest. The latest that I have heard is that Rafah will be opening on January 3rd, 4th, and 5th, for the Viva Palestina convoy and we're hoping that this generosity might be inclusive of all internationals as well. That is really the only hope that I really see remaining of us getting into Gaza because other than that everything is looking pretty bleak. I know that some of the other subdivisions within the March like the students group and the interfaith group might hold smaller solidarity actions in strategic locations in Egypt but I'm not really sure what those might be. I'm also uncertain to what the outcomes for those will be as well seeing as how some of the other, quite simple things, have taken such a bad turn.

So today it was my 22nd birthday :) I was honestly a bit homesick because its hard to celebrate when all your loved ones are away but it was still a good day, alhumdulilah.

So I slept in today and ended up missing the 11 a.m. vigil that was planned on the Nile Bridge. Turns out though, that police ended up breaking up the memorial anyway and removed what the people had put up there to commemorate those lives lost in the Gaza Massacre.

I later went to the 4:30 p.m. memorial on the Nile and luckily I ran into Matt and his mom, Patty, who are also from the DMV and so afterwards we grabbed a quick bite to eat before the 7:30 meeting at al-Mogamma.

After that I met up with Sherif and Rania, who are probably two of the nicest people in the world, and for my birthday we went to get some Koshary and mango juice from Farghali. I am so extremely stuffed right now even after eating like 4 hours ago. I love the food here :) I was also telling Efo, that Cairo really feels like a city where everyone is in love. You see couples all the time, sitting along the Nile, holding hands, "canoodling" lol, and just being super romantic - its really adorable.
I think Efo made a really good point though that people are this way because being in love or spending time with a significant other is really one of the few ways the people can escape briefly from a harsh reality of stark class structure/privilege and intense political oppression. It honestly makes a lot of sense too and in some ways its a beautiful surprise back to reality because even in countries or places, very much like Palestine, people still live and time goes on. So as strange as it might seem at first, even under occupation and repression, people fall in love, get married, give birth, and/or celebrate birthdays. At the end of the day, we all just to be normal and to be human, and love is one of the few things that survives amidst the most harshest of surroundings. So tonight, I'm sending lots of love your way. xox

Thinking of Gaza and Palestine, always.
-Sana J.


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.

GFM & West Bank Solidarity :)

Peace peace,

Here is some great news of support and love from the West Bank for Gaza and the Gaza Freedom March.


Together, We Will Break The Siege of Gaza!
International Call to Action from the Bilin Popular Committee
Egypt has announced that the Rafah border into Gaza will be closed over the coming weeks to the 1,300 international delegates attempting to march in solidarity with the people of occupied Palestine. A historic march will still take place on the anniversary of Israel’s horrific Cast Lead massacre that killed over 1,400 people one year ago. The powerful and diverse collaboration of international support must now choose its response to this horrific injustice. Will you stand waiting permission at the gates of Gaza? We say that you need not wait; if Egypt will not open their border, then the time for action is now. We encourage and support the escalation of non-violent direct action. It is up to you to take the next steps. It is no surprise that Egypt is not allowing the march to continue, so the natural progression towards a victory over this injustice is creative tactical escalation. If you cannot march on the roads then set up camp and sleep in them instead, fast in solidarity with the people who are dying of starvation, refuse to be stopped by their temporary boundaries. We can look to the lessons, the creativity, and the determination of our sister and brothers from historical resistance movements. We are the voice of the voiceless, the arms of those physically held captive, the eyes of those blinded by hate. There are those of us who resist because we have no choice, we resiist to live. And there are those of us who know that no one is free until we are all free, and we use our bodies and the privilege of out relative freedom to resist oppression in all its forms.
There is no time for words without action. Here in Bil’in, we will be demonstrating in solidarity with Gaza, and all those trying to enter. Do not stop at Rafah to break the siege of Gaza.

Thank you for you continued support,

Iyad Burnat- Head of Popular Commitee in Bilin
co-founder of Friends of Freedom and Justice - Bilin

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Hope. - Gaza Lives On.

Thanks Mariam!

Palestinians Continue to Struggle - and Die.

