Wednesday, January 6, 2010

55+ Injured in Viva Palestine Convoy

Just saw this, thanks Marwa for sharing!!

Clash in Egypt over Gaza aid effort
Egypt barred some of the vehicles in the aid convoy from passing through the Rafah crossing [Reuters]

At least 55 people have been injured in clashes between Egyptian police and pro-Palestinian activists who were trying to deliver aid into the Gaza Strip, eyewitnesses say.

Some 520 activists broke down the gate at the port in al-Arish late on Tuesday in protest against an Egyptian decision to ship some of the goods through Israel, medical workers and protesters said.

The protests were sparked by an Egyptian decision to allow 139 vehicles to enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing, about 45km from the port in al-Arish, but requiring a remaining 59 vehicles to pass via Israel.

Around 40 members of the convoy had minor injuries while over a dozen policemen were hurt in the clashes with protesters, who also blocked the two entrances to the Sinai port with vehicles, medical workers said.

The Viva Palestina convoy, led by George Galloway, the British MP, had already been delayed by more than a week, after he and a delegation of Turkish MPs failed to persuade the Egyptians to change their mind.

Disputed route

The convoy of nearly 200 vehicles arrived in al-Arish on Monday after a dispute with Cairo on the route.

But the arrival came after a bitter dispute between its organisers and the government, which banned the convoy from entering Egypt's Sinai from Jordan by ferry, forcing it to drive north to the Syrian port of Lattakia.

The convoy with 210 lorries full of medicine and other supplies set out from the UK nearly a month ago.

Israel and Egypt have severely restricted travel to and from the Gaza Strip since Hamas seized power there in June 2007, after winning Palestinian legislative elections in 2006.

In depth

'Fighting to break Gaza siege'
Egypt blocks US activists' march
Viva Palestina's bumpy road
Video: Gaza aid held up in Jordan

The blockade currrently allows only very basic supplies into Gaza.

The siege has severely restricted essential supplies and placed Gazans in a dire situation, made worse by Israel's military assault last winter that reduced much of the territory to ruins.

Hamas has accused Egypt of reinforcing the siege imposed.

Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for the group, told Al Jazeera on Wednesday that Egypt's moves to ban the Gaza aid convoy from reaching the enclave and to build an underground steel wall are deliberate policies that reinforce its participation in the siege.

He said that such practices are unjustifiable and frustrating for Palestinian expectations from the Egyptian side.

In other Gaza-related news, a Palestinian fighter was reportedly killed and four others wounded in an Israeli air attack on Tuesday in the city of Khan Younis, according to a security source.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said Israel had launched the raid against fighters "planning to fire rockets at southern Israel".

The armed wing of a group called the Popular Resistance Committee said its members had been targeted by the attack.

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DemocracyNow! Reports

Dozens Wounded as Egypt Blocks Gaza Aid Convoy

In Egypt, around fifty-five people were reportedly wounded Tuesday when Egyptian forces clashed with members of an international delegation trying to bring humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip. Several protesters were hospitalized with injuries from rocks and tear gas. The Viva Palestina convoy of nearly 200 trucks departed Britain last month. Convoy leader and British lawmaker George Galloway said the group protested after Egypt tried to force dozens of trucks to pass through Israel.

George Galloway: “Together with myself and other leaders of the convoy we were in negotiations with the Egyptian authorities about their determination to remove more than 55 of our vehicles and send them to the Israeli checkpoint. We refused this because it is a breach of the agreement we reached in Akabar between the government of Egypt and the Turkish side and it completely unconsciounable that 25 percent of our convoy should go to Israel and never arrive in Gaza. Because nothing that ever goes to Israel, ever arrives in Gaza.”

The Egyptian government has blocked hundreds of Palestinian solidarity activists from entering Gaza around the one-year anniversary of the U.S.-backed Israeli assault that killed over 1,300 Palestinians.


All of this stuff is so out of control. Wow.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Viva Palestina Convoy in Crisis

Just got this update on Facebook - anyone have more info or details?


To all friends of Palestine

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin Ovenden
Viva Palestina Convoy Leader

Friday, January 1, 2010

Jerusalem <3

So - now that Gaza is no longer an option it looks like the only other rational thing to do is go to the West Bank! :)

I'm here another 10 days in Cairo and I've seen all the touristy things and seen the basics of Cairo and Egypt and they've been beautiful but its a new year, and its time for new ideas and I got a new game plan.

I'm going to try and hit up Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Bethlehem and somehow, alhumdulilah, I seem to know people in almost all of those areas so I'll have someone to show me around and inshAllah take me in maybe too if we can work it out like that.

West Bank, here I come!!


Gaza Freedom March Wrap Up

I'm sure its going to take me some time to process everything that has happened in Cairo with the Gaza Freedom March over the past week or so but here are some of my initial thoughts and feelings. Bear in mind, these are my own opinions and reflections and they surely are not the same as the 1300 other people who were in Cairo. So for what its worth - here it goes:

This whole political experience here with CODEPINK, for me, has been honestly disappointing and angering. I'm going to be honest here, I did not participate in many of the protests that took place in Cairo because I had serious issues with the way everything was being handled and the way that the March really seemed to have fallen apart and unraveled once everyone realized that our chances of getting into Gaza were really slim to none. From the very first meeting that was held in Tahrir Square, the individuals who were going to be staying in Gaza longer (past January 2nd) were told to not participate in any of these demonstrations because if we did somehow come up with a way to get into Gaza, if we had any record or history with problems with the Egyptians - this would effectively eliminate any chance of us getting in. People told us to completely "disassociate from the March" and that because Egypt is not a democracy, "nothing we do will change their minds" - which sadly, ended up being quite true despite how often people demonstrated, were barricaded in by people, and some even beaten up. Moral of the story: This is not the U.S., they don't care that you're Americans, and we did not fly thousands of miles to protest in Egypt.

