Gaza Freedom March Wrap Up

2 January, 2010 — Palestine Think Tank


Foreign activists staged a sit-in to protest against Egypt's stance. (AFP- Victoria Hazou)

By Sana (Keffiyeh And Onions)

I’m sure its going to take me some time to process everything that has happened in Cairo with the Gaza Freedom March over the past week or so but here are some of my initial thoughts and feelings. Bear in mind, these are my own opinions and reflections and they surely are not the same as the 1300 other people who were in Cairo. So for what its worth – here it goes:

This whole political experience here with CODEPINK, for me, has been honestly disappointing and angering. I’m going to be honest here, I did not participate in many of the protests that took place in Cairo because I had serious issues with the way everything was being handled and the way that the March really seemed to have fallen apart and unraveled once everyone realized that our chances of getting into Gaza were really slim to none. From the very first meeting that was held in Tahrir Square, the individuals who were going to be staying in Gaza longer (past January 2nd) were told to not participate in any of these demonstrations because if we did somehow come up with a way to get into Gaza, if we had any record or history with problems with the Egyptians – this would effectively eliminate any chance of us getting in. People told us to completely “disassociate from the March” and that because Egypt is not a democracy, “nothing we do will change their minds” – which sadly, ended up being quite true despite how often people demonstrated, were barricaded in by people, and some even beaten up. Moral of the story: This is not the U.S., they don’t care that you’re Americans, and we did not fly thousands of miles to protest in Egypt.

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Viva Palestina Update 30 December, 2009

30 December, 2009

[The Ed’s comment: The depressing state of affairs that has come about in Cairo precisely illustrates the bankrupt nature of the ‘left’ in the so-called developed world, which argues and scores points of one kind or another whilst the Zionists continue to kill with impunity! I am especially disappointed with Code Pink’s behaviour having applauded their imaginative work around the invasion/occupation of Iraq. When will we learn? Also, I’ve not formatted these email texts, just reordered them, putting Keith Hammond’s analysis first. The rest concerns assistance that some South African comrades need (from their own government!)]

From: Keith Hammond []
Sent: Wed 30/12/2009 12:14
To: Nur Masalha
Subject: RE: ????? ?????: The Good out of the Misery Re: [middle_east_alum] First Report from Cairo: Freedom Marching in Circles While Winding Our Way to Gaza

The problem has been this :

On first arriving we had a legal ban placed on us. Europeans have organised on a basis where we do not take any notice of the law. Codepink have used those activities to put pressure on the Egyptian authorities.

The French for instance – around 300 – mobilised on the basis of resistance. The Spanish tried to get to al Arish in different ways. Similar actions were taken by others. Some of the activities in Cairo have been extremely high risk – for instance at the Journalist’s Syndicate. It was like World War III: riot police everywhere. Meetings have been bust up. Proprietors threatened. Hotel arrests. People being followed everywhere and so on and so on. Whilst the Codepink people have simply put pressure on the authorities to get all the right permission to press on in a tiny group.

The French who have had it very rough have not even had a visit from the Codepink. They have been demonised as though they were the extremists, dispupting things for everyone. I have spent a lot of time with the French and they are simply determined to expose the Egyptian role in this whole business.

What is going on right now is meetings, lots of wind and blaming the Codepink for a lot of the duplicity and betrayal. They have had hell of a job to get enough people to go with them and the Egyptians have exploited their compliance something terrible. So now the media here is full of this story about the moderate, reasonable Americans who are working in complete harmony with the Egyptians whilst the rest of us are extremist anarchists who disobey law as a matter of routine.

There has been no unity … How could there be … So what is happening now is people are finally coming around to a single position where we march en masse … Legal or no legal we make a stand and oppose the Egyptian authorities … It will be all or nothing. In the mean time there are loads on hunger strikes here. Different contingents are staying close to the collective as well as starving or fasting.

Many of us have been chased around, followed, questioned and Christ knows what until we are dizzy. We have made our way from one part of the city to the next and been hammered and shoved about until we are not of this world Nur. The intensity and pace has been relentless. Some groups like the French and the South Africans have been outstanding. Nothing frantic and nothing waffley … There are others who want to talk and talk … So really what has gone oon is not unusual. The usual suspects have come to the fore.