This news makes me sick.


December 27, 2009

Israeli Military Kills 6 Palestinians

JERUSALEM — The Israeli military killed six Palestinians on Saturday, three in the West Bank whom it accused of killing a Jewish settler and three in Gaza who it said were crawling along the border wall planning an attack. It was the deadliest day in the conflict in nearly a year.

Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, called it “a sad day for Palestinians and their National Authority” and condemned the West Bank operation as an “assassination” and “an attempt to target the state of security and stability that the Palestinian Authority has been able to achieve.”

Maj. Peter Lerner, spokesman for Israel’s Central Command, which controls the West Bank, said that its forces had spent the past two days looking for the killers of the settler, Rabbi Meir Hai, a 45-year-old teacher and father of seven, who was shot dead on Thursday as he drove near his home in the settlement of Shavei Shomron.

The information gathered, he said, led them to three men in the city of Nablus early Saturday. Troops in jeeps descended on their homes and in each case, he said, the suspect was asked to give himself up. None did so, and all were shot dead.

All three, he added, had been involved in anti-Israel violence in the past through activities in the Aksa Martyrs Brigade, a militia associated with the Fatah movement led by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.

One of them, Annan Sleiman Moustafa Tsubakh, 36, was hiding with two assault rifles, two handguns and ammunition in a crawl space in his house when the Israeli troops found him.

Major Lerner said that the three were the killers of Rabbi Hai and that they acted as an isolated cell rather than as part of some larger organization. Asked if the Israelis had coordinated with the Palestinian security forces that had been patrolling West Bank cities for a year and a half, he said no, that the army’s job was first and foremost to protect Israeli civilians.

Ghassan Katib, spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, said Palestinian security had been investigating the killing when the Israelis interfered.

“This is what they do,” he said. “They kill people and then claim they were responsible. Our security forces had begun an investigation into the killing but the Israelis did not coordinate with us.”

Relatives of two of the three men who were in the houses when the raids occurred contended that the men were not armed and that the Israelis shot without warning. In the case of Mr. Tsubakh, relatives said they fled while he remained inside.

In the middle of the second Palestinian uprising in 2002 and 2003, drive-by shootings of settlers like the one that killed Rabbi Hai had become almost common in the West Bank. An Israeli clampdown and a Palestinian security focus — and greatly increased cooperation between the forces — have turned such attacks into a rarity and have led to a sense of increased personal security and potential prosperity.

But since the war in Gaza a year ago and the election of Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister, peace talks have been suspended, and officials on both sides fear that violence may pick up again and that security coordination could decline.

Each side blames the other. Mr. Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, called on his people not to be “dragged into a circle of violence, chaos and instability.”

At the Nablus funeral procession on Saturday for the three killed, attended by thousands, some shouted for revenge and condemned the security coordination with the Israelis.

A man who claimed to speak for Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade issued a statement saying that by killing six Palestinians on Saturday, “the occupation forces have opened the doors of hell on themselves.”

The killing of the three Palestinians in Gaza occurred when Israeli soldiers guarding the border from inside Israel saw people crawling along the border barrier near the main civilian crossing point. Israel permits no such movement near its border.

The soldiers said they fired warning shots but the three continued to crawl. An Israeli aircraft then shot at the men and killed them, an army spokeswoman said. She added that the army was convinced that the men were planning an attack.

Khaled Abu Aker contributed reporting from the West Bank.

Viva Palestina Convoy Update

Peace everyone,

In case you don't know already, Viva Palestina is another delegation that is currently trying to get into Gaza, like the Gaza Freedom March, to deliver humanitarian aid and to shed light on what an occupation really entails and unfortunately they are also being given the run around by the Egyptian government.

Since they are travelling by boat, their situation is a little different but the message from Egypt is the same - that it will not cooperate whatsoever.

Here is the update.

- -

Viva Palestina has traveled throughout Europe, Turkey, Syria and Jordan and have been welcomed with open arms. However, having arrived to Aqaba to sail into Nouba, a nearby Egyptian port, they have been denied access by the Egyptian Authority, who claim that the Rafah border is open to the convoy. But the reality is far fetched from this, being prohibited to sail into Nouba, entering Palestine would be an impossibility.

