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Blocking Freedom Marcher/Viva Palestina Aid to Gaza
By Stephen Lendman
Since Israel isolated Gaza under siege in mid-2007, it's blocked essential humanitarian aid from entering, including:
- on December 1, 2008, when its warships stopped a Libyan cargo vessel several kilometers from Gaza, ordering it back to El-Arish, Egypt or be attacked; it was carrying 1,200 tons of rice, 750 tons of milk, 500 tons of oil, 500 tons of flour, and 100 tons of medicines;
- on December 15, 2008 when the Spirit of Humanity carrying five tons of aid and 21 passengers, including three volunteer surgeons, was intercepted at sea, 100 miles from Gaza, and warned to turn back to Larnaca, Cyprus or be assaulted; and
- on June 30, 2009, the Free Gaza Movement's Spirit of Humanity was intercepted and boarded 23 miles off Gaza's coast; its aid cargo and 21 human rights activists were seized, including Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire and former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney; they were threatened and forcibly taken to Israel's southern port of Ashdod, held incommunicado under horrific conditions one passenger described as a "horror movie....in a warehouse, where we slept on a cockroach-infested cement floor as armed soldiers" stood guard; all their personal possessions were confiscated, and a day later two of them were taken to Ashdod's central bus station with no money or belongings; the others were arrested and treated like criminals.
Cynthia McKinney described her ordeal as prisoner number 88794 at Ramle prison, known as one of Israel's harshest - a former British police station, overcrowded, "stinking," many inside with no bed, everyone confined to tiny areas, some in isolation with no sunlight, and a series of dungeons six feet long, three feet wide, and six feet high that are dark, filthy, unbearable to be in, and those inside are stripped naked, beaten, unable to shower, given a thin coverall, and allowed to use the toilet once a day only.
An Israeli military delegation has canceled an official visit to Britain, officials said Tuesday, the latest in a string of politicians and army officials to put off travel to the U.K. because of fears of war crimes prosecution.
Israel complained that the practice, spearheaded by pro-Palestinian activists, is harming relations, and Britain's visiting attorney general said an urgent solution must be found.
The Israelis called off their trip because their British army hosts could not guarantee they would not be arrested, the Israeli officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. Neither the Israeli military nor the British government would comment.
The incident underlined the effectiveness of a pro-Palestinian legal campaign to harass Israeli officials in the wake of war crimes allegations after Israel's devastating invasion of Gaza a year ago to stop rocket attacks. Read more.
Counterterrorism In Shambles; Why?
By Ray McGovern and Coleen Rowley
Yesterday, a blogger with the PBS’ NewsHour asked former CIA analyst Ray McGovern to respond to three questions regarding recent events involving the CIA, FBI, and the intelligence community in general.
Two other old intelligence hands were asked the identical questions, queries that are typical of what radio/TV and blogger interviewers usually think to be the right ones. So there is merit in trying to answer them directly, such as they are, and then broadening the response to address some of the core problems confronting U.S. counter-terror strategies.
After drafting his answers, McGovern asked former FBI attorney/special agent Coleen Rowley, a colleague in Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) to review his responses and add her own comments at the end. The Q & A is below:
Question #1 – What lapses in the American counter terrorism apparatus made the Christmas Day bombing plot possible? Is it inevitable that certain plots will succeed?
The short answer to the second sentence is: Yes, it is inevitable that “certain plots will succeed.” A more helpful answer would address the question as to how we might best minimize their prospects for success. And to do this, sorry to say, there is no getting around the necessity to address the root causes of terrorism or, in the vernacular, “why they hate us.”
If we don’t go beyond self-exculpatory sloganeering in attempting to answer that key question, any “counter terrorism apparatus” is doomed to failure. Honest appraisals can tread on delicate territory, but any intelligence agency worth its salt must be willing/able to address it.
Delicate? Take, for example, what Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the “mastermind” of 9/11, said was his main motive. Here’s what the 9/11 Commission Report wrote on page 147. You will not find it reported in the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM):
Israeli Use of Painful Shackling As A Form of Torture
By Stephen Lendman
Founded in 1990 to highlight a growing problem, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PACTI - stoptorture.org) "believes that torture and ill treatment of any kind and under all circumstances is incompatible with the moral values of democracy and the rule of law. (It) advocates for all persons - Israelis, Palestinians, labor immigrants and other foreigners in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) - in order to protect them from torture and ill treatment by the Israeli interrogation and law enforcement authorities."
