View Full Version : Gaza Freedom March

Magda Hassan
12-28-2009, 07:40 AM
For those who don't know there is an international march on Gaza to bring attention to the horrendous conditions of those forced to live in the open air prison that is Gaza. One of the marchers from Sydney is sending me updates and I will be posting them here as I receive them.

The first problem is getting there. After 5 months of negotiations the Egyptian government has denied them entry. But it is too late and they are all there anyway.

Here is the first of the problems faced by the internatiopnals seeking to break the seige of Gaza.

Facebook <notification+o=ir16de@facebookmail.com> (notification+o=ir16de@facebookmail.com) wrote:
> Lynn Free Gaza Wilson sent a message to the members of "Viva Palestina"
> viva Palestina. Aid Convoy to Gaza! "THE RETURN."
> --------------------
> At 8:30pm tonight, December 24, 2009, the Egyptian Foreign Minister said
> on Egyptian TV Channel 2, that neither the Gaza Freedom March nor
> persons accompanying the Viva Palestina convoy would be allowed to enter
> Gaza. The Foreign Minister’s comments confirmed statements made to Ann
> Wright and Tighe Barry of the Gaza Fr...eedom March steering committee
> during their meeting this afternoon with the Egyptian Ministry of
> Foreign Affairs Director of the Office of Palestinian Affairs Hisham
> Seif-Eldin and officer Ahmed Azzam. Barry and Wright went to the
> Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss the December 20 disapproval of
> the entry into Gaza by the Gaza Freedom March.
> Mr. Sief-Eldin said that Egyptian embassies in Europe and North America
> had received a large number emails and phone calls since the
> announcement of the disapproval. He was visibly upset by what he
> described as the “tone” of some of the emails received and forwarded
> to him by Egyptian embassies in Europe and North America and said that
> emails contained threats to Egyptian interests by tourist boycotts and
> personal attacks and derogatory language toward staff members. He said
> the position of the security and intelligence services of Egypt in
> disapproving transiting the Rafah border crossing had “hardened.”
> Sief-Eldin said that the permit we had requested to hold an orientation
> meeting on December 27 at 7pm at the Holy Family complex was cancelled
> and that the permit for a press conference at the Pyramisa Hotel on
> December 27 would not be approved. At the meeting we presented a written
> request to hold a conference on Gaza for delegates only on December 28
> and 29 either at the American University Cairo or at hotel. Mr. Azzad
> said the Foreign Ministry would forward the request to the security
> agency but did not believe it would be acted on in a timely manner. The
> conference would be considered a “political” conference and would
> have to be approved by the Office of the Prime Minister.
> Sief-Eldin in the strongest terms said security services would not
> permit gatherings with signs or banners. He said that no group would be
> permitted to travel to al Arish or Rafah. He said we should tell the
> 1360 delegates to “not come to Egypt” unless they were going to do
> only tourist things. He said that in a change from yesterday, the Viva
> Palestina convoy has not heeded the Government of Egypt’s decision on
> where the convoy should enter Egypt and none of their delegates will be
> allow to enter Gaza, but the vehicles will enter eventually through a
> checkpoint in Israel.
> We asked again why the Government of Egypt did not make its refusal
> decision early in the five months process that the Gaza Freedom March
> has been coordinating with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a decision
> that would have notified delegates not to spend thousands of dollars on
> airfare to get to Egypt. Seif-Eldin responded that the government makes
> its decision on its own time schedule, not on the time schedule of
> others. He ended by saying that in Egypt, things are not done in the
> same manner as in the United States or Europe. The security services
> will not permit demonstrations or protests and will deal with them
> quickly.See MoreCODEPINK:Gaza Freedom March
> http://www.facebook.com/l/66efa;www.gazafreedommarch.org
> Ottawa Canadian coordinators for the historic Gaza Freedom March were
> joined by Members of Parliament Libby Davies and Irene Mathyssen for a
> press conference to kick off a month of events in Canada and around the
> world, demanding that Israel lift its illegal siege of the Gaza strip.

Magda Hassan
12-28-2009, 07:41 AM
Hi, everyone, Welcome to my GFM (Gaza Freedom March) Bulletin #2. All of you are our partners on the Gaza Freedom March. All your good wishes and support gives us so much strength.

But before you read it, they are mobilizing to stop the Gaza Freedom March.






Tell them to let the historic Gaza Freedom March proceed!

