[diggers350] Blocked Gaza Aid Convoy, letter to Egypt

Mark Barrett marknbarrett at googlemail.com
Wed Dec 30 12:35:43 GMT 2009

And see also:

Dear friends
We’re not heading for the Promised Land, but I do have some sympathy for the
ancient Israelites as they struggled to leave Egypt a few thousand years
We don’t require the Red Sea to part, just to be allowed to get on the road
to the northern town of Rafah and cross the border into Gaza, but the
Pharoah, President Mubarak, and his heavily armed men will not allow us.
The Gaza Freedom March has attracted about 1400 people from around the world
to Cairo in a bid to cross the border and break the siege of Gaza, by
entering with aid and solidarity. For five months organisers have been
negotiating with the Egyptian authorities to allow the entry of the marchers
at the Rafah border. The negotiations were positive and amicable. Egypt had
already allowed CodePink, the US women’s peace group organising the march,
to have seven delegations enter Gaza just this year. But a few days before
the scheduled entry, Egyptian authorities announced they would not give
permission for his one. By then most participants were already in transit.
We can speculate the many possible reasons for this, but just to give you an
idea of the kind of police state Mubarak runs here, this is what Gaza
Freedom Marchers have had to contend with:
- Egyptian authorities withdrawing permits from bus drivers so that they
could not drive the buses we booked to Rafah for Monday morning.
- Withdrawing a permit to hold an orientation meeting at a Catholic School
in Cairo.
- Announcing we are not allowed to meet in groups of more than six people.
- When we tied messages and flowers as a memorial for those killed in Gaza
on a busy bridge, police and security forces ripped down the notes and
flowers. We when asked “what is the reason?” the reply was: “we don’t need a
- to avoid the meeting rule organisers booked feluccas (boats) to sail on
the Nile River so we could receive briefings in groups of 25. Authorities
shut down the boat hire company so we could not even get on the boats.
- Instead we stood on the footpath by the river and held our candlelight
vigil, about 400 of us, surrounded by hundreds of riot police.
- Still unable to meet, we decided to gather in the busiest square in Cairo
and just started. Police were not amused and asked organisers to stop
talking, but the feisty CodePink women just kept going and we were able to
do some organising. This was a great outcome and locals were bemused and
very supportive.
- Various groups have tried to leave Cairo for the border but have been
turned away at checkpoints and had their passports confiscated
- Bus companies have been ordered not to drive any internationals towards
the border area.
- As a protest at having their buses cancelled, a French delegation of about
300 have camped outside their embassy for the last 3 days and nights,
surrounded by about 1000 Egyptian riot police.
- We occupied the plaza outside the UN offices in Cairo on Monday for five
hours and ignored initial orders to disperse, we then were barricaded in by
lines of hundreds of police.
- We are under constant surveillance by less-than-subtle security agents who
wear dark glasses and talk into their collars or walk-talkies
- We were invited to a demonstration organised by local Egyptian activists
to protest Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to Egypt today. It was
an honour to be in solidarity with these brave activists who risk much to be
so outspoken. Again we were surrounded by hundreds of armed riot police and
security agents.
Despite all this intimidation, participants are still passionately focused
on the main issues: ending the illegal siege of Gaza, and lobbying our
Governments to take diplomatic action to allow that to happen.

We have a large group of people here currently on a hunger strike, led by 85
year old Holocaust survivor Heddy Epstein.
The Australian contingent went to the Australian Embassy in Cairo today and
demanded to present our concerns about the Australian government’s silence
on the crisis in Gaza. After some time we were granted a meeting with the
Ambassador. She acknowledged that the humanitarian situation in Gaza was
“utterly tragic” but that the Australian government had no influence on the
policies of Egypt or Israel. She warned us about the dangers of entering
Gaza and we reminded her of UN head in Gaza Richard Falk’s recent
exhortation saying that since the international political community has
failed Gaza, it is now time for civil society to step in and act.
And so we are here hoping to do that. There’s a group from the women’s
delegation that is lobbying the President’s wife, Suzanne Mubarak, who is
the head of a humanitarian organisation, to intervene and allow the
international contingent through, considering we are carrying a large amount
of humanitarian aid.
We still hope to get to Gaza and will continue to call on the Egyptian
government to let us leave Egypt – please Pharaoh let us go, we wish no
plagues of locusts to come upon you, only justice and freedom for Gaza, for
Palestine and for your people.