Egypt asserts that it has not hindered the convoy in any sense and that it has offered access to the convoy via El-Arish, but this would mean driving hundreds of miles back into the countries they have formerly crossed. Furthermore, Egypt has ordered the convoy to comply to its set of guidlines, which include coordinating with UNRWA, and thus surrendering all humanitarian aid carried. Adding fuel to the fire, the Egyptian authorities have outlined that the convoy leaders must negotiate with Israel to get into Gaza, despite it being a region universally accepted as Palestinian land.

The convoy members aim to go on a hunger strike as of 27th December 2009 in an attempt to appeal to the president of Egypt and show solidarity with the Palestinians as they mark the anniversary of the assault on Gaza at the Israeli hand. The duration of the hunger strike has not been revealed but it is clear that the convoy will not yield to the barriers before them.


Spread this aforementioned news. Forward this to all of your friends! Create awareness, and help us make a change!

القاهرة - Day 4! - Beeramids!!

So today after the super fun Christmas party we went to the one and only Pyramids in Giza! Rana, Amira, and I all left early in afternoon/late morning and we drove to Giza and it was seriously sooo much fun. Although very very touristy, I had such a blast. We had a really great tour guide named Ahmed (of course - like almost every other man in Egypt) and he was really nice took loads of fun pictures of us and told us neats things along the way.

I'm uploading the pictures to facebook as we speak (or as I type) so if we're not friends add me and you can see pictures not just from today's adventures at the Pyramids but also pictures from the past few days :)

We saw all 9 of the pyramids - 3 big ones and 6 little ones. We also saw the tombs for the workers who helped build the pyramids, too. It was so much fun though because we rode on horses and camels the whole way. On the way through everything I rode the camel whose name, very non-coincidentally was Ali Baaba lol (and apparently he loves the ladies), and Amira and Rana rode horses. On the way back, Rana and I switched and I rode a horse back and her name was Mish-Mish (aka the cutest thing ever). Amira's horse's name was Ghazelle and she was hilarious because she just did whatever the heck she felt like doing. I don't know if I liked the horse or the camel better, maybe the horse a little bit more since it didn't hurt as much haha, but they were both a ton of fun and soo adorable. We also got to see the Sphinx, a place that sold "original" Papyrus haha, and a lotus flower perfume place. The best part of our way back though had to have been the store that was called "Ankel Sam Store for Berfoume" hahaha :P

After the Pyramids, we were starving so we drove back and tried to go eat at this restaurant on the Nile but that didn't work because it was a military place and I was American and no foreigners were allowed so we ended up eating at Fridays on the Nile and it was really gorgeous. We got there around Maghrib so the sun was setting and it was just beautiful to be so close to the water, watching the sunset, and eating tons of food because Rana and I were literally starving since that was the first time we had eaten all day.

Afterwards we came home, I took a quick nap, and then Efo and Ranya picked me up and we were originally going to go to Khan el-Khalili but it ended up being later than we thought and it was going to close soon so we went to this rooftop place to just hangout and even though it had the shadiest elevator probably in the world (it had no door at all ahaha) it was really a great view of the Nile and the Cairo skyline.

Well tomorrow is actually my birthday :) and I'm both excited to celebrate it in Cairo and also slightly homesick and missing all my loves back in the States. If any of you are reading this - I am sending lots of love your way and hope you're doing the same :) At the same time, on a much sadder note, the 27th of December also commemorates the day that Israel began attacking Gaza last year and its been a really difficult year for the people of Gaza and there are no signs of anything improving at all right now either.

I know there are going to be several solidarity actions around Cairo tomorrow (I posted a press release of one earlier tonight) where 1400 candles will be lit and placed on the Nile to remember each one of the people that were killed during the invasion. We recently received some (cross your fingers) good news that Egypt *MIGHT* be opening the borders, of course nothing is confirmed and this just might be a rumor, but that means that we are going to try and bus over to al-Arish on Monday morning, the 28th, to see if we can get in.