They include the Israeli Police, the General Security Service (GSS), the Israeli Prison Service (IPS), and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). In June 2009, PACTI published a report titled, "Shackling As A Form of Torture and Abuse." Its findings are discussed below.
PACTI reviews the "serious phenomenon" of shackling Palestinian detainees "in a systematic manner and throughout all stages of detention and interrogation." Its purpose is to dehumanize and inflict pain, suffering, punishment, intimidation, and discrimination as a way of lawlessly extracting information even though experts acknowledge that torture is ineffective, counterproductive, and, of course, illegal under all circumstances at all times with no exceptions allowed ever.
Israel's use of shackling "has snowballed almost out of control....even when it serves no real" purpose, and it begins at the time of arrest. Plastic handcuffs are used "that can be tightened but cannot be released or halted." They inflict pain, especially when hands are cuffed from behind, the most common way.
Shackling continues during interrogation, "where diverse and creative forms of cuffing are intended to apply pain and pressure...." Then in cells, detainees are painfully shackled to beds for extended periods. Even when they're transferred for urgent hospital treatment, cuffing stays in place throughout.
In his "Torture Ruling," (HCJ 5100/94 Public Committee Against Torture in Israel v. Prime Minister of Israel), former President of the Israeli High Court of Justice (HCJ), Aaron Barak (1995 - 2006), addressed cuffing as follows:
"A reasonable interrogation is an interrogation without torture, without cruel or inhuman treatment of the interrogee, and without a humiliating attitude thereto. It is forbidden to use brutal and inhuman measures during the course of the interrogation....Painful cuffing is a prohibited action. Moreover: other means exist to prevent escape from lawful custody or to protect the interrogators which do not involve causing pain and suffering to the interrogee."
A Santa Cruz teacher returned to her home in Watsonville Sunday after she and her husband were detained in the middle east.
Kathleen Crocetti and Bill Lucas left before Christmas on a journey to participate in the Gaza Freedom March in support of Palestinians when they were arrested. Crocetti is part of the anti-war group "Code Pink."
In addition, Crocetti said she wanted to deliver a peace mural to a women's center in Gaza. Crocetti is an art teacher at Mission Hill Middle School in Santa Cruz and passionate about expressing peace through art. The glass mural Crocetti designed was put together by at least 50 women in Santa Cruz and Watsonville.
"We always knew that the worst thing that could happen would be arrest and deportation," said Crocetti. During the couple's trip, the worst fear became a reality. The couple was placed under house arrest at their hotel after the Egyptian government revoked a permit for the group of 1,400 peace activists. Read more.
Keep us in your thoughts, my friends, and please visualize circles of protection especially for those who have taken leading roles in this work! update is below, Happy New Year!
We did it! Up until the moment we did, I didn’t quite believe we would, but we did!
Went to bed last night thinking, “Yeah, Starhawk, you’ve done this a hundred times, yawn, nerves of steel, sleep like a baby,” and of course I hardly slept at all, adrenaline racing, had to pee a hundred times. Got up this morning ahd rumors were flying around that the Egyptian security forces were blocking the hotels, so we got out quickly. Fortunately I had packed and organized my stuff the night before as that is the part of an action that is most stressful to me. Nothing makes me more crazy than needing to get out the door in a hurry and not being able to find some crucial piece of gear, and I nearly always can’t find some crucial piece of gear, due to that plague of Snatchers that follow me around, hiding my keys, lining their burrows with my socks and decorating them with my ATM cards.
Some of the Canadian delegation who are staying here were saying that police were outside—but that turned out not to be true. I was almost sorry, because Wendy had scouted alternative exits over the roofs of Cairo and what a story that would make! But I was happy enough just to get out and not be stuck inside all day. I can write novels another time.
Lisa had already left for a meeting at one of the hotels—turned out the security forces were blocking everyone into the Lotus, where the main Code Pink organizers were staying, but not the other hotels, including the one where the meeting was happening.
