Reflections from Cairo

I came to Egypt with the intent to go to Gaza. To break the seige. To deliever aid – but more importantly to bring a message of solidarity – and perhaps — if it is not too arrogant to think — hope. I have worked on this issue for some time. Although my time in Palestine has only been in the West Bank, I have always felt a call to be in Gaza. Last year during the horror of Cast Lead, I sat glued to my computer — frantically looking at blogs and at facebook status updates from my friends… “If he posted recently, he is still alive,” I would tell myself.
 
I have talked and written about the siege and blockade of Gaza. To talk about it in the abstract is one thing, but to actually come to Egypt and find that Gaza is harder to visit than a prison is something else. Wow! Ouch! I am not even sure how to express it. 
 
I learned that the Egyptian governmnet is highly efficient at maintaining the siege. Permits to gather were revoked, any attempts to meet were blocked, buses hired to take all the marchers to Gaza were prevented from showing up, and small groups who tried to get to Gaza on their own were stopped and turned back, put out along the way. Others found themselves under “house arrest,” blocked in their hotel in Al Arish. (still 48 kilometers away from the border)
 
It was very very frustrating.I cannot even start to tell you how frusterating it all was. Even beyond just getting into Gaza, every move we made was blocked. Turn one way blocked in, turn another – police barricade. Try something else – can’t leave the hotel. Yet, I know whatever frustration we felt is one hundered millionth of the frustration of the Palestinian people in Gaza.
 
So perhaps there is a grace in not getting in….or at least a lesson.  Because the Egyptian government gave us a small taste of what happens every day to people in Gaza. (And – having spent the last week in this police state, I think, perhaps, a very small taste of some of the hurdles Egyptians face when they challenge their government’s policies.)  I know that even with the pushing and shoving from the police and their acts of violence some experienced, as”internationals” we were given relatively wide latitude to demonstrate and express ourselves. Latitude that Egyptians do not have without putting themselves at much greater danger than we ever faced.
 
But our action at the  American Embassy reminds me that the siege is not Egypt’s policy alone — far from it. Egypt is, in many ways, the puppet here, with the US and Israel holding the strings. Let’s be honest. The siege is imposed, first and foremost, by Israel, but with the full complicity and help from of the United States. We have work to do at at home.
 
And so on this, our final day with the Gaza Freedom Movement here in Cairo, I know I have much more to reflect on, analyze, and write about:
 
   * Many forms of  Occupation
   * More about the events at the US Embassy
   * Resistance brings Joy
   * What does it mean to claim space?
   * Young police officers signing “We Shall Overcome” and chanting “Free Gaza” with us when their superiors looked away
 
 Some day I will go to Gaza. In’shallah, I will go as part of a visit to a Free Palestine.
 

9 responses to “Reflections from Cairo

  1. Thank you so much for going to the Gaza Freedom March to give the Palestinians hope, I’m sure you have-Yusif will have let them know that 1300 weren’t allowed in and many more here in the US working to lift the siege, too!

  2. Sheri, I had a few different moments over the last week to keep up on you and your group’s efforts in Egypt, and I applaud you all for your perseverance.

    Also, because of your experiences, I know a little more now about what is going on in Gaza, where before I knew almost nothing.

    Thank you!

  3. Free Gaza from Hamas.

  4. A study conducted by the Palestinian Women’s Information and Media Center finds that 77% of women living in the Gaza Strip face violence. Of the 350 women interviewed 67% have experienced verbal violence, 71% mental violence, 52% physical violence, and over 14% sexual violence.

    Huda Hamouda, Director of the Palestinian Women’s Information and Media Center, believes the levels of violence have increased since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2007, and are affected by poverty and lack of educational opportunities for women. Hamouda also said that women have inadequate legal protection from abuse.

    More than a third of the women said they were unable to fight back because they “had more urgent priorities to deal with.” Women in Gaza face poverty and a drop in female employment, though two thirds of the women interviewed were breadwinners for their households.

    67% of the women surveyed said they had encountered verbal violence, 71% mental violence, 52% physical violence and more than 14% sexual violence.

  5. Sheri, I am so glad you went, and so glad for all you, the team and all the marcher accomplished despite so many odds. You are a great writer!

    I also wanted to reply to the last 2 comments.

    Free Gaza from Hamas. I am a citizen of the United States, which gives huge amounts of military aid to Israel and Egypt. I think the question I need to ask is not what share of Gaza’ s troubles are caused by Hamas, but how the US can justify supporting 2 goverments that are trying to starve, sicken, isolate and bomb the citizens of Gaza into supporting a different government.