These past few days in Cairo have been downright amazing, and I've got to make some amazing friends and see really beautiful things ranging from everything to funny signs in English to the grandeur of the pyramids - Cairo really has a unique essence and I doubt any other city could imitate it. It really is beautiful. With that said though, I'm really anxious to see Gaza and really do what I came here to do. I know that it might not be possible and I might have to stay in Cairo, which is perfectly fine because the people, the culture, and the city are absolutely great but this trip would really feel incomplete without setting foot in Gaza, without raising my voice, without taking a stand, and without showing the world that one year later we remember, and we still stand with the Palestinian people.

Please send all of your positive energy, prayers, thoughts, love, and wishes our way the next few days. We really need them, and the people of Gaza and Palestine really need them.

Inshallah Inshallah Inshallah Inshallah Inshallah Inshallah Inshallah Inshallah Inshallah Inshallah Inshallah I will be in Gaza in 2 days. Now that, would be the best birthday present. ever.

In struggle,

GFM Marks 1st Anniversary of Gaza Invasion

Gaza Freedom Marchers mark first anniversary of Gaza invasion

WHAT: Gaza Freedom Marchers Remember Gaza's dead by floating candles on the Nile

WHEN: Sunday, December 27, 4:30 pm gather at Cairo's Garden City Nile Cornice

(next to the Grand Hyatt and opposite the Four Seasons.) to take feluccas at sunset.

(Cairo) - On December 27th, 2009, marking one year since the brutal Israeli invasion of Gaza, members of the Gaza Freedom March in Cairo will place 1,400 candles in the Nile River to commemorate the dead.

The Gaza Freedom Marchers had hoped to be in Gaza to commemorate the war, but access to Rafah is being denied by the Egyptian authorities. The Marchers, coming from 43 countries, have appealed to President Mubarak to allow them to proceed.

The delegation includes families of three generations, doctors, lawyers, diplomats, students, artists, rabbis, priests, imams, a women delegation, a Jewish contingent, a veterans group and Palestinians born overseas. The coalition spent seven months planning for their trip to Gaza. As they flood into Cairo with a longing to reach Gaza, they plan to remember the besieged strip while being trapped here.

"We mark this date, December 27, with great saddess for those killed and wounded, and we call on the world's leaders to hold Israel accountable," said Medea Benjamin of the Gaza Freedom March. "We also call on Israel and Egypt to lift the blockade that is causing so much suffering in Gaza."

يتذكراعضاء مسيرة الحرية لغزة ضحايا القطاع بالقاء الشموع في مياه النيل يوم الاحد ٢٧ ديسمبر في الساعة الرابعة و النصف مساء في كورنيش جاردن سيتي بالقرب من فندق جراند حياة و امام فندق الفور سيسونز حيث نقطة التجمع لاخذ مراكب شراعية في النيل.
يوم ٢٧ ديسمبر ٢٠٠٩ يمثل مرور عام علي حرب اسرائيل علي غزة. سوف يلقي اعضاء مسيرة الحرية لغزة ١٤٠٠ شمعة في النيل في ذكري ضحايا الحرب.
كان اعضاء المسيرة يتمنون ان يحيوا ذاكرة الحرب في غزة و لكن السلطات المصرية قد منعتهم من الوصول الي رفح.
و قد طالب اعضاء المسيرة من الرئيس المصري محمد حسني مبارك تغيير موقف الحكومة.
يضم الوفد اسر من ثلاث اجيال من دكاترة و محامين و دبلوماسيين و طلبة و فنانين و شيوخ و رهبان و وفد نسائي و وفد يهودي و فلسطنيين ولدوا بالخارج.
تم التنظيم للمسيرة لمدة سبعة اشهر وبينما وصل الكثيرون بتطلع لدخول غزة فانهم سوف يتذكرون الحرب الاليمة و هم في مصر.
تقول ميديا بنجامين من مسيرة الحرية لغزة: في هذا التاريخ ٢٧ ديسمبر نتذكر بحزن عميق ضحايا الحرب من جرحي و قتلي و نطالب زعماء العالم بمحاسبة اسرائيل. كما نطالب مصر و اسرائيل برفع الحصار المتسبب في معاناة الشعب الفلسطيني في غزة.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Gaza Freedom March Letter to President Mubarak

I'm not quite sure what the outcome of all of this will be with regards to us getting into Gaza or not. Honestly as the days go by, I feel like it is less and less of a possibility but I still have hope and I'm trying to be as optimistic as possible even when the Egyptian government is not cooperating with us at all.