Aside from this though, there were so many critical problems with the way things were being done and decisions were being made that I really felt uncomfortable with doing anything that GFM was doing in Cairo.

I felt as though there was no insight to the way the Egyptian government works, or the greater public opinion in Egypt, at all. We cannot simply think that a country, who has religiously served the agenda of the U.S. and Israel, will do a complete 360 and open the borders when a group of activists show up, no matter how big. Anyone who has any familiarity with the politics of this conflict, know that Egypt's role in ensuring the Palestinian suffering is not a new or novel concept. Given that, the fact that CODEPINK did not prepare for the very unsurprising setback that Egypt delivered by closing its borders, really baffled me. When we got news on Monday, that the borders were going to be closed and no one would enter, I figured that this was a very expected move (especially after news of Egypt's steel wall just was released as well) and that the steering committee and whoever else also saw this coming and that surely back up plans and strategies were on hand now that Egypt played its cards. But after a couple days when everyone started arriving and it was time to figure out what we were going to do, it just seemed like these small fragmented actions (the hunger strike here, french sit-in there) were things that groups were doing on their own, hardly with any support from the mass collective. There was no unified message besides come out in the streets and protest. It felt like everyone kind of went their own way and that now instead of focusing on the occupation we were going to go after the Egyptian government - which as much as I have issues with that they are doing and how they add to the Palestinian suffering - that is not why I came here.

Lets clarify something here. As much as I hate Egypt, Egypt is NOT occupying the Palestinian territories. ISRAEL is. I mean, to a certain degree, by doing of all this, I feel, we took a lot of heat off of Israel b/c the press coverage just shows a bunch of people demonstrating in Cairo, which is giving the message that we have a problem with Egypt for what they are doing wrong when we were here to raise awareness of the ISRAELI OCCUPATION and Operation Cast Lead which was carried out by ISRAEL one year ago. Why are people shouting "Free Egypt" at the demonstrations? It makes no sense, we had no focus.

I want to believe that GFM tried to do the best that it could, given the circumstances, but honestly it just led to many people feeling as if they had to do something, anything, since we weren't being allowed in Gaza. Don't get me wrong, I am a firm believer in public resistance and demonstrating, even getting arrested when its necessary, etc - but you cannot do these things without tons of planning, proper escalation tactics leading up to massive direct action like that, and a solid SOLID solid foundation in Egypt (resources, connections, lawyers, etc) for the people that do take those risks. Otherwise, you just end up looking like a bunch of stupid foreigners (mostly Americans) who are protesting, sitting in, going on hunger strike - for what? We came here to deliver aid and stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza - if that was not going to happen then we could have held all of these actions back in our home towns where we know how things work, we know what resources we have, and we can accurately assess what type of risk we are willing to take for this dire cause. After these past few days, I feel that all we've done is agitate Egypt for a brief period of time, spent a lot of money fueling this unjust country's economy, and made the daily lives of the Egyptian people harder.

When our plans fell through, and it did not seem like we were going to get in, there should have been a massive meeting/discussion with a vote with all of the delegates who have come from around the world as to what we think would be the best thing to do. But when people were told to figure it out and come up with ideas, you had serious fragmentation and people, like the French delegates, who were occupying the area in front of the Embassy feeling like they did not have support or instances like when the entire Japanese delegation just left after the first day for the West Bank. All I've been asking myself these past few days is "What the hell is going on?" and "What is all of this?". And to tell the truth, I still really don't know because I don't think GFM really even knows.

The "100 people to Gaza" stunt was also another fiasco that only further divided this group and our efforts. At first, CODEPINK accepts this offer and takes credit for it since the women went and talked to Suzanne Mubarak. They come up with a list in a very short time of these people who would get to go, not realizing what a bad mistake this is. After a few hour, they do realize its a bad idea, send out an official message saying how they have 'rejected' this offer, and yet, lo and behold people STILL got on the buses and went? Again, "What is going on?"

I realize that this has gotten really long already and these are just some of my preliminary thoughts from the past few days. As of right now this is how I feel: as much as I'd like to really blame fully the repressive Egyptian dictatorship for the Gaza Freedom March falling apart and not succeeding, I believe that CODEPINK, and the same old foreign arrogance/ignorance we have, has a lot to do with it this time as well. Sadly, the Palestinian people are still under occupation and I wish the best of luck to the VIVA Palestina convoys who seem to have a better grasp on how to deal with all this nonsense than we do.

Until later, free free Palestine,


Egyptian Police Beating Protesters

So yesterday in Tahrir Square in Cairo there was a massive demonstration as Gaza Freedom Marchers tried to March to Gaza from Cairo, more in a symbolic fashion than anything, to show that the March would still try and carry on as much as possible.

People were quickly corralled in though by the police and when people started to sit down as a response to the aggression people were kicked, shoved, and punched.

Here are some videos.