I decided to sit down below, however, and keep watch. Actually I didn’t see the need for going 9 flights up and probably having to walk back down all nine, and sitting in a smoky meeting where I wouldn’t be able to hear anything. There was a chair against the wall near the entrance so I sat down to wait. Actually, Cairo is a great place to people-watch and I had one of the most relaxing little bits of time I’d had here yet, watching the women in their various head=-carves and the men with liquid brown eyes that could have come off an old tomb painting. Eventually people from our march began to drift by, stopping to share news and rumors. One Policeman was watching the hotel, but I didn’t see any signs that groups of them were massing for a raid. But the rumors were flying—the action was on, it was off, the locations was changed, the time was changed..
Eventually Lisa and the women from the meeting came down. The plan was for shock troops of women to be first out into the streets—for a couple of reasons. The first—the cops are less likely to brutalize women. Not entirely unlikely, but less. The second—to shift those old gender dynamics where the guys do the brave and dangerous things and the little women stay behind. The third—because these women are strong and smart and don’t run ego-dramas.
On New Year’s Day, Jan. 1, 2010, a vigil was held at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, MD. It was sponsored by the “Women in Black.” According to a press release from Peace and Justice Activist Max Obuszewski, today’s vigil was “in support of the [Gaza] Freedom Marchers and the Palestinian people.” Keep in mind the words of wisdom of Mohandas Gandhi, Spiritual Warrior. He said: “What is true of the individual will be tomorrow true of the whole nation if individuals will but refuse to lose heart and hope.”
Approximately 500 marchers for the end of Israel's and Egypt's deadly inhumane blockade against Gaza were confronted by Egyptian riot police today. The Gaza Freedom Marchers come from 43 separate nations. A key goal for them is to end the brutal blockade Israel initiated which created near starvation conditions. We are told Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and that's why the U.S. politicians give them billions of tax-payers' dollars every year. However, it is the result of democracy that has Israel so upset it is virtually starving the 1.5 million people in Gaza. When the organization Hamas won an internationally supervised election Israel started the blockade. It seems the Palestinian people voted for the wrong party by Israeli standards! Israel should heed the advice of Albert Einstein who said, "Should we be unable to find a way to honest cooperation and honest pacts with the Arabs, then we have learned absolutely nothing during our 2,000 years of suffering and deserve all that will come to us."
In addition to wanting to stop the barbaric blockade, the Gaza Freedom March has the goal of stopping Egypt from building a wall on their border with Gaza that would make it impossible for the besieged Palestinians in Gaza from getting any food, medicine or weapons. The little bit of necessities that are making it in are being smuggled in through tunnels under the border. This is reminiscent of when the British blockaded the American colonies and smugglers like John Hancock would smuggle in supplies and weapons in spite of the blockade.
The wall Egypt is building is being built with U.S. taxpayer dollars, approval from U.S. politicians and help from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It goes against everything decent to help bullies, Israel and Egypt, beat-up on an underdog, the Palestinians. This is yet another sign that Obama's speech to the Muslim world was nothing but empty promises and completely meaningless and an insult to thinking and caring people everywhere. Read more.
Just before Christmas, the US President, Barack Obama, signed into law one of his country's biggest aid pledges of the year. It was bound not for Africa or any of the many struggling countries on the World Bank's list.
It was a deal for $US2.77 billion ($3 billion) to go to Israel in 2010 and a total of $US30 billion over the next decade.
Israel is bound by the agreement to use 75 per cent of the aid to buy military hardware made in the US: in the crisis-racked US economy, those military factories are critical to many towns.
For the first time the US is also providing $US500 million to the Palestinian Authority, including $US100 million to train security forces, under the strict proviso that the authority's leadership recognises Israel.
For many years Israel has been the largest recipient of US foreign aid, followed by Egypt ($US1.75 billion), which also receives most of its assistance in tied military aid.
The Congressional Research Service says that the US spent 17 per cent of its total aid budget - or $US5.1 billion - on military aid in 2008, of which $US4.7 billion was grants to enable governments to receive equipment from the US. Read more.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Gaza Strip has called for military and economic sanctions against Israel.