Either way, I know there will be various actions and things done in Cairo in solidarity with the Palestinians but its sad to see that something as simple as a peaceful demonstration would be so over complicated. Ugh, Egypt...


- - -


December 25, 2009

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.

We have raised tens of thousands of dollars for medical aid, school supplies and winter clothing for the children of Gaza. But we realize that in addition to material aid, the Palestinians of Gaza need moral support. We came to offer that support on the difficult anniversary of an invasion that brought them so much suffering.

The idea of the Gaza Freedom March—a nonviolent march to the Israeli Erez crossing-- emerged during one of our trips to Gaza in May, a trip that was kindly facilitated by the Egyptian government. Ever since the idea emerged, we have been talking to your government through your embassies overseas and directly with your Foreign Ministries. Your representatives have been kind and supportive. We were asked to furnish information about all the participants—passports, dates of birth, occupations—which we have done in good faith. We have answered every question, met every request. For months we have been working under the assumption that your government would facilitate our passage, as it has done on so many other occasions. We waited and waited for an answer.

Meanwhile, time was getting short and we had to start organizing. Travel over the Christmas season is not easy in the countries where many of us live. Tickets have to be purchased weeks, if not months, in advance. This is what all 1,362 individuals did. They spent their own funds or raised money from their communities to pay their way. Add to this the priceless time, effort and sacrifice by all these people to be away from their homes and loved ones during their festive season.

In Gaza, civil society groups—students, unions, women, farmers, refugee groups—have been working nonstop for months to organize the march. They have organized workshops, concerts, press conferences, endless meetings—all of this with their own scarce resources. They have been buoyed by the anticipated presence of so many global citizens coming to support their just cause.

If the Egyptian government decides to prevent the Gaza Freedom March, all this work and cost is lost.

And that's not all. It is practically impossible, this late in the game, to stop all these people from travelling to Egypt, even if we wanted to. Moreover, most have no plans in Egypt other than to arrive at a predetermined meeting point to head together to the Gaza border. If these plans are cancelled there will be a lot of unjustified suffering for the Palestinians of Gaza and over a thousand internationals who had nothing in mind but noble intentions.

We plead to you to let the Gaza Freedom March continue so that we can join the Palestinians of Gaza to march together on December 31, 2009.

We are truly hopeful that we will receive a positive response from you and thank you for your assistance.


Tighe Barry, Gaza Freedom March coordinator
Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK, USA
Kawthar Guediri, Collectif National pour une Paix Juste et Durable entre Palestinens et Israeliens, France
Mark Johnson, Fellowship of Reconciliation
Alessandra Mecozzi, Action for Peace-Italy
Germano Monti, Forum Palestine, Italy
Ehab Lotayef, Gaza Freedom March, Canada
Ziyaad Lunat, Gaza Freedom March, Europe
Thomas Sommer, Focus on The Global South, India
David Torres, ABP, Belgium
Ann Wright, Gaza Freedom March coordinator
Olivia Zemor, Euro-Palestine, France

Cairo - Day 2 & 3 :D / HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANNIE! :)

So yesterday was my second day in Cairo! :)

I started off the day by meeting up with a friend of Rana's, Sarah, who is from the states but is now living in Egypt. She had some family visiting and so I tagged along with them and we went to see the Citadel.

On the way there, the cab driver was really nice and he said that I had an Egyptian face haha :D Once I got there, I was there a bit earlier than Sarah and her family so I was waiting for them for a few minutes. A lot of schools take field trips to the Citadel so while I was sitting there tons of kids and their teachers walked by. One group walked by and there was a young girl at the end of the group probably like 4 or 5 years old and I waved to her and then she came back and said "Amreeka!!? Amreeka?!!!" hahaa She was beyond excited that I was from the states and she came and shook my hand and said "Hello! Goodbye!" It was super cute and then an older guy came to get her and he also had the same "Amreeka!?" expression and then said "Welcome" :) Seriously, everyone here is super nice. I love it.