Your pilgrim
PS: We’ve heard positive news tonight about the lobbying of the President’s
wife Suzanne Mubarak - more news as it comes to hand. For updates see
PPS: There’s been a large amount of media coverage of the Gaza Freedom March
in Europe, (see http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8433010.stm and see
if you can spot myself and Martin in the pic!) and see this great summary
http://www.truthout.org/1229097 but I suspect there’s not been much coverage
in Australia. But Australian author and activist Antony Loewenstein, who is
part of the Oz contigent, just did this interview with ABC Radio National
PPS: I've never done this before, I don't know how my body will react, but
I'll do whatever it takes," 85-year-old Hedy Epstein, Gaza Freedom Marcher,
hunger striker, Holocaust survivor.

2009/12/29 James Armstrong <james36armstrong at hotmail.com>

> Viva Palestina Convoy changes route
> 28/12/2009
> 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.
> http://www.vivapalestina.org/alerts/route_281209.htm
> URGENT Video Appeal from Monica of BGLINK part of the Viva Palestina
> Convoy. http://bglink.ning.com
> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5yA-i-yp2E
> The Viva Palestina aid convoy to Gaza which left London on December 6th has
> been blocked from entering Egypt, they are held at the Jordanian port of
> Aqaba. The convoy, which is made up of more than 200+ vehicles, planned to
> reach Rafah on December 27th.
> Contact your MP: http://tinyurl.com/callyourmp and the Egyptian Embassy in
> London: 020-7499-3304 or around the World: http://tinyurl.com/callegypt
> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5yA-i-yp2E
> see full report at http://bristol.indymedia.org/article/691604
> This is what our friend Faysal Mikdadi wrote to the Egyptian
> consul general and many others regarding the imposition of conditions on
> the Viva Palestina convoy - how to use facts clearly and pointedly.
> Thank you so much, Faysal.
>  Original Message -----From: FHM481812 at aol.com
> To: consular at embegyptireland.ie
> Cc: milibandd at parliament.uk ; nickclegg at sheffieldhallam.org.uk
> ; information.cairo at fco.gov.uk ; UsConGenJerusalem at state.gov ;
> lornalow at mbarker.demon.co.uk ; info at 1948.org.uk ;
> info at palestinecampaign.org
> Sent: Tuesday, December 29, 2009 11:13 AM
> Subject: Aid Convoy to Gaza from Dr F H Mikdadi
> From:
> Dr Faysal H
> Mikdadi FRSA
> Dorchester.
> Your Excellency,
> I am writing to urge your assistance to
> ensure that the people of Gaza receive the medical aid which British and
> European citizens have worked hard to provide for the Palestinian people
> suffering under Israeli siege in the Gaza Strip.
> We understand that the Egyptian
> government is imposing conditions on the Viva Palestina / Palestine
> Solidarity
> Convoy of 210 aid vehicles which make it impossible for them to leave Aqaba
> to
> deliver the ambulances packed with medical aid and the aid trucks with food
> and
> educational materials.
> As you may be aware, Viva Palestina is a UK
> registered charity that was formed earlier this year to provide
> humanitarian
> relief for the people of Gaza. The two previous convoys, which entered Gaza
> via Eqypt in March and February this year, successfully delivered hundreds
> of
> tonnes of desperately needed aid through the Rafah crossing.
> Richard
> Falk, UN Special Rapporteur stated on 18.12.09: “Two urgent priorities must
> be stressed on this dismal
> anniversary: first, Israel’s allies must demand, with a commitment
> reinforced by
> a credible threat of economic sanctions, that Israel immediately end its
> illegal
> blockade of the Gaza Strip. Second, the Goldstone Report’s
> recommendations, having confirmed the commission of war crimes
> possibly amounting to Crimes Against Humanity, by Israel and Hamas, must be
> fully and swiftly implemented.”
> Alas, the Egyptian government appears
> to be aiding Israel’s blockade of Gaza .
> We appeal to you to convey our demand
> to the Egyptian authorities that the convoy be allowed to travel to Gaza
> through
> Egypt and to the Rafah crossing to show the Palestinian people there that
> they
> are not forgotten by people of conscience across the world.
> Thank you for reading this
> e-mail. I do hope that you will make the necessary representations to your
> government to ensure that the blockade is lifted forthwith.
> Yours sincerely,
> Dr Faysal H
> Mikdadi FRSA LI
> One Cedar Road
> Charlton Down
> Dorchester
> Dorset DT2
> 9UL
> Telephone: 01305 213 702
> Mobile: 07971 532 409
> E-mail: fhm481812 at aol.com
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