Saturday, December 26, 2009

Free Gaza March Day #2: Pressure Cooking


The Egyptian Government, such as it is, has taken the following steps to deny the Palestinians of Gaza the much needed aid that we in the Free Gaza March have promised to deliver.

*Recind permission for the Viva Palestinia Convoy to enter Egypt by crossing the Gulf of Aqaba.
Aqaba is only four hours from Gaza. Instead of allowing passage through this port, Egypt wants the convoy (of over 250 vehicles loaded with medicines, school supplies and other aid) to either turn over the aid to an Israeli charity organization, to be delivered by this phantom organization, or ferry all the materials around the peninsula, through the Suez Canal, and up to Al Arish.
"But convoy members told Al Jazeera that travelling through the Suez was not a viable option, as passengers are not allowed to go with cargo ships and that the port of El-Arish is too shallow to take the size of ship needed to transport the aid."

Did I mention that they're only four hours away from their destination?

*Rescind all permits for Free Gaza March meetings.

Egypt has been in an official state of emergency since 1981, for the entire Mubarak dictatorship. The UN High Commission for Human Rights says,
"The state of emergency, in force continuously since 1981, was renewed in May, pending the introduction of a new anti-terrorism law that was expected to equip the authorities permanently with emergency-style powers similar to those which currently facilitate serious human rights violations."

Therefore, any meeting of six or more people is treated as a conference and requires special permits, which of course are never given.

*Publicly declare that any demonstrations will be dealt with with the full force of the law.

Again, the UNHCR:
Article 54 of the constitution guarantees citizens the right to hold public meetings, processions, and gatherings "within the limits of the law." However, permission from the Ministry of the Interior is required and generally denied. Public gatherings that do occur draw large deployments of riot police.

*Privately threaten to terminate the licenses of the bus company that FGM chartered.
The company has been paid a sizeable deposit, though is willing to drive us only if the Dictator gives the OK. Even then, one wonders what the repercussions will be for the owner/operators of this company.

*Privately threaten the church that has allowed FGM to use its space for meetings with reprisals.
I guess this can be counted under two human rights violations: freedom of religion as well as freedom of assembly.

At any rate, that's what we are up against here, as we make our best efforts at standing with the Palestinian population caged in Gaza. Tomorrow the French delegation here is taking matters to their embassy, and many of us will go along with them in support. On Monday, depending on if things progress on diplomatic fronts, we will step up our tactics. I don't want to give anything away, so stay tuned for more information.

In the meantime, you can call your Representatives and Senators to encourage them to support the humanitarian aid mission to Gaza. Stress that it is, in fact, humanitarian aid. Egypt is claiming that this is a "political aid" mission. Whatever that is supposed to mean. They are using it to say that we are trying to support Hamas politically.

Personally, I don't care which Palestinians get the medicine. I don't care which Palestinians get the school supplies. It's a massive crisis that is being enforced by governments around the world. We want the people to have some basic supplies, as is their Human Right.

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