8 January, 2010 — Ha’aretz
[Amira Hass was in Cairo during the stay of the Free Gaza March activists, and she went into Gaza with the small group that was allowed to enter (minus those who declined). This article covers some of her impressions of the activists in Cairo, as well as what happened in Gaza. This last part has not been widely reported, especially the role of Hamas in keeping the visitors under tight control, and undermining civil society role in organizing and carrying out the Free Gaza March. – Racheli Gai]
Pro-Gaza activists under siege – imposed by Egypt and Hamas By Amira Hass
The departure from Ramses Street in Cairo, in about 20 buses, was set for the morning of Monday, December 28. However, the organizers of the Gaza Freedom March knew the buses would not arrive. Just as on Sunday night, the buses hired by a group of French activists never made it to their starting point – Cairo’s Charles de Gaulle Street, near the French Embassy and across from the zoo.
In the week before the planned march, the Foreign Ministry in Cairo made it clear that the protesters would not be permitted to enter Gaza. Boats even mysteriously disappeared from the Nile on Sunday evening. The Egyptian authorities knew that scores of activists were planning to sail and light candles to mark the first anniversary of Israel’s attack on Gaza and the 1,400 people who were killed.
A total of 1,361 people came to Cairo from 43 countries to participate in the Gaza Freedom March, 700 of them from the United States alone, many more than initially expected. It started out as a small initiative. Then the American feminist and peace group Codepink signed on, and it gradually spread to other countries.