Egypt permits Viva Palestina convoy Gaza entry UPDATES Hedy on hunger strike

Updates in order from the latest.

UPDATE: Egypt to permit entry of Viva Palestina convoy into Gaza. No word on Gaza Freedom March participants stuck in Cairo

George Galloway, British MP and convoy leader, reporting.

UPDATE: 'Israel is the persecutor,' says Holocaust survivor on hunger strike for Gaza...Daily Star, Dec 29

CAIRO: An 85-year-old Holocaust survivor entered the second day of her hunger strike on Tuesday, in protest over the Egyptian government’s refusal to allow an international Palestinian solidarity march to enter the Gaza Strip. American peace activist Hedy Epstein came to Cairo as part of an international delegation with participants from 43 countries. The delegation had planned to join Palestinians in a non-violent march from Northern Gaza toward the Erez border with Israel, calling for the end of the blockade on Gaza on the anniversary of the Israeli invasion last December. Egyptian authorities have refused to allow any of the 1,300 protesters entry into Gaza, prompting Epstein and many others to go on hunger strike.

“There comes a time in one’s life when one has to step up and risk one’s own body,” she told The Daily Star. “We’re in a desperate situation here, but not as desperate as the people in Gaza.”

Leaving No Stone Unturned for the Freedom March to Get to Gaza...Alternet, Dec 29

Jodie Evans, Cairo

On the Egyptian government's stonewalling passage for the Gaza Freedom March, Evans writes: "We hope the Egyptians get so annoyed they just want to get rid of us.

Before leaving the states, CODEPINK reached out to Mrs. Mubarak, wife of Egyptian premiere Hosni Mubarak about the Gaza Freedom March, and the government’s denial of our passage to Gaza. She had interceded on our behalf when we were having the same experience with the Egyptian Government in March, when they refused to let our buses take us to Al Arish, as they did this morning at 7 a.m. In March, we were all able to enter and deliver the thousands of pink baskets of aid to the women of Gaza for International Women’s Day.

This morning, I went to Mrs. Mubarak’s offices at the Women’s International Peace Movement to ask for her help again in opening the border of Gaza for our delegation. Her program manager was quite helpful and delivered a copy of the email thousands had been sending all weekend from the states, translated into Arabic.

Emails from the Viva Palestina convoy back in Syria.

1) Dec 29. Dejavu. we’re back at the hotel we stayed at in Damascus. thanx to EGY monkeying for Israel, we’ve had to do a roundabout. what’s nice is hotel people still giving us warm welcome despite 2nd time visiting and mission still not accomplished. we’re all absolutely beat. drove for 12 hours today from Aqaba to Damascus. people still checking in. unlikely to know details re sailing till tomorrow. we can either sail from SYR or LEB. so we’ll see. it’s really, really sad how the biggest losers in all this are the PLEs. we got all these medicine that need to get delivered, some have expiry dates. so sad. so so sad… friends here bitching, can’t get onto Facebook. SYR blocks Facebook and Blogspot i mean Blogger – @juanajaafar

2) Dec 30. Just finished meeting. Convoy leavcing Damascus at noon for port! Yay!

UPDATE: Egypt trying to have it both ways.

Egypt to allow 100 protesters into Gazafrom Samer al-Atrush (AFP) – 4 hours ago

CAIRO — Protest leaders stranded in Cairo accepted an Egyptian offer on Tuesday to allow only 100 out of about 1,300 protesters into blockaded Gaza after the activists staged demonstrations and a hunger strike. The decision split delegates from more than 40 countries who came to Cairo planning to reach the Palestinian enclave, which shares the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.

Some organisers said Egypt's offer was a victory after it initially refused to allow any of the protesters into the Gaza Strip for the Gaza Freedom March, which is scheduled to take place on Thursday. "It's a partial victory," said Medea Benjamin, an American activist and one of the demonstrations organisers. "It shows that mass pressure has an effect."