Once we got to the Citadel there were two mosques that we saw. First was the Qalum mosque, which was older and had been stripped of the marble in the ceiling and according to the story, returned to Turkey. It was still beautiful though and the glass lamps that went all around the mosque were still intact and gorgeous as ever. We even found a sun dial that had been carved into one of the pillars on the courtyard inside the mosque and that was a really cool find. I wish we had gone into the minaret but I didn't realize there was even one until we were already outside.

After that we went to the Egyptian Military Museum, which in all honesty was really boring haha. I don't really care for the history of artillery and how it was used. There were a few cool things in there but it was unnerving to see war glorified in any country, but nonetheless a nice stop :) The funniest/best part of the whole thing though has to be how while we were walking through the museum there were a lot of teenagers there and in one of the halls, they all stopped us and asked for pictures with us! hahaha It was HILARIOUS. We probably took pictures with like 10 or 15 kids because they were so excited we were from the U.S. lol

Next we went to the Muhammad Ali mosque which was soooo beautiful. Oh. my. goodness. I cannot express how much I loved this mosque. Of course it was swarming with tourists but seriously it was amazing. There was an outdoor courtyard in addition to the musallah (the room where people actually pray) and that was stunning. Then once you come inside there were hundreds of these glass lamps that circled the entire room in layers and everything was done in such an ornate and intricate fashion that I wonder how people could even concentrate on their prayers when they're surrounded by something so beautiful. It was great :) Outside of the mosque, you got a gorgeous view of Cairo and although it was a bit hazy it was still great view.

As we were leaving the Sultan Hassan mosque, it was around Maghrib, and one of the guards escorting us out asked us if we wanted to see this prison that one existed there and of course we went. It was honestly really freaky because the cells were so small and some of them I guess to pay homage to prisoners of times past, had statues of humans in there in prison and if you didn't expect to see one there it was weird to see a face staring back at you haha

Since we spent a lot of time at the cafe during lunch and made a pit stop at the military museum, we didn't get a chance to see the Ibn Tulun mosque or the Sultan Hassan mosque that day, but inshallah I'm going to try and go there Sunday on the 27th. It will be something fun to do for my birthday :)

After we left the Sultan Hassan mosque, we went to a small cafe that was a part of one of the many hotels on the Nile River and that was absolutely beautiful. It wasn't too cool at all as a I expected since we were so close to the water but it was just breathtaking how serene the entire moment there was and with a warm cup of coffee it was fabulous :)

After the cafe, I went home for a bit and then with Sherif we met up with a few other people and hung out a cute little sushi place. We then went and got some shrimp sandwhiches which were pretty good and went to a hangout place called After Eight. Since it was Christmas Eve, they specially brought in a belly dancer who I even danced with a little bit haha so that was loads of fun :)

Since we were out so late last night today I mostly slept :( lol Once I was up though, I helped Rana and Leila decorate for the Christmas party that Rana was throwing at her place. People brought tons of food, we did Secret Santa as well and there was lots of fun dancing to old 90s songs. It was a great night and it was a nice break from all the tourist-y things I had been doing so far. It was also fab to meet more of Rana and Hana's friends who I have heard so so much about. They are all such sweet people, just like almost everyone else in Egypt :D

Tomorrow, we're heading to the Pyramids (!!!) and Khan el-Khalili as well so its going to be great and I'll try to get pictures up by the weekend!! Please also pray that we can get into Gaza. THANKS!


