In an early morning email, Cindy Sheehan is alerting U.S. activists that American citizens are reportedly being roughly handled by Egyptian police. Among the Americans who have gathered for a peace march into Gaza are at least six North Texans, including one contributor to the Texas Civil Rights Review.
The following press release identifies six Texans who were making plans to be in Egypt by Jan. 27:
The Gaza Freedom March that will take place in Gaza on December 31 is an historic initiative to break the siege that has imprisoned the 1.5 million people who live there. Conceived in the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and nonviolent resistance to injustice worldwide, the march will gather people from all over the world to march—hand in hand—with the people of Gaza to demand that the Israelis open the borders.
Marking the one-year anniversary of the December 2008 Israeli invasion that left over 1,400 dead, this is a grassroots global response to the inaction on the part of world leaders and institutions. Participants include Pulitzer Prize winning author Alice Walker, leading Syrian comedian Duraid Lahham, French Senator Alima Boumediene–Thiery, author and Filipino Parliament member Walden Bello, former vice president of European Parliament Luisa Morgantini from Italy, President of the U.S. Center for Constitutional Rights Attorney Michael Ratner, Japanese former Ambassador to Lebanon Naoto Amaki, French hip-hop artists Ministere des Affaires Populaires, and 85-year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein.
North Texas will also be represented on the march by at least six people: Roger Kallenberg, a Jewish retired schoolteacher; Rev. Diane Baker, a hospice chaplain ordained in the United Church of Christ; Josh Smith, a businessman from Plano; Candice Bernd, a student at UNT-Denton; and Walt Harrison & Elsa Clasing, photographers & videographers.
When organizers pitched the idea for the march, they hoped to get 1,000 people to come, but the response has been so great that they have had to turn people away because of a lack of accommodations after capping the march at 1,300 internationals. Inside Gaza, excitement is growing. Representatives of all aspects of civil society, including students, professors, refugee groups, unions, women’s organizations, NGOs, have been busy organizing and estimate that at least 50,000 Palestinians will participate.
The international delegates will enter Gaza via Egypt during the last week of December. In the morning December 31, they will join Palestinians in a non-violent march from Northern Gaza to the Erez/Israeli border. On the Israeli side of the Erez border will be a gathering of Palestinians and Jews who are also calling on the Israeli government to open the border.
The United Nations Human Rights Council has endorsed a report by a UN fact finding mission on the Gaza conflict which concluded that Israel has imposed a blockade, amounting to collective punishment, and has carried out a systematic policy of isolation and deprivation of the Gaza Strip. The UN Mission, headed by Justice Richard Goldstone, the former chief prosecutor for war-crimes tribunals on Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, said Israeli acts that deprive Palestinians in the Gaza Strip of their means of subsistence, employment, housing and water and that deny their freedom of movement could lead the world court to find that the crime of persecution, a crime against humanity, has been committed.
Readers of the Texas Civil Rights Review may recognize Walt Harrison as the photographer who has contributed photos and videos of the protests that successfully ended family detention at the T. Don Hutto immigrant prison in Taylor, Texas
Here is Cindy Sheehan’s appeal, which opens with a report from Josh Smith:
One of my friends, Joshua Smith, just texted me from Cairo and said that some U.S. citizens on a Gaza protest are being roughly treated by Egyptian police One of my friends, Joshua Smith, just texted me from Cairo and said that some U.S. citizens of the Gaza Freedom March went to the U.S. Embassy today there to try and implore the staff there to intercede on behalf of the March to help get them into Gaza–they were not so warmly welcomed.
Recently, almost 1400 people from around the globe met in Cairo to march into Gaza to join Gazans in solidarity and to help expose their plight after years of blockade and exactly a year after the violent attack in what Israel called “Operation Cast Lead” that killed hundreds of innocent Gazan civilians. So far the Marchers have been denied access (Egypt closed the Rafah crossing) and their gatherings have become increasingly and more violently suppressed.