The offer, however, angered many of the activists. A French organiser rejected it as divisive and said the sit-in in front of the French embassy would continue. "This just gives the Egyptian government a photo-up and the chance say we allowed people through," said Bassem Omar, a Canadian protester. Activists left behind in Cairo said they planned further protests.


Other recent reports (for links go here:

Dec. 30: 'Israel is the persecutor,' says Holocaust survivor on hunger strike for Gaza, Daily Star Dec. 29: Egypt to allow 100 protesters into Gaza! AFP News Dec. 29: Under International Pressure, Egypt Yields Ground to Gaza Freedom March, Huffington Post Dec. 29: Gaza hunger strikes: 'Gorgeous' George, a Holocaust granny, and angry Frenchmen, The Christian Science Monitor Dec. 29: Activists Blocked From Planned March to Support Gaza, NYTIMES Dec. 29: Egypt cracks down on foreign protesters heading to Gaza Strip, The Christian Science Monitor Dec. 29: Sam Husseini Blog from the March Dec. 29: Hedy Epstein and others begin hunger strike to pressure Egypt on Gaza, Mondoweiss Dec. 29: Freedom Marching in Circles While Winding Our Way to Gaza, By Emily Ratner Dec. 29: Gaza Freedom March Members Gain a Small Taste of the Palestinian Experience, Huffington Post Dec. 29: North Texans head to Middle East in hopes of joining Gaza Freedom March, Fort Worth Star Telegram Dec. 29: Hundreds attend Toronto Gaza Freedom March, Dec. 29: UN Is Silent as Egypt Bans Press From Protest of UN in Cairo, Gaza Freedom March, Inner City Press Dec. 28: US Press Ignores Egyptian Suppression of Gaza Freedom March, OpEd News Dec. 28: GAZA: ONE YEAR ON: 'Israel resembles a failed state' , AlJazeera Dec. 28: Activists Blocked From Planned March to Support Gaza, NY TIMES Dec. 28: Louisvillians among Gaza supporters blocked in Egypt, Courier-Journal Dec. 28: Gaza Freedom March: Disappointment, Flux and Vigils on the Nile, Huffington Post Dec. 28: French protesters demand transport to Gaza Dec. 28: BLOG: House Arrest and other News Dec. 28: Holocaust survivor stages hunger strike for Gaza, YnetNews Dec. 28: Gaza marchers on hunger strike in Egypt, BBC Dec. 28: Egypt Blocks Americans from Gaza March, Stops Aid Convoy, Huffington Post Dec. 28: Gaza: World March Facing Challenges, Islam Online Dec. 28: Norwich councillor in Gaza house arrest, Norwich Evening News Dec. 28: New Yorkers march against Israeli crimes in Gaza, Presstv Dec. 28: La solidarité toujours aussi active et vivace Dec. 28: Two Metro women fly to Gaza for protest, The Detroit News Dec. 28: Strong words only at protest, Israeli and Palestinian supporters march in T.O., TORONTO SUN Dec. 28: Ex-Rialto resident heading for Gaza, Redlands Daily Facts Dec. 28: TODAY IS THE ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF THE ATTACKS ON GAZA JEWISH VOICE FOR PEACE"? SodaHead News Dec. 28: AZ man embarks to Gaza on mission of peace, Dec. 28: Gaza Freedom March: Viva la France! The Indypendent Dec. 28: Toronto GAZA Freedom March Video, Global News Dec. 28: Operation Cast Lead: Verdict, By Uri Avnery Dec. 28: Toronto Peace Activists March in Solidarity with Gaza, By Wendy Goldsmith, Rabble.Ca Dec. 27: 1300 Activists converge on Cairo: We are blocked but we will not be stopped, By Wendy Goldsmith, Rabble.Ca Dec. 27: Egyptian Authorities Harass Palestine Solidarity Activists, By Alex Kane, The Indypendent Dec. 27: French protestors camp out in front of Cairo embassy, AFP Dec. 27: Gaza Freedom Marchers Warned by Embassies, By Jillian York, Huffington Post Dec. 27: Police detain 16 leftists on Gaza border, YnetNews Dec. 27: Together, We Will Break The Siege of Gaza! Dec. 27: Will Egypt Prevent Marchers from Entering Gaza? The Liberator