"The UN has not been willing [yet] to give what's needed to exert significant pressure on Israel to lift the blockade that under any circumstances is unlawful," Richard Falk told Press TV on Thursday.
"The only thing that could be more effective would be a move toward economic sanctions that would include military assistance" to Israel, the UN diplomat underlined.
The UN independent expert on Palestinian rights has also criticized the international community for its failure to end the Israeli blockade against the Gaza Strip
He called for "some more effective international approach" to lift the three year blockade that "shocks the conscience of humanity". Read more.
Cairo—Today at 10:00 AM, the Gaza Freedom march converged on Midan Tahrir, or Liberation Square in English. This was no easy task for the marchers. We left in small groups to avoid being followed by police who were monitoring our hotels. Several of the larger hotels were monitored more closely, and the Lotus Hotel was completely barricaded, making it impossible for most of the Marchers to leave.
Many marchers, maybe three to four hundred, did make it to the square and a delegation of women gave the signal to converge by waving large flags. We moved into the streets with the intention to occupy a major thoroughfare and march towards Gaza. Egyptian police and riot cops fanned out of alleyways and side streets as quickly as we came together. The police then attempted to push us out of the street and into the square. As planned, we continued to try to march, but things quickly came to a head. Most of the marchers decided to sit down and lock arms.
The Egyptian cops swiftly became violent and began grabbing, beating, and pulling marchers who did not leave the street. I was kicked in the side and back, punched in the head and slapped in the face. My glasses were broken and one plainclothes officer pulled violently on my hair for what seemed like nearly a minute. I managed to hold on to one of my comrades, and we held the space in the street for a while longer. Many of the police in uniform were trying to avoid violence, but a handful of plain clothes officers were taking pot shots at the crowd of peaceful and non-violent protesters. Eventually the police succeeded in moving the marchers to the sidewalk where we were barricaded and surrounded by several rows of cops.
I emerged alright from the incident, but several others were not so fortunate. One young man had his shoulder dislocated and others were close to passing out from the trauma of the encounter. Though we were removed from the square, beaten and prohibited from marching, our spirits were quickly rekindled through the solidarity born out of the struggle and by remembering the much worse hardships that Palestinians often face when they attempt to hold peaceful demonstrations; it is not uncommon for Israeli troops to fire on crowds of Palestinians with rubber and real bullets merely for assembling. It is difficult to imagine the horror of being trapped in Gaza and having to endure an onslaught like the one that occurred last January. We held a moment of complete silence as we honored those who had died. Not even a cop made a noise.
Israel's East Jerusalem Linked Settlement Expansion
By Stephen Lendman
On February 1, 2009, the International Solidarity Movement reported that Israel continues its E 1 area homes and infrastructure work that includes linking its Ma'ale Adummim settlement with East Jerusalem and other settlements around it. It said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, while in office, promised to expand E 1 development - the land northeast of Jerusalem, west of Ma'ale Adummim comprising about 12 square kilometers, all of it illegally annexed.
On November 15, 2009, the International Middle East Media Center reported that construction began in Ras al-Amud, Pisgat Ze'ev and elsewhere in East Jerusalem as part of Israel's scheduled 3,000 unit project.
On November 18, Al Jazeera headlined, "Israel moves to expand settlement," saying approval was given to construct 900 housing units in East Jerusalem's Gilo settlement.
Overall, Israel's E 1 Plan involves building about 15,000 new homes, a large industrial zone, hotels, other recreational facilities, a police station, garbage dump and more to be shared by Occupied Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adummim settlers.
Israel's 121 West Bank/East Jerusalem official settlements, another 100 so-called "unauthorized outposts," and 12 Israeli (de facto settlement) neighborhoods annexed to Jerusalem's municipal area are illegal under international law, including Fourth Geneva's Article 49 stating:
"Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupied Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of the motive."
PDA Calls for End to Illegal Israeli/US Blockade of Gaza
Statement of Support for Gaza Freedom March--Take Action
Since June, 2007, the state of Israel has enforced an inhumane and illegal closure of Gaza’s land, air, and sea borders that has almost completely barred all shipments of building supplies, medicine, food, and humanitarian aid from reaching the 1.5 million citizens of Gaza. The blockade is an obvious form of collective punishment banned by international law. It has been compared at times to the inhumane and fatal Nazi German blockade that ended in the deaths of over a quarter of a million Polish Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto in the early 1940s.