In my understanding of world affairs, embassies are stationed in various countries so citizens who are traveling can seek help in times of trouble, but this doesn’t appear to be so right at this moment in Cairo.
Josh reports, and I also just got off the phone with my good friend and Veterans for Peace board member, Mike Hearington, that about 50 U.S. citizens were very roughly seized and thrown (in at least one case literally) into a detention cell at the U.S. embassy. We are talking about U.S. citizens here being manhandled by Egyptian riot police. According to Josh and Mike (who both just narrowly escaped), it appears that people with cameras are especially being targeted. Another good friend of mine, and good friend of peace, Fr. Louis Vitale is one of those being detained. Fr. Louis is well into his seventies!
Josh posted this on his Facebook wall about his near-detention experience:
We just got away. They were trying to drag me in but we kept moving… And most were dog piling another guy. Then they drug him into the parking lot barricaded riot police zone, lifted him up and threw him over the police and down into the zone. And attacking those taking pictures or attempting to.
When I was talking to Mike he said that an Egyptian told him that all Egyptians are in solidarity with the Marchers and with the people of Gaza/Palestine, of course, but the “Big Boss” (the U.S.) is calling the shots.
Egypt is third in line for U.S. foreign aid (behind Iraq and Israel) and its dictator for life, Hosni Mubarek, is a willing puppet for his masters: the US/Israeli cabal. Israel could not pursue its apartheid policies without the U.S. and it’s equally important for this cabal to have a sold-out ally as its neighbor.
Today also happens to be the anniversary of the 1890 U.S. massacre of Native Americans (Lakota Sioux) at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. It is sad enough that we are also living on stolen land, but also that the Israeli government had good teachers in disposing of its indigenous population!
What are the Israeli settlements on the West Bank, if not stolen land from the indigenous population and what is Gaza if not a mega-reservation? As at Wounded Knee 119 years ago, the Israeli siege and attack on Gaza is nothing more than big bullies shooting fish in a barrel.
Call the U.S. Embassy to demand the release of those detained/that permission is granted for the March to cross into Gaza: Telephone: (20-2) 2797 3300.
Please re-post this alert and spread the word.
Weren’t things supposed to “change” in the Age of Obama?
If photographers were being targeted by police, then we have reasonable cause to be concerned about our contributor Walt Harrison.
Finally, we will pass along this item forwarded to us by another friend of the Texas Civil Rights Review, John Wheat Gibson:
Hedy Epstein, the 85 year old Holocaust survivor and peace activist, announced that she will begin a hunger strike today as a response to the Egyptian government’s refusal to allow the Gaza Freedom March participants into Gaza.
Ms. Epstein was part of a delegation with participants from 43 countries that were to join Palestinians in a non-v
arch from Northern Gaza towards the Erez border with Israel calling for the end of the illegal siege. Egypt is preventing the marchers from leaving Cairo, forcing them to search for alternative ways to make their voices heard.
Ms. Epstein will remain outside the UN building at the World Trade Center (Cairo) – 1191 Cornish al-Nil, throughout today, accompanied by other hunger strikers. “It is important to let the besieged Gazan people know they are not alone. I want to tell the people I meet in Gaza that I am a representative of many people in my city and in other places in the US who are outraged at what the US, Israeli and European governments are doing to the Palestinians and that our numbers are growing,” Epstein said.
In 1939, when Epstein was just 14, her parents found a way for her to escape the persecution, sending her on the Kindertransport to England. Epstein never saw her parents again; they perished in Auschwitz in 1942. After World War II, Epstein worked as a research analyst at the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi doctors who performed medical experiments on concentration camp inmates.
After moving to the US, Epstein became an activist for peace and social justice causes. Unlike most Holocaust survivors, one of the causes she has taken up is that of the Palestinian people. She has traveled to the West Bank, collected material aid and now she hopes to enter Gaza.