UPDATE: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE from Marina Barakau, Mobile: 0197412890

CAIRO, EGYPT (GFM) Dec. 29, 2009– In downtown Cairo this afternoon Gaza Freedom March (GFM) advocates, including a group of roughly 30 U.S. citizens, are being detained in three separate quarantine areas within the U.S. Embassy's Garden City compound.

A similar scene took place in front of the French Embassy in Cairo on Dec. 27, 2009. (Aishah Schwartz)

In a telephone interview with Muslimah Writers Alliance Director, Aishah Schwartz, GFM women's group organizer, Marina Barakau stated, "American citizens and 1,400 Gaza Freedom March advocates from 43 countries worldwide are demanding that the illegal siege of Gaza be lifted."

"We also ask how it is that an alleged democratic government could willingly participate in the detainment of its own citizen nationals at their own Embassy, and further demand that all due diligence be exercised in securing our immediate release," Barakau added.

Barakau stated she has also contacted the group's legal council coordinator, Sally Newman.

In the meantime, three members of the detained U.S. citizen group are meeting with U.S. officials in the Embassy's offices.

UPDATE: BREAKING: U.S. Citizens attacked by Egyptian Riot Police in Cairo in front of U.S. Embassy

Call the U.S. Embassy to demand the release of those detained/that permission is granted for the March to cross into Gaza: Telephone: 00 (202) 2797 3300.

by Cindy Sheehan, Gazafriends

Don't bother calling as the US Embassy in Cairo is apparently blocking all incoming calls. Hillary, where are you, and where is Barak?

This message came from Sydney Levy, Jewish Voice for Peace

Over 1,600 JVPers have emailed the Egyptian authorities asking to let the Gaza Freedom Marchers get into Gaza. But Egypt is not relenting. It is determined to enforce the Israeli siege on Gaza.

We are asking you to contact Egyptian authorities again. Even if you've already done it, please do it again.

Over thirteen hundred people from 42 countries are now in Egypt, and they intend to participate in the Gaza Freedom March on December 31. And yet, Egypt is denying them access to the border. These freedom marchers did not travel all the way to Egypt to tourist around in Cairo, but to express their solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza.

Hedy Epstein, the 85 year old Holocaust survivor and peace activist, announced that she is beginning a hunger strike in Cairo today as a response to the Egyptian government's refusal to allow the Gaza Freedom March participants into Gaza. Please join a one-day emergency fast on Thursday, December 31 to show solidarity with the Gaza Freedom Marchers.

Additionally, Egypt has stopped a convoy with humanitarian relief en route to Gaza. The convoy, organized by Viva Palestina, was stuck in the Jordanian port of Aqaba, and in order to satisfy Egypt's whims is now being forced to take a costly detour to the Syrian port of Latakia, and to sail from there to the Egyptian port of El Arish, and then to Gaza.

And to make matters worse, news reports confirm that Egypt is building a new separation wall at the border to stop cross-border smuggling. Unfortunately, the Israeli-imposed siege on Gaza leaves Palestinians in the Strip with no alternative but the tunnels to survive. The solution to the smuggling will come when the siege is lifted, not when it is further entrenched.

We need to stand in solidarity with the people of Gaza.

What's going on? Is it a coincidence that Egypt is the second largest recipient of U.S. military aid, after Israel? Or that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is visiting Egypt today?

Tell Egypt to let the marchers in and to stop the wall!


UPDATE: This communique is from US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. Many people are not aware that Israel has been conducting a military occupation on the Palestinian people for over 42 years, and its only purpose is to enforce the colonization of their lands. This illegal project is the only reason the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues.