Codepink have set things back considerably. But everyone – in all the different groups – have made huge experiences. Some of this has to be thought through … and translated into new organisational insights. We have made invaluable experiences and it has been sooooo difficult at times. But there will no progress on Palestine until we expose places like this and build alliances with the local unions and so forth … And of course we must keep Palestinians safe. I am just hoping that there are not casualties in Gaza …

But there is no doubt that Mubarak must be shown to be the partner of Israel that he has shown himself to be. He has supported Israel way beyond anything that might have been expected … He has hammered us … done everything short of real jail and deportations. That will be next … things will now get even more fierce. There is everything still being fought out … Meetings everywhere …

All best,

Keith – exhausted but on my feet !!!

From: Keith Hammond []

Sent: Wed 30/12/2009 09:57
To: Nur Masalha
Subject: RE: The Good out of the Misery Re: [middle_east_alum] First Report from Cairo: Freedom Marching in Circles While Winding Our Way to Gaza

This is very important. The South African delegate are escorted [by] two cops at a time out of their hotel and to wherever they go … It is now warming up EVEN MORE and they need a legal contact here in Cairo ….

Can you help ?

The contact is Judge Siraj Desai and his number is 0836339673 ….

His email is

There is another email with contact details that I am sending …. But these people are high profile and they are definitely a target …

The next email will follow
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Viva Palestina rebuts Egyptian ‘bungle’ allegations

30 December, 2009 — Viva Palestina

The Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit claimed at a press conference on Tuesday (December 29) that his country was willing to assist the Viva Palestina convoy’s entry into Gaza. He cited two letters sent by the Egyptian embassy in London on November 10 and December 10. What he does not say is that the conditions laid down were totally unacceptable, as convoy organiser George Galloway responded in writing at the time.

Specifically, these were that Viva Palestina co-ordinate ‘with the Israeli authorities on the passage of aid’, that land convoys would not be admitted and that the convoy should not arrive until the second week of January 2010.

“Egypt may be at the beck, call and command on Israel, but Viva Palestina is not,” said George Galloway. “We refuse to co-operate with a country which continues to illegally hold Palestinian lands, builds even more settlements in the teeth of world opinion and which, just a year ago, slaughtered 1400 people in the Gaza Strip and devastated the infrastructure. Israel refuses to let through one brick, pane of glass or nail to help rebuild the carnage its warplanes caused.”

Galloway added that the land convoy to Gaza was symbolic because its arrival was due to coincide with the first anniversary of the war on Gaza, “which the Egyptian authorities have done all they can to thwart”.


For further comment contact Alice Howard on Tel: 07944 512469 or via email:

Below are copies of recent correspondence with the Egyptian embassy in London.

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GAZA FREEDOM MARCH Only 100 people allowed into Gaza; sounds like a lot of marchers are angry

30 December, 2009 — Combined Reports

Latest update from the GFM Coordinators:

Gaza Freedom Marchers,

There seems to be a lot of misinformation and confusion going around about the recent events. In integrity to process we are trying to communicate as best we can with extremely limited timing. We had to submit a list of 100 delegates to go to Gaza tomorrow by 10:30 pm this evening, so the list is now closed. The officials say names not on the list will not be allowed but perhaps something will change. You can come tomorrow morning to support those going, to give in your humanitarian aid, or to try to get on the bus. Here is the address of where to go: 33 Ramsis, by the 6 Oct Bridge, at the Al Gona Bridge.

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. We wish that all would be there by tomorrow night but will not give up trying to get more and more groups in in the days to follow.

Actions will continue in the days to come – update on actions coming later.

We must recognize this concession on the part of the government as a window of opportunity and a tribute to our protests and pressure over the past days. The decision to allow in 100 delegates also belies the government’s pretext for not allowing our group in based on security – if 100 can go, why not 1000?  Let’s recognize this government concession as part of a larger process to lift the siege of Gaza.

Gaza Freedom March Coordinators

Comment by Enrique:

OK, the government here was very clever: they give free passage to the leadership, and the rest 1300 may enjoy the Egyptian antiquities…

It is obvious that they were fed up with our actions, and now they can get rid of us.