Beyond the inhumanity of the blockade itself, beginning last December 27th, the state of Israel, with the assent, aid, and financial backing of the U.S. government, launched an overwhelming three-week-long, one-sided war of aggression on Gaza that intentionally destroyed hospitals, medical clinics, schools, factories, power plants and farmlands.
In response to these brutalities, on December 31, 2009, an international coalition of more than 50,000 Palestinians, freedom fighters, and people of conscience from around the globe arrived in Egypt in an effort to enter Gaza and participate in the [Gaza Freedom March (http://www.gazafreedommarch.org)], demanding that the Israeli government lift its blockade, and sending a message to Israel, and to the United States as a key supporter of Israel, that the situation in Gaza is totally unacceptable.
Inspiration for the Gaza Freedom March comes, of course, from the long-suffering and courageous people of Gaza, and from the U.N. Goldstone Report, which described Israel’s recent military campaign in Gaza as "a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate, and terrorize a civilian population” in which there were numerous attacks on civilian targets for which there was "no justifiable military objective.” PDA strongly supports and endorses this March and reiterates its call for a cessation of U.S. military aid to Israel until the blockade of Gaza and the occupation of Palestine are ended. (Israel, with a population of under six million people, is the largest recipient of U.S. foreign and military aid. Israel’s aid, plus U.S. aid to Egypt—for keeping peace with—consumes more than half the U.S. foreign-aid budget.)
In this struggle we join with PDA Board member and March initiator, Medea Benjamin, who equated the situation in Gaza to historical struggles for human rights elsewhere and said, "We are doing this in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and non-violent resistance." Like others worldwide, PDA wonders how the impoverishment and suffering of Gaza's children—more than 50 per cent of the population—can benefit anyone, or how the search for peace can be served by sickness, trauma and malnutrition. Indeed, without the lifting of the blockade no peace of any kind is possible.
PDA members are encouraged to call the main number for the State Department (202-647-4000) and ask to be put through to the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, where you can ask/demand that the U.S. government provide greater assistance to the marchers (and cut of military aid until the end of the occupation and siege if you are so inclined), and to call the U.S. Embassy in Cairo (  2797-3300), where you can again demand that the U.S. government provide greater assistance to the marchers.
Join PDA's Israel/Palestine Action Group; learn more here.
Members of an international group gathered in Cairo to protest against the siege of Gaza have rejected an Egyptian offer to allow 100 of them entry into the Palestinian territory.
Organisers of the Gaza Freedom March (GFM), which is comprised of 1,300 people from 42 different countries, declined the offer on Wednesday, saying "we refuse to whitewash the siege of Gaza".
Egyptian authorities had initially said the group would not be allowed to cross the border, citing security reasons and a "sensitive situation".
The activists were hoping to march into Gaza on the anniversary of Israel's 22-day offensive on the territory as a sign of solidarity with its people, carrying with them aid and supplies. Continue reading this article at al Jazeera.
Click "Read More" below to read the statement from leaders of the Gaza Freedom March explaining their position and reasons for it.
The scene at the French Embassy was inspiring. The French encamped there on the 27th, when their busses were cancelled, and have been there ever since. They came with tents and sleeping bags and the police basically formed a barricade between them and the street and let them stay. They are allowed the use of one toilet inside the Embassy, and supporters have been able to bring them food and water. There was lively chanting (I’ve just resigned myself to the chanting. Maybe if I stop resisting I’ll learn to enjoy it) and Max unfurled his flag and activists danced it up and down the sidewalk. People of all ages were having animated conversations while the cops looked on. Many were interacting with the police, who were dressed in riot gear but had their helmets propped open and were mostly smiling and friendly. The French Embassy is in Giza and the pyramids are tantalizingly close. Read more.