Much love, always.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cairo - Day 1 :)

So today was my first official day in Cairo, and it was absolutely amazing. I can feel myself falling in love with this city so much where Islamic elements meet antique memories of colonization and the people are incredibly sincere and welcoming. I can't wait for the next few days because its only going to get better, insha'Allah :)

This morning I headed over to the Egyptian Museum, which was literally jam packed with artifacts and relics from thousands of years ago. There had to have been several millions of things packed in this room. I honestly think I only covered about 40% of it with the 4 hours I was there. It was an absolute information overload and I wish they allowed us to take pictures because everything in there was mind-blowing but I guess this means you'll just have to come see it for yourself ;) At one point I was walking past this slab of some ancient hieroglyphic etchings and I just touched them lightly and I got the chills all over thinking about how old something like this was and the fact that here it was in front of me when all else from the era has completely vanished. Not to over romanticize museums or anything, but you can truly feel the history and their age emitting from some of these pieces. It is really beautiful.

Funny story: This guy who worked at the Museum, who I thought was just being friendly, comes up to me and says like hi/hello/how are you etc, and then he asks me: "Why don't you have a wife"? hahaha. I figured he meant husband but it was just so funny because he asked me that several times, and then I told him I was Muslim he kissed my hand and asked me to recite verses from the Qur'an - it was the weirdest/funniest thing ever. He tried to teach me Arabic too but that didn't work well because of his accent and I didn't realize until much later that "moh-zzer" actually meant "mother" and same thing with "fah-zzer" lol! This dude Ahmed was too funny.

I also was fortunate enough to see the exhibit with the ancient mummies and in all honesty that was horrifying for me. Here you had these dead bodies with their faces revealed in all their terror and morbidness on display. I just felt squeamish and scared the whole time, especially because some of the faces looked like they were in pain or that something still sort of lingered on their lips, like their spirit left them in mid-sentence. It was really freaky. :/

The King Tutankhamen exhibit was beyond words beautiful. I know we've almost all heard of him and how he was King and what not but the detail and the intricacy that went into his tomb and burial are absolutely phenomenal. So much gold was layered onto the encasing of him tomb and then so much more detail and decoration went into the mask that was placed on his body and the actual coffin his body went into. Its just unbelievable when you see it up close and in person. Again, I really wish I could have taken pictures because it was breathtaking.

Interestingly enough, a guy that I walked past at the museum saw my shirt which said "Gaza 'Ala Bali"/"Gaza on my mind" and we started talking just about the Gaza Freedom March and everything going on in Palestine right now because he was from Gaza City and he still had family there. We talked for a while and then agreed to meet up once we both were done going through everything at the museum. So after we both got out, we then went out to eat koshary, which was absolutely delicious - just as everyone had predicted it would. I walked around with him for the next few hours and we went to Old Cairo and walked around and explored a lot. We saw tons of book stores, the Wall Street of Cairo, and stopped at a place for some mango juice which was sooo amazing. It was so rich and had thick pieces of mango in it and it was just divine. It was one of the best parts of the day :) After that, I left my friend Mohammed and then met up with Hana and Rana's friend, Sherif and went to eat at Abu Sid, which was yet another experience with delicious Egyptian food. We had tahini, grape leaves, Molakahely - which if I typed that correctly is the Egyptian National Dish. I've eaten so much today, I fear for how much weight I am going to gain by the time I leave to go to Gaza. :P

After that, we went to a small cafe by the AUC dorms and I got to meet all of Hana's friends who she talks about alllll the time and they were all so nice and funny. I think the one thing that is going to leave a seriously everlasting impression on me from Egypt is going to be the incredible warmth, kindness, and hospitality of the people here. Everyone goes out of their way to be nice to you and it is just the sweetest thing.

Okay - so I am beyond exhausted and my jet lag has caught up to me at last so it is time to crash.

Please if you haven't already send a message to the Egyptian government pressuring them to allow the Gaza Freedom March into Gaza so that we can demonstrate in solidarity with the people of Palestine. As much as I love Cairo, there is no way I came all this way just to sight see. We're too close now to back down, Egypt.

Here is the link in case you missed it earlier:

Love and solidarity,
Sana J.

Israel Threatens Gaza With War - AGAIN.


I am so angry right now. I don't even have the words to describe how ridiculous this nonsense is.

Commentary to come later when I'm not as tired or angry.



Israel threatens another large-scale Gaza war

Wed, 23 Dec 2009 10:55:35 GMT
Israel has threatened another massive war against the Gaza Strip as the impoverished enclave continues to suffer in the aftermath of the devastating January offensive.