The historic effort to break the cruel siege of Gaza began before we left Australia. Some of us in the Aussie contingent had been contacted by DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) to phone them. They had already emailed us when we as individuals wrote to Stephen Smith asking for him to use his good offices (Ha! Ha!) to ensure that the Israelis would not harm us. They said Gaza was very dangerous and they strongly advised us not to go. Subsequently the Egyptian foreign affairs people said that no one would be allowed through the Rafah crossing because of the serious security situation. The advice from DFAT is that the Egyptian Government has now informed them that visas into Egypt would not be issued for those going for political demonstrations. Further, visas already issued would be cancelled for such people.

So we awaited our reception in Cairo with some interest. I had my little recorder on in my bumbag, ready to record anything that transpired at the passport control etc, but all precautions were unnecessary and I sailed in without incident. So if this hot air performance by the Egyptian government, (and DFAT), huffing and puffing to intimidate us into giving up our mission is any indicator, my hopes of our getting into Gaza are rather higher.

And this March is historic. If we pull it off, it will be the largest foreign contingent of international activists to stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine on their soil. .

With me on the flight were Kat, from Brisbane, It was the horrors of the Israeli attack on Gaza which provided the final impetus for her to convert. Sarah, also from Brisbane, originally from Aotearoa (NZ) also has a passion and strongly flet pull towards Gaza. ,

This is my fourth attempt to write this bulletin. I was labouring away on the first effort when I lost everything because of the rat-sh-t internet connection in the swanky hotel I .stayed on overnight llayby, courtesy Korean Air. Though everything else was splendid if hopelessly Westernised. Almost no Korean food. It could have been a hotel anywhere in the world, a totally synthetic bubble. Very good to break the long flight with an excellent rest. Further problems with batteries and connections stymied the other attempts. So I am composing everything off line, including the addresses so laboriously retrieved and I hope it works this time!

Thank you everyone in this second GFM Bulletin.


In solidarity


Magda Hassan
12-28-2009, 07:42 AM
Hi everyone, GMS Bulletin # 3. It is proving harder than I thought to fit in writing these bulletins in a timely fashion.

Yesterday was a great day. We went down to a major bridge across the Nile and tide cards of rememberance and flowers to the bridge railings. These were removed almost immediately by the police who follow us everywhere. It is evident that there are spies at our meetings. The police challenged us to move on, but in avery restrained manner. It is obvious that at this stage they are treating internationals with kid gloves, unlike their own nationals.

It is theoretically forbidden to gather in groups of more than 6. However we have found that in greater numbers we can prevail. We had planned yesterday to hire small boats on the nile and float 1400 candles in memory of the people killed in Gaza last year. A good photo op for the media. An easy gentle media event that should not push the police prohibitions. But the police would not allow it. So there we were, all gathered 1400 of us, and we began a strong loud street demo. It was wonderful - songs in a variety of languages. Banners (forbidden) were unfurled. Silly buggars, if they had let us use the boats , there would have been just a few boats and candles floating down the Nile. Bt they still treated us with kid gloves.

The authorities have prevented us hiring buses to go to AL Arish as planned fo r today. Various groups have gone on ahead but have been arrested d at Al Arish.

As well as the Gaza freedom march, there are a number of other groups operatin\g independently but co-ordinating together.: The French have been successful in getting the co-operation of their Embassy to help get them buses., there are the Spanish and a whole lot of other groups. It is all wonderfully fluid and anarchic. I cannot praise the women of Code Pink highly enough. They are all very experienced operators, op[erating in the best feminsit model, facilitative, clear, not top down likethe traditional left, male models. Very competent and nurturing, no bloody ego - yay!

Well it looks as if I will be able to get this sent to you as I write.



Magda Hassan
12-31-2009, 10:23 PM
Organizers of the "Gaza Freedom March" report the death of a French citizen from injuries sustained at the hands of security forces during a demonstration in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.

Marie Renee died in the Cairo Hospital. She was traveling with a French delegation of approximately 300 nationals, Ma'an news agency reported.

Press TV presenter Yvan Ridley however didn't confirm the report.

The French delegates had earlier been camped out on the grounds surrounding the French Embassy in Cairo, reportedly flanked by two lines of Egyptian police.

Hundreds of activists with the "Gaza Freedom March" have continued demonstrations and sit-ins in Cairo to protest the Egyptian government's refusal to allow them to cross the border into the besieged Gaza Strip.