    I do not want to excuse or explain violence against women in Gaza or anywhere else. But it seems worth pointing out that often when conditions are bad, violence against women and children increases. And conditions in Gaza are so bad.

    Does a patriarchal society make it eaiser for men to take out their huge frustrations on women? It makes sense. But it seems worth pointing out that according to the CDC (US Centers for Disease Control) 1 in 6 (16.6%) US women has been raped.

  6. The two year anniversary of the Hamas suicide bombing in Dimona is coming up.

    Think about it. Hamas is their legitimately elected government. It sponsors terrorist attacks against civilians.

    Ever ask yourself how a group that operates terror cells and espouses violence becomes a ruling political party, and how can ordinary people around the globe get sucked into feeling sorry for its militant cause?

  7. Dear Jason,
    I’ve often wondered how George Bush got elected in 2004 after he admitted that he made a mistake about the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Over 5 million Iraqis out of 25 million have been displaced by the preemptive bombing of Iraq and 7 years of war. Over 100 thousand Iraqis have lost their lives and dying in Iraq because of our elected gov’t of George Bush. There are those who believe that George should be taken to the World Court at the Hague and tried as a war criminal. I am one of them.
    I would be in favor of taking the leadership of any country to the Hague, including Hamas to be tried for the killing of civilians or accepting as “collateral damage” the killing of children. 326 Palestinian children were killed in 22 days and the PR from the Israeli Consulate in Chicago was acceptance. I know because I talked to the policy guy there last Jan, 2009 and he told me over the phone. He also said that he didn’t want to hear my objections so he would just send my e-mails to the trash without reading them. We give Israel 3 billion a year to wall people in and keep peacepeople out. Why are we supporting this? Why are we supporting a Zionist State? Israel isn’t a democracy.

  8. Mares , I’m not sure why you’re talking about George Bush being a war criminal. Of course he is. And so is his father.

    Anyway – you ask why Israel and Egypt are doing this “walling in” and why the United States and other countries are supporting it.

    Mares – it is because the Palestinian struggle for self-determination (or whatever the apologetic term is these days) is promoted by acts of unthinkable violence and carnage against innocent people.

    They kill. They kill people with impunity. OK?

    The Palestinian ’cause’ hijacks airplanes, stabs Olympic athletes, plants bombs on city buses, fires Qassam rockets into peaceful towns, takes civilian hostages for ransom and films their murder for TV broadcast, forces Christian Palestinians to convert to Islam or suffer death, straps bombs on children and sends them to shopping malls to die and (Allah willing) kill others with them in the process. The violence goes on and on and on. And after each bloody act of terrorism, the voice of the “cause” – which is mainly Hamas at the moment – issues statements like this one in 2007, “The extermination of the Jews is good for the inhabitants of the worlds.”

    I am so sorry about the un-reading of your emails by that “police guy.” That is very unfair to you indeed. Your opinion does matter.

    However, the injustice in your trashed emails is not quite as unfair as the Palestinian’s deliberate involvement of children in terrorist acts, is it?

    No.

    Please don’t embarrass the cause of peace in reply by hinting that the Palestinians do this because they have no choice. Or that things are so bad they don’t understand how wrong it is to blow up 12 year-olds with backpack bombs etc. Please don’t come back with tired apologies about how the word “jew” really means “enemy.” OK?

    When Palestinians embrace peace and nonviolent behavior – when they stop demanding that every Palestinian citizen convert to Islam or else – when they stop being barbarians – the entire world will listen to their cause.

  9. Jason,
    Please do not speak about “all Palestinians” just like I don’t want to be lumped into “all Americans.”
    I did not vote for George Bush either time. Hamas won a legal election in 2006, they did not win all the votes. I believe in the rule of law, not the collective punishment being meeted out by the Israeli Gov’t with the support of the US gov’t. You talk about unthinkable violence-well you don’t need to “think” about what Israel did in 22 days last year, and continues to cover it up with the help of the western media and the US Gov’t. (Squashing the Goldstone Report-documented war crimes by Israel and Hamas).

    I don’t condone what Hamas is doing but neither do I support what the so called “democracy” of Israel is doing with its’ ethnic cleansing of Palestine. It is outrageous and they make no apology for it. They have lost their moral compass. Check out: http://www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org and enlighten yourself about the PR campaign that preceded Operation Cast Lead.

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