This past week 1,400 activists from around the world gathered in Cairo on their way to Gaza. They planned to show their concern and support for the people of Gaza on this anniversary of the devastating Israeli Operation Cast Lead and demand an end of the blockade. As many of you may know the Egyptian government refused them passage at the Rafah crossing, and while a small number took up a last minute offer to allow 100 to enter, the majority instead brought Gaza to Cairo.
Several participants have posted particularly good reports on their experiences –
Phil Weiss of Mondoweiss provides a moving view of the organizing that followed the Egyptian refusal to allow the march to enter Gaza and writes:
Sitting on the stairwell, I wondered what I was doing there. The jammed space had a romance, an air of the many freedom marches before this; and the word “provocateurs” was redolent of socialist activism. I’m not a radical, but a left/liberal; the doorways for my engagement here was not solidarity with suffering people but good old self interest: my concerns about American militarism in the Middle East and Zionism in Jewish life. And yet here I was; and it occurred to me that certain injustices become so disturbing to some people, to their understanding of history, that they must take a stand, and are willing to make great sacrifices to do so; and in that sense I was also a radical, if a reluctant one.
We all felt great about the action. Against all odds, we had done what we set out to do—to say to the Egyptian authorities and the world, “if you won’t let us go to Gaza, we’ll simply start from here and walk.” If you want to stop us, you’ll have to physically stop us—we won’t comply with your orders. And if you physically stop us, then we will have brought Gaza to Cairo—we will dramatize for the eyes of the world the situation that the people of Gaza are in. This pen, this improvised prison in the central square is another annex to the huge, open-air prison that Gaza has become, where a million and a half people live in the most densely crowded conditions on earth, where the Israelis control the borders and decide who can get in and who can get out, rationing out the necessities of life, blocking the materials of reconstruction and the means of livelihood for the Gazan people.
Alex Kane describes the experience of some student activists who did enter Gaza, bringing school supplies to the children there:
“Why the Palestinians? Why are we the only ones suffering?” asked a Palestinian girl who was probably about nine or ten-years-old. And then the enormity of what the people of Gaza go through every day hit me….
The following day, Israel carried out air strikes on Gaza once again, injuring 4 Palestinians. With no demand from the US or elsewhere for Israel to answer for its actions during Cast Lead, it looks more and more like a repeat attack is being planned. Tony Karon provides a very solid analysis of why here, concluding:
So it ought to surprise no one if, in the weeks and months ahead, there is an increase in Israeli air strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza, while efforts to end the blockade are stymied, ultimately provoking Hamas to hit back with its own rocket strikes – opening another round of fighting. Israeli media last week reported a conversation between Mr Netanyahu’s brother-in-law, Hagai Ben Artzi, and Noam Shalit, father of the captive soldier, during a protest demanding government action to free Gilad. Mr Ben Artzi rebuked the Shalit protest, saying the soldier would be freed during the “next Gaza war”. And when would that be, the captive’s father asked. Mr Ben Artzi’s answer: “Either in two months, or in six months.”