On Wednesday, Egyptian security allowed 84 of the 1,300 who registered to participate in the Gaza Freedom March into the impoverished Palestinian coastal enclave All were traveling with the Codepink delegation, which organized two earlier trips into the blockaded Palestinian coastal sliver since the Israeli war on Gaza last year.

Another 1,200 activists from about 40 states remained in Cairo after Egypt refused entry for the group because of what they called the "sensitive situation" in the Palestinian territory.

The "Gaza Freedom March" activists were hoping to march into Gaza on the anniversary of Israel's 22-day offensive on the territory as a sign of solidarity with its people, carrying with them aid and supplies.

Israel has continued to close all border crossings to the Gaza Strip for more than two years. The illegal Israeli imposed blockade on the Gaza Strip, which has steadily tightened since 2007, has had a disastrous impact on the humanitarian and economic situation in the coastal enclave.

Some 1.5 million people are being denied their basic rights, including freedom of movement, and their rights to appropriate living conditions, work, health and education. Poverty and unemployment rates stand at approximately 80% and 60% respectively in the Gaza Strip.

Egypt with the Palestinian Authority's blessings has sealed its borders with the Gaza Strip, effectively cutting off the coastal enclave from the rest of the world.

Magda Hassan
01-02-2010, 01:14 PM
Please distribute widely


> The landmark statement below was issued today by Gaza
> Freedom Marchers, at the initiative of representatives of the Congress
> of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). Initial signers include both
> New York City Labor Against the War and Labor for Palestine (signature
> #s 130 and 132, below). To add your own endorsement, send a message to:
> cairodec@gmail.com.
> Read below for the Cairo Declaration from the Gaza Freedom
> March, endorsed by Labor for Palestine. Also, consistent with the
> demands expressed in the declaration, click here to sign the Labor for
> Palestine Open Letter to AFL-CIO President Trumka!
> (Cairo) Gaza Freedom Marchers approved today a declaration aimed at
> accelerating the global campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions
> (BDS) against Israeli Apartheid.
> Roughly 1400 activists from 43 countries converged in Cairo on their
> way to Gaza to join with Palestinians marching to break Israels
> illegal siege. They were prevented from entering Gaza by the Egyptian
> authorities.
> As a result, the Freedom Marchers remained in Cairo. They staged a
> series of nonviolent actions aimed at pressuring the international
> community to end the siege as one step in the larger struggle to secure
> justice for Palestinians throughout historic Palestine.
> This declaration arose from those actions:
> End Israeli Apartheid
> Cairo Declaration
> January 1, 2010
> We, international delegates meeting in Cairo during the Gaza Freedom
> March 2009 in collective response to an initiative from the South
> African delegation, state:
> In view of:
> o Israels ongoing collective punishment of Palestinians through the
> illegal occupation and siege of Gaza;
> o the illegal occupation of the West Bank, including East
> Jerusalem, and the continued construction of the illegal Apartheid Wall
> and settlements;
> o the new Wall under construction by Egypt and the US which will
> tighten even further the siege of Gaza;
> o the contempt for Palestinian democracy shown by Israel, the
> US, Canada, the EU and others after the Palestinian elections of 2006;
> o the war crimes committed by Israel during the invasion of Gaza one
> year ago;
> o the continuing discrimination and repression faced by Palestinians
> within Israel;
> o and the continuing exile of millions of Palestinian refugees;
> o all of which oppressive acts are based ultimately on the Zionist
> ideology which underpins Israel;
> o in the knowledge that our own governments have given Israel
> direct economic, financial, military and diplomatic support and allowed
> it to behave with impunity;
> o and mindful of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of
> Indigenous People (2007)
> We reaffirm our commitment to:
> Palestinian Self-Determination
> Ending the Occupation
> Equal Rights for All within historic Palestine
> The full Right of Return for Palestinian refugees
> We therefore reaffirm our commitment to the United Palestinian call
> of July 2005 for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) to compel
> Israel to comply with international law.
> To that end, we call for and wish to help initiate a global mass,
> democratic anti-apartheid movement to work in full consultation with
> Palestinian civil society to implement the Palestinian call for BDS.
> Mindful of the many strong similarities between apartheid Israel and the
> former apartheid regime in South Africa, we propose:
> 1) An international speaking tour in the first 6 months of 2010
> by Palestinian and South African trade unionists and civil society
> activists, to be joined by trade unionists and activists committed to
> this programme within the countries toured, to take mass education on
> BDS directly