The Palestinians cannot risk a huge march as it was foreseen, so maybe 6,000 instead of 50,000 because only 100 internationals aren’t enough to take the head and protect too many people.

I read Rae’s message, and I’m not sure whether it is the right decision.

But Israel will be extremely happy avoiding to face the crowds.

Unfortunately I’m afraid many won’t take the trouble to join actions like this one in the future. Perhaps a creative non-violent tactic has been burnt out. I see people here very angry. What remains to be seen is if the benefit of providing this small delegation compensates the debacle of the march as foreseen.

First Report from Cairo: Freedom Marching in Circles While Winding Our Way to Gaza

What has gone on here with CODE PINK is a historic betrayal of huge magnitude.

The CodePink group are some of the main organizers behind the Gaza Freedom March – the GFM being around fourteen hundred internationals.

Whilst the internationals were lobbying and picketing and endless other activities, Code Pink as a group negotiated their way into Gaza – a group of 100. They offered a couple of places to each international delegation. Most told them a clear no.

They rejected everyone’s position and went ahead making a bilateral decision to accept an offer from Mubarak’s wife (I think) and just rode steam roller over the views of fourteen hundred who have gone through hell ….

There has been a build up of publicity and yet they have quietly accepted the first offer that divided everyone. There have almost been street fights here the divisiive impact of these people has been brutal.

So that is at the stage we are at… I plowed up to their rooms at the hotel where they are based and they are locked up. They left at dawn. The French, the Scottish, the Greeks, the Spanish etc etc have all rejected the idea of two delegates – WHICH THEY OF COURSE PICK ON THE QUIET ….

Endless despondency. Endless sadness. Endless feeling of betrayal … Can you please convey this message to BRICUP – I am in a rage at the moment and going over to talk with the French…They are still held in confinement at their Embassy.

No end to the betrayal and despondency that they have created.


Viva Palestina Update

28 December, 2009

Sent: (from Cairo) on Monday, December 28, 2009 6:21 PM

Hi everyone, GMS Bulletin #3. It is proving harder than I thought to fit in writing these bulletins in a timely fashion.

Yesterday was a great day. We went down to a major bridge across the Nile and tied cards of remembrance and flowers to the bridge railings. These were removed almost immediately by the police who follow us everywhere. It is evident that there are spies at our meetings. The police challenged us to move on, but in a very restrained manner. It is obvious that at this stage they are treating internationals with kid gloves, unlike their own nationals.

It is theoretically forbidden to gather in groups of more than 6. However we have found that in greater numbers we can prevail. We had planned yesterday to hire small boats on the nile and float 1400 candles in memory of the people killed in Gaza last year. A good photo op for the media. An easy gentle media event that should not push the police prohibitions. But the police would not allow it. So there we were, all gathered 1400 of us, and we began a strong loud street demo. It was wonderful – songs in a variety of languages. Banners (forbidden) were unfurled. Silly buggars, if they had let us use the boats, there would have been just a few boats and candles floating down the Nile. But they still treated us with kid gloves.

The authorities have prevented us hiring buses to go to AL Arish as planned for today. Various groups have gone on ahead but have been arrested at Al Arish.

As well as the Gaza freedom march, there are a number of other groups operating independently but co-ordinating together: The French have been successful in getting the co-operation of their Embassy to help get them buses., there are the Spanish and a whole lot of other groups. It is all wonderfully fluid and anarchic. I cannot praise the women of Code Pink highly enough. They are all very experienced operators, operating in the best feminist model, facilitative, clear, not top down like the traditional left, male models. Very competent and nurturing, no bloody ego – yay!

Well it looks as if I will be able to get this sent to you as I write.



received for forwarding at 18:40 hrs Monday. Max Watts

Gaza March (convoy) group organised by/with Brit MP George Galloway is at writing blocked in Akaba (Jordan). They are being prevented from entering Egypt through the Red Sea port of Nuweiba by ferry, and are arguing the toss at present. The Egyptian proposal to go thru the Suez Canal to Al Arish in Northern Egypt is a not very disguised refusal… Egypt working for Israeli and US governments?