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.