Rae Abileah, a Codepink Gaza Freedom March Coordinator reports from Egypt:
Tonight, Dec. 30, 2009, as part of the initiative led by a subgroup of the GFM, the womens' delegation - CODEPINK, we received news from the Egyptian government, via our efforts with HE Suzanne Mubarak, that we can send two buses of a total of 100 people to Gaza tomorrow. We are in the process of very rapidly selecting the 100 people according to proportional representation by country. We have been contacting leaders of each country by phone and text message, but communications are extremely challenging here, as you know, and we are working on an immediate deadline. Names need to be in in 15 mins. There is no way to adequately honor total consensus process here or to reach everyone because it is not technologically possible.
Haidar Eid, the coordinator of the Gaza Freedom March Steering Committee in Gaza talked with one of the GFM coordinators Tighe Barry and said that he understood that it would not be 1300 delegates, but was elated to hear that there will be 100 people coming tomorrow to represent the over 40 countries. Their group will meet the delegation at the border and will march as planned, in solidarity with the march in Cairo, in Israel at the West Bank, in the West Bank, and around the world. The world community will come together around Gaza.
Cheri Lippmann wrote of her good friend Kathleen Crocetti, a participant in the Gaza Freedom March:
“I am writing this email through tears of relief. Last night due to the efforts of Egyptian First Lady Susan Mubarak and the Codepink organizers, permission was given for 100 delegates to leave tomorrow Dec. 30th at 7 am (tonight at 9 pm our time) to the border and enter Gaza. I just found out that Kathleen is on the two bus list of 100.”
Kathleen wrote on her blog:
By the grace of God and the hands of all my lovely friends I will go into Gaza today, but I will leave Bill and some amazingly big hearted new friends we have made behind in El Ashir. For every delegate that gets in 13 will have been left behind. If it were not for the love and hope promised by the community mural and sweet sweet pencil cases we made together I would be one of those left behind.
by Linda Milazzo
Monday night, in remembrance of the one-year anniversary of Israel's Operation Cast Lead that killed 1,400 Gazans, and in solidarity with the 1,400 international peace pilgrims converging in Egypt from 42 countries for the planned Gaza Freedom March, Los Angelenos gathered in front of the Israeli Consulate for a solemn candlelight vigil.
Photo by Mike Chickey
Arresting Peaceful Protesters in Occupied Palestine
By Stephen Lendman
For decades, Israel has met peaceful Palestinian protesters disruptively with violence, arrests and at times unprovoked killings. It's no surprise that targeting them and their leaders is now common practice in cities and villages like Jayyous and Bil'in.
On August 3, 200 Israeli soldiers raided five Bel'in homes at 3AM arresting eight Palestinians, including Mohammad Khatib, a leader of the Bel'in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements. It's part of Israel's repressive routine - late night arrests and imprisonment without charges for indefinite periods. Khatib faces trial, but was released on August 17 on condition he report to a police station with a monitor each Friday until 5PM for its duration. He told supporters:
"The Israeli authorities are worried that the model of popular nonviolent resistance is spreading. They are targeting the popular committees to try to crush (them) but they cannot destroy the spirit of the demonstrations in Bil'in with the arrests of individuals. The whole village is part of the nonviolent resistance and the military would have to arrest (everyone) to stop us from protesting against the Occupation and the theft of our land. Even then, when we all come out of jail, we would continue our struggle."
Getting in to the Gaza Strip is no easy feat, but driving across Egypt should not be this hard.
On Sunday, more than 1,000 international activists from 42 countries around the world descended on Cairo to kick off the Gaza Freedom March, a humanitarian convoy and media spectacle organized by US activist group Code Pink.
The plan was to take buses from Cairo to the Egypt-Gaza border post at Rafah, where they would cross in to Gaza to mark the one-year anniversary of the devastating 22-day Israeli campaign against Hamas, which killed more than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers.
Organizers say they knew getting into Gaza would be the hard part, so they made sure to check and double check their arrangements with Egyptian authorities. That didn’t stop Egypt from closing the border post and forbidding the activists from driving across the Sinai Peninsula, keeping them from even getting near it.
Much like the humanitarian supplies they were intent on delivering, Gaza Freedom Marchers say they too have been caught in the siege on Gaza. Unable to protest the blockade from within the territory, they have protested it from here. The result has been a tense confrontation between American and European left-wing activism and a repressive police state engaged in a rigorous four-year-long crackdown on critics of the regime of Hosni Mubarak.
