Right now, 1362 activist marchers are attempting to get into Gaza from Egypt with humanitarian aid (food and medical supplies) and toys for children.
The Egyptian government has closed the border and will not allow anyone through. CodePink is one of the organizations supporting the march, and has requested that people who want to show support call the Egyptian Embassies both in Cairo and/or Washington DC. Desiree is there with beanie babies for the children. Desiree and Liz got back to me 24 hours ago and said no, they are still not in.
Here are the numbers to call.
Egyptian Embassy in Cairo:
Egyptian Embassy in Washington DC:
Main phone: 202.895.5400
Press & Information office phone: 202.667.3402
One year after Israeli invasion of Gaza, world leaders fail to act but global citizens step forward
One year ago, the brutal Israeli 22-day invasion of the Gaza Strip shocked the world, leaving some 1,400 people dead, thousands more wounded, as well as hospitals, schools, prisons, UN facilities, factories, agricultural processing plants and some 20,000 homes damaged or destroyed.
As we mark the one-year anniversary of the invasion, the plight of the people of Gaza continues unabated:
· Despite pledges of money for reconstruction, Israel refuses to allow in the machinery necessary to clear the rubble or the materials needed to rebuild–banning cement, gravel, wood, pipes, glass, steel bars, aluminum and tar. Many who were made homeless during the bombing are still living in tents amidst the onset of another cold winter. Desperate, some are reverting to the ancient techniques of building homes made of mud.
· Trade depends on an elaborate system of illicit and dangerous tunnels between Egypt and Gaza. The goods brought in are expensive, but they are the lifeline for the 1.5 million people who live under siege. The Israelis periodically bomb the tunnels, the Egyptians inject them with gas, and now, with U.S. technology and funds, Egypt is building a wall descending 70 feet into the ground to seal up the only trade route the inhabitants of Gaza have with the outside world.
· Recent restrictions on the transfer of gas resources into Gaza have left many without adequate means to cook or provide heating as winter deepens. The Ministry of Health says that several hospitals lack the gas supplies to provide adequate hygiene for their patients. Similar restrictions on the movement of industrial fuel into the Strip have forced Gaza’s sole power plant to drastically limit the amount of electricity.
· Water and sewage infrastructure has reached a crisis point, with tons of raw sewage pumped daily into the Mediterranean. Amnesty International recently deemed that 90 to 95 person of the water available to Gaza’s inhabitants was unfit for human consumption, and 60 per cent of the Gaza Strip’s residents have only irregular access to water. Repairs to Gaza’s overburdened sewage and water networks are largely prevented by the blockade.
· The once-steady flow abroad of many hundreds of students a year, often to pursue postgraduate studies in Western universities, has slowed to a trickle. Israel is not even allowing students from Gaza to study in the West Bank.
· Attempts at hold Israel accountable for crimes committed during the invasion have been thwarted. The September 2009 Goldstone Report recommended that if Israel and Hamas did not investigate and prosecute those who committed war crimes, the case should be referred to the International Criminal Court. But US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, and the U.S. Congress, condemned the report, assuring that it will not be brought before the U.N. Security Council.
In a report released on December 22 called Failing Gaza: No rebuilding, no recovery, no more excuses, a group of 16 humanitarian organizations detailed the ongoing suffering of Gaza’s 1.5 million people from Israel’s invasion and ongoing siege. “It is not only Israel that has failed the people of Gaza with a blockade that punishes everybody living there for the acts of a few,” said Jeremy Hobbs Oxfam International Executive Director. “World powers have also failed and even betrayed Gaza’s ordinary citizens.”
While international governments and UN institutions have failed their obligations, global citizens and civil society organizations have stepped forward. The past year has seen the mushrooming of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign aimed at Israel. South African dockworkers refused to offload an Israeli ZIM Lines ship in February; the British bank BlackRock divested from Lev Leviev settlement projects on the occupied Palestinian territory; the Norwegian government pension fund withdrew its investments in the Israeli military contractor Elbit Systems; following the lead of South African, Irish and Scottish trade union federations, Britain’s 6.5-million member labor federation, the Trades Union Congress (TUC), called for a consumer-led boycott and sanctions campaign against Israel, specifically targeting settlement products; and Hampshire College decided to divest from several companies profiting from the Occupation.
Another group making waves is Free Gaza, which has broken the siege by bringing shipments of aid by boat. Sometimes their boats have miraculously managed to sail from Cyprus to Gaza without Israeli interference. On their last effort, however, their boat was illegally intercepted on the high seas by the Israeli Navy.
Viva Palestina, a group led by British MP George Galloway, organized a massive convoy of material aid to Gaza in a month after the attack, using public pressure to force the Egyptian government to let the convoy pass through the Rafah crossing. They sent another caravan of aid in July, and to mark the one year anniversary, Viva Palestina is bringing 210 trucks and 450 activists laden with massive quantities of humanitarian aid. It is unclear whether or not the Egyptian government will let them in.
Another creative initiative is the Gaza Freedom March. Conceived in the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, the Gaza Freedom March was designed to mark the one-year anniversary with a massive march to the Israeli border. Some 1,350 international participants from 43 countries are setting out for Gaza via Egypt to join with thousands of local people for the march. On the Israeli side of the border, Israelis and Palestinians will gather to join the call for an end to the siege. While the Egyptian government is refusing give permission for the international delegation to enter Gaza, the group is challenging that decision with thousands of phone calls to Egyptian embassies worldwide. They are also organizing solidarity actions in cities all over the world.
The Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Richard Falk, noting the world community’s failure to help the people of Gaza, cited the Gaza Freedom March and the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign as “the only meaningful current challenge to Israel’s violations of its obligations as the Occupying Power of the Gaza Strip under the Geneva Conventions and the United Nations Charter.”
As the year-end brings horrifying memories to the Palestinians in Gaza, we hope they recognize that grassroots groups the world over are not only thinking of them, but actively organizing to lift the siege that makes their lives so difficult.
Medea Benjamin ([email protected]) is cofounder of CODEPINK and Global Exchange.
Please help them out and call today to urge the Egyptian government to LET THEM IN! Peace and prosperity for ALL!
OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT MUBARAK FROM THE GAZA FREEDOM MARCH
December 26, 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
Olivia Zemor, Euro-Palestine, France
David Torres, ECCP, Belgium
Germano Monti, Forum Palestine, Italy
Ziyaad Lunat, Gaza Freedom March, Europe
Ehab Lotayef, Gaza Freedom March, Canada
Alessandra Mecozzi, Action for Peace-Italy
Ann Wright, Gaza Freedom March coordinator
Kawthar Guediri, Collectif National pour une Paix Juste et Durable entre Palestinens et Israeliens, France
Mark Johnson, Fellowship of Reconciliation
Thomas Sommer, Focus on The Global South, India