15 July, 2009 — Black Agenda Report
Two hundred human rights activists drove their convoy into the besieged Gaza strip after ten days of delays and harassment at the hands of Egyptian and U.S. officials. However, the group has been given only 24 hours to complete its mission and leave.
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‘The U.S. Embassy required American citizens to sign papers waiving their right to protection by their own government.’
After days of maddening delays by Egyptian and U.S. authorities, on Wednesday the Viva Palestine US caravan crossed from Egypt into the Gaza strip, home to 1.5 million besieged Palestinians. Former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, New York City Councilman Charles Barron and Dead Prez rapper M-1 are among the 200 delegates who attempted to deliver hundreds of thousands of dollars in humanitarian aid. The Egyptians, who control the only non-Israeli entrance to Gaza, at the town of Rafah, reportedly prevented the activists from delivering some of the 47 vehicles purchased.
The activists have been warned they must leave Gaza in 24-hours, or will have to stay until the Egyptians open the border crossing for normal business. The Egyptians have been helping the Israelis enforce a blockade of Gaza since 2007.
The supplies are meant to aid recovery from Israel’s brutal December-January assault on Gaza in which at least 1,400 people died.
For McKinney, this is the third attempt to enter Gaza. She was a passenger in the relief vessel Dignity when it was rammed by the Israeli navy in international waters, December 30. The heavily damaged craft was forced to limp into a Lebanese port. Then, in late June, McKinney and 20 other human rights activists were arrested when their boat Spirit of Humanity was boarded by the Israeli Navy on the high seas. McKinney spent days in an Israeli prison before being released, but within days was on her way to join the Viva Palestine US caravan, organized by British Member of Parliament George Galloway.
‘The Egyptians government harassed the convoy at every opportunity.’
The American delegates were angered at the extent of U.S. government collaboration with Egyptian and Israeli efforts to frustrate the humanitarian mission. The U.S. Embassy required American citizens to sign papers waiving their right to protection by their own government should they enter Gaza. ‘This was not required in the first Gaza convoy nor was such an item required in the Free Gaza Movement,’ said McKinney.
The Egyptians government, which gets more U.S. aid than any foreign government other than Israel, harassed the convoy at every opportunity, roughing up delegates on the bridge at the Suez Canal. Meanwhile, two Israeli destroyers ostentatiously passed through the canal on Tuesday heading to the Red Sea. Israeli sources say the warships are on a mission to stop arms smuggling to Gaza.
On Tuesday, McKinney and Barron sent the following letter to President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:
Dear Mr. President
Dear Madam Secretary
Viva Palestina USA, a humanitarian relief effort for Gaza, is now in Egypt and requests your immediate assistance. We were supposed to have arrived in Gaza on Monday, July 13, 2009, but our arrival into Gaza was delayed because our departure from Cairo, Egypt was delayed by at least two days. Last-minute bureaucratic questions and additional requirements caused the delay. The people of Gaza can’t wait.
You have noted that Israel’s siege of Gaza should be eased and medical supplies should be allowed in. We are implementing what you reportedly put into writing. The people of Gaza need your help and we have important assistance for them. Please contact the Egyptian authorities and ask them to let Viva Palestina USA humanitarian assistance proceed through the Rafah crossing. We need your help today so that we can help the people of Gaza rebuild their lives devastated by occupation and brutal invasion.
McKinney and Barron signed the letter on behalf of ‘200 Viva Palestina USA volunteers and thousands of Viva Palestina USA donors.’