Medea Benjamin, an American citizen, cofounder of the antiwar group Code Pink, and one of the march organizers, says she and 50 other US nationals were “beaten up” by Egyptian police when they went to the US Embassy in Cairo to attend a previously scheduled meeting with embassy staff on Tuesday morning. Read more.
Gaza Freedom March participants, numbering 1,360 people from 42 countries, have assembled in Cairo, Egypt, where they plan to break the Israeli imposed siege on Gaza by delivering humanitarian relief supplies, on December 31st. After passing through the Rafah border crossing which divides Egypt and Gaza, they aim to join 50,000 Palestinians in a march across the Gaza Strip, ending at the Erez border crossing which leads into Israel.
But, the Egyptian government has dispersed peaceable assemblies that the marchers organized, in Cairo, and detained activists in multiple locations. Egyptian authorities previously issued permits for public actions, but have now revoked all permits and refused permission for any members of the Gaza Freedom March to even approach the border between Egypt and Gaza. Yesterday, they broke up a gathering of people who were commemorating the 1,409 Palestinians who were killed by the Israeli military's "Operation Cast Lead" assault that began last year, December 27th, and continued for 22 days.
"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 Palace 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. Read more.
Gaza One Year Later
By Stephen Lendman
A December 2009 report prepared by Oxfam International, Amnesty International UK, United Civilians for Peace, Christian Aid, and a dozen other international NGOs (called NGOs below) titled, "Failing Gaza: No rebuilding, no recovery, no more excuses" is hard-hitting and to the point.
It says a year after Operation Cast Lead, extensive damage hasn't been repaired and thousands "are being prevented from rebuilding their shattered society." It's not from a lack of commitment or enough resources with over $4 billion in pledged aid. It's because Israel blocks goods and equipment from entering Gaza. The world community and Arab world do nothing to stop them, so much of the Strip still lies in ruins.
Following Hamas' January 2006 electoral victory, all outside aid was cut off. Sanctions and an economic embargo were imposed, and the democratically elected government was falsely designated a terrorist organization and isolated. Stepped up repression followed as well as regular IFD attacks, killings, targeted assassinations, property destruction, and more. Gazans have been imprisoned ever since.
Since June 2007, the Strip has been under siege, described in an August 2009 OCHA report ("Locked In: The Humanitarian Impact of Two Years of Blockade on the Gaza Strip") as a:
The Occupied West Bank Latroun Villages
By Stephen Lendman
On June 6, 1967, when Israeli forces invaded Gaza and the West Bank, on the second day of the so-called Six-Day War (June 5 - 10, 1967), they entered three Palestinian villages in the Latroun salient - Imwas, Yalo and Beit Nouba, forcibly expelling the residents, numbering over 10,000 at the time. By the next day, most were gone while Israel began razing village lands and erasing their memory in an area well-known for its water resources and fertility, located northwest of Jerusalem along the Green Line. One soldier at the time explained that they:
"were told to take up positions around the approaches to the villages in order to prevent those villagers - who had heard the Israeli assurances over the radio that they could return to their homes in peace - from returning to their homes. The order was - shoot over their heads and tell them there is no access to the village," even though Fourth Geneva's Article 49 states:
"Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive." Doing so is a "grave breach," and those responsible are criminally liable.
Forty-two years later, their former homes gone and land expropriated, the survivors remain displaced, unable to return in violation of international law and Article 11 of UN Resolution 194:
"Resolv(ing) that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible."
Israel never complied even though its admission to the UN was conditional on accepting this and other relevant UN resolutions.
Just after midnight I couldn't sleep. Went out to get a bite to eat or maybe a glass of wine to help me sleep.
See several CodePink people and others with the Gaza Freedom March, say they are going to the French embassy -- they had put out an alert:
"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."
Indeed, it was a powerful action. By the time we got there, the protest was lively, but almost all on the sidewalk in front of the embassy, it had been on the street. A while after we got there, a long line of at least 100 government forces with riot gear appeared across the street. They had helmets and shields and clubs.
They came towards us.