Israeli planes have been dropping thousands of leaflets across Gaza, warning Palestinians against cooperating with the resistance fighters based in the coastal sliver.

The leaflets also threaten Gazans with a new attack just ahead of the first anniversary of Israel's 22-day onslaught against the Palestinian territory.

On December 2008, Tel Aviv launched an all-out military action against Gaza, killing 1,400 people, including a large number of women and children, killed and leaving thousands more injured.

The threats come despite the Israeli army's failure in its January operation to reach its strategic and military objectives — above all its pledged overthrow of Israel's long-time arch foe, Hamas.

In July, the activist group Breaking the Silence released print and video testimony from some 30 soldiers who said they entered Gaza with firing guns upon a "permissive" guideline by commanders, urging to shoot first and worry later about distinguishing civilians from combatants.

The 112-page testimony also accused Israeli troops of using Palestinian civilians as human shields and charged Israel with dropping forbidden white phosphorus bombs indiscriminately into Gaza streets on the top of aerial bombardment and heavy artillery fire.

In April, former South African UN prosecutor Richard Goldstone led an independent fact-finding mission commissioned by the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate international human rights and humanitarian law violations during the Gaza war.

The committee's 575-page report mostly highlighted Israeli atrocities against the people in the beleaguered Gaza Strip and documented deliberate targeting of centers, such as schools and mosques, known to be holding civilians.

The document also filed complaints that the Israeli soldiers killed unarmed people on the run, saying some of the victims were even waving white flags.

In October, the damning report was put up for a vote in the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council and endorsed by an overwhelming majority of 114 countries while 18 opposed and 44 abstained.

The three-week Israeli land, sea and air offensive in the Gaza Strip also devastated a large part of the infrastructure in the impoverished coastal enclave, which remains under Tel Aviv's blockade despite international opposition.

In light of all this, and many other things, please take just ONE moment to send an email pressuring the Egyptian government to allow the Gaza Freedom March to take place. You can send an email here.

Lots of love from Cairo,
(updates on today's adventure coming soon, promise!)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Long Live Gaza

Best video.

Why We Fight.

Amnesty International and several other human rights organizations and groups from the international community released a report today on how the world has failed the people of Gaza by not acting more strongly to shatter this brutal occupation.

I cannot believe how timely the release of such a strong report is, especially with the Gaza Freedom March. I hope this will answer the "why" and "what for" questions when people ask why it is not time for action - great action, to end this inhumanity. This is why the Gaza Freedom March is critical because while the diplomats and the Prime Ministers have stopped paying attention - we haven't. The people of Gaza have not forgotten their loved ones who were so ruthlessly murdered in the name of 'defense', their suffering has not lessened by any degree whatsoever, and the culprits behind all of this brutality are not only not being held accountable, their crimes against humanity are completely ignored. What kind of world is this?! While they all may have forgotten, the people of Gaza, of Palestine, have not and neither have we.

We have not, we will not, and we will not be silent by any measure.

It is time for this occupation to end, it is time for the inhumanity to stop, it is time, it is time, it is time.

Read the report and the articles here:

Aid agencies have strongly criticised the international community for failing to help bring an end to Israel's blockade of Gaza.

The charities made the accusation in a report published just ahead of the anniversary of Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip.

The aid agencies condemn not just Israel, but the world community.

In the words of Oxfam's director, Jeremy Hobbs, "world powers have failed and betrayed Gaza's ordinary citizens".

The charities call for more pressure to be exerted on Israel to end what they describe as its illegal collective punishment of Gazans.

Gaza map

Israel imposed a tightened blockade after the Islamist Hamas movement seized power two-and-a-half years ago.

That was bad enough, say the aid agencies.

Matters became that much worse after the destruction caused by the Israeli offensive in Gaza earlier this year.

The report points to an acute shortage, in particular, of building materials.

A spokesman for the Israeli prime minister told the BBC that Israel remains committed to humanitarian supplies of food, medicine and power.

But he said that sanctions will remain in place as long as Hamas is committed to destroying Israel and killing Israelis.