Take Action: Gaza Still Blockaded One Year after 'Cast Lead'

Last Sunday marked one year since Israel unleashed 'Operation Cast Lead' against Palestinians in the occupied Gaza Strip.  During this three-week attack, Israel killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, injured thousands more, and destroyed billions of dollars of Palestinian civilian infrastructure. 

Today, Israel continues to subject the 1.5 million Palestinian inhabitants of the Gaza Strip to a dehumanizing blockade-an illegal act of collective punishment-that denies Palestinians adequate access to food, clean water, sanitation, electricity, and even school books and construction materials for rebuilding.

Meanwhile the international community has failed to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1860, which calls for "unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment" or hold Israel accountable for what the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict documented as violations of human rights, international law, war crimes, and possible crimes against humanity. 

For things you can do to help, click here.

In other news, while the Viva Palestina convoy heads back to Syria, there are reports of Americans being harassed by Egyptian police, cameras confiscated, as they protest in front of the US Embassy. The Gaza Freedom March participants, the nearly 1,400 of them, have been told they will not be permitted access to Gaza. And the Obama administration and State Department seem to be playing along, while the main US media remains relatively silent.

UPDATE: Until today, the Viva Palestina convoy was stuck in Jordan as Egyptian authorities were unwilling to give permission for it to enter through a Red Sea port. After intervention by Turkey, however, the convoy leaders agreed to return to Syria and then sail to the Meditteranian port of El-Arish, not far from the Gaza crossing. See the full UPDATE below.

UPDATE: Robert Naiman reporting from Cairo (Huffington Post):

Egypt Blocks Americans from Gaza March, Stops Aid Convoy

Dec 28, 2009

Cairo - The government of Egypt is taking a spectacularly hard line against international solidarity efforts in support of civilians in Gaza on the one-year anniversary of the Israeli invasion, blocking peace marchers from the U.S., Canada, and Europe from even approaching the Egyptian border with Gaza and blocking an aid convoy that has the support of the Turkish government from entering Egypt at Nuweiba. Even a peaceful protest at UN offices in Cairo was largely walled off from public view by Egyptian police.

It seems that any pretense of Egyptian government concern for the suffering of Palestinian civilians has been dropped, along with the pretense that there is anything less than 100% cooperation from Egypt and its US and European patrons with Israel's program of punishing Gaza's population for the political crime of having provided majority support to the Hamas movement in a legislative election.

Meanwhile there is largely a U.S. press blackout of these striking developments. A search of the New York Times and the Washington Post only turns up a tiny AP story on the websites of the Times and the Post.


The British-initiated aid convoy has at least been mentioned by the BBC, but NPR has not reported on the U.S.-initiated Gaza Freedom March.

The original diary concerned Egypt's blockade of the convoy which was stuck in Aqaba, Jordan for several days, as follows:

Viva Palestina convoy stuck in Jordan

The Viva Palestina aid convoy carrying humanitarian supplies to the besieged Gaza Strip remains stuck in Jordan while medicines on board are being spoiled in the desert heat.

The convoy of 250 vehicles is stuck in the Jordanian port city of Aqaba awaiting a resolution to be passed between Viva Palestina organizers and Egyptian authorities that would allow the convoy to enter the Gaza Strip.

The aid convoy to Gaza which left London December 6 has been blocked from entering Egypt, and are being held in the Jordanian port of Aqaba. The convoy had planned to reach Rafah on December 27, along with hundreds of protesters and dignitaries, who flew to Egypt on their own.

A hunger strike is underway.

This is a video appeal from a Viva Palestina member addressed to the British public.

In the meantime, protests took place around the world and in Gaza yesterday to commemorate the Gaza massacre that took place exactly one year ago. These videos are of the London protests before the Israeli embassy.

Protest outside the Israeli Embassy, London 27 December 2009

JEREMY CORBYN,Member of the British Parliament speaking outside the Israeli Embassy, London.

Reports about other international and US protests like in Minneapolis will undoubtedly come in later today.

UPDATE: Gaza aid convoy to change course

Al Jezeera reporting:

Organisers of Viva Palestina aid convoy, which is trying to reach the Gaza Strip, have now agreed to go via Syria en route for Egypt. The agreement came after a Turkish mediator reached a deal with the Egyptian consul in Jordan's Red Sea port of Aqaba.

The convoy will now head to the Syrian port of Latakia to sail from there to the Egyptian port of El Arish, and then to Gaza.

Viva-Palestina which has been stranded in Aqaba for five days is led by George Galloway, a British MP.

Tags: Gaza, Gaza Freedom March, George Galloway, Israel, Palestine, Viva Palestina (all tags)



Re: Gaza bound convoy remains stuck in Jordan

From what I'm reading, there apparently are dignitaries among the 4-500 participants stuck in Jordan. Because Chomsky and Epstein are aging, I would have thought that they probably flew to Eqypt to meet up with the convoy at Rafah.

The convoy, jointly organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in the UK, left London on December 6. It has enjoyed safe passage through Europe, Turkey, Syria and Jordan on its way to Gaza.

The delegates, ranging from high-profile figures such as author Noam Chomsky, British MP George Galloway, Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein and Nobel Prize winner Mairead Maguire to diplomats, doctors, lawyers, students, interfaith groups that include rabbis, priests and imams, and others, are attempting to break the siege on Gaza by demanding the borders be opened a year after the War on Gaza left 1,400 dead.

Iqbal Warsi, a grandmother living in the UK, has never been to Gaza, but when she saw the events that unfolded last year, she said her heart went out to the victims.

"I saw how Israel would bomb the sewage plants and it would mix with the tap water, as a grandmother I imagined my own grandchildren playing in such filth," she explained. ian-territories/convoy-stuck-at-border-o n-anniversary-of-gaza-war-1.558542

by MainStreet 2009-12-28 04:14AM | 0 recs
Re: Gaza bound convoy remains stuck in Jordan

Kudos to you for gathering all this info and posting it, MainStreet.

Note that there are two different (but sympatico and mutually supportive) groups of folks: the Viva Palestina aid convoy, in Jordan seeking entry into Egypt when the AFP article was written, and the Gaza Freedom March group, in Cairo, originally intending to cross to Gaza at Al-Arish. I am in Cairo with the GFM group. (Sorry if that was not clear in my narrative.) Hedy Epstein is with the GFM group in Cairo. Most of us in the GFM group flew into Cairo, I believe, tho I don't know about HE specifically, I suspect that was the case.

Of course the GFM group has different components - there is a Jewish Voice for Peace contingent, for example, which counts Hedy among its members.

by Robert Naiman 2009-12-28 02:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Gaza bound convoy remains stuck in Jordan

Pleased to give some small press to this great effort to stop the inhumane treatment of the Gazan Palestinians. The mainstream media is missing in action, another way I'm disappointed in our country (the other way of course is having supplied the weapons that Israel used to kill all of those civilians, the children especially).

Still I'm in a way proud that many of the people making up the Gaza Freedom March are Americans.

I see that I did often confuse the two efforts going on simultaneously and thanks for clarifying that mistake.

And our best to all of you over there who took the time and expense to be part of this human rights venture. Keep well and safe.

by MainStreet 2009-12-28 03:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Gaza bound convoy remains stuck in Jordan

More information from Antony Lowenstein on the situation inside Egypt and how international this protest is in spite of lack of coverage in the US:

The latest news here from Cairo (via AFP):

French protesters camped out in front of the their embassy in Cairo to protest a ban on them from travelling from Egypt to Gaza for a march in support of the blockaded Palestinian enclave.

About 300 protesters set up tents and blocked a road in front of the mission after buses they had rented to take them to El-Arish, a town close to the border with Gaza, never came.

They said they were told by the bus company that security authorities had banned the trip.

Egypt had earlier said it would not allow any of about 1,300 protestors who have come from 42 countries to take part in the Gaza march to enter the enclave.


Elsewhere in Cairo, police stopped about 200 protesters from the United States and other countries from renting boats on the Nile to hold a procession marking a year since a devastating war in Gaza killed 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis. gaza-freedom-marchers-make-their-voices- heard-in-egypt/

Egypt must certainly be sucking up to the USA (Obama), which in turn is acting on Israel's behalf. I'd like to know how much of our yearly 2 billion in aid to Egypt is ending up in Swiss bank accounts.

by MainStreet 2009-12-28 04:31AM | 0 recs

I have been informed that the International Humanitarian Aid convoy under Viva Palestina has yet to get approval from the Egyptian authorities to enter Gaza via the Rafa crossing.  This convoy is made up of volunteers from several nations who are personally bringing ambulances and trucks bearing medical supplies, baby food and clothing for the people of Gaza.  The Perdana Global Peace Organisation has purchased 4 trucks and an ambulance and has sent its team on this convoy bearing the much needed aid for the Gazans.

One year after the seige, massacre and destruction of Gaza, its people continue to face ongoing blockade of humanitarian aid by Israel.  It saddens me further that this civilian convoy now faces the obstacle imposed by Egypt.  

The Egyptian authorities have requested that this convoy board ships and pass through the Suez canal and enter Egypt via the Mediterranean Sea.   It is almost impossible for this convoy of 230 trucks and ambulances to do so, the main impediment being finance.

I implore the good government of Egypt to grant permission  to this convoy to proceed to Gaza by land so that the much needed aid reaches the people in good time.   Any kind of delay would affect the shelf life of much of the medication and food, as was the case in early  2009.  This is a  humanitarian appeal  for the besieged people and children of Gaza.

Dr. Mahathir Mohamed
Perdana Global Peace Organisation

by MainStreet 2009-12-28 06:04AM | 0 recs
MainStreet, can you tell us

are you an Arab or Muslim?

by Lakrosse 2009-12-28 05:55PM | 1 recs
Re: MainStreet, can you tell us

In matters of civil and human rights, it is irrelevant what one is or who one is. It is only one's ethics and morals that counts. Race, ethnicity, religion in this context are trivial.

You might want to reconsider your question, therefore.

by MainStreet 2009-12-28 06:03PM | 0 recs

what difference does it make?

by jsfox 2009-12-28 06:36PM | 0 recs
just curious

and I am not the only user who has asked.

by Lakrosse 2009-12-28 07:05PM | 1 recs
He'll never answer

Or the answer will be along the lines of, "if you don't know my nationality, perhaps you should get yourself educated about it."

by NJ Liberal 2009-12-28 09:03PM | 0 recs
Re: just curious

Q: Are you a Muslim

R: What difference does it make

Q: I'm not the only one who's asked....

Lakrosse, you are an odious ideologue, and now you're using racial profiling to try to discredit someone who disagrees with you.

I don't care whether you are Jewish or Mainstreet is Muslim, or vice versa, or whether you're a couple of Irish Catholics locked in a basement together: it doesn't change the weight of your arguments or the validity of your evidence.

The other day you were siding with the now mercifully banned troll Ludwigwan asking whether Mainstreet was Jewish, as if that made his/her arguments more or less valid. Now you're just flipping the coin.

You're obsessed with identity politics, something which ultimately leads to irrationality, exclusion and failure (much like your posts during the primaries). If I see another reference to the religion or race of a poster (just as I would to one about gender) I will HR it.

by brit 2009-12-28 11:53PM | 0 recs
Lakrosse and NJ Liberal

are you guys douches or assholes?  Just curious.

by JJE 2009-12-29 05:38AM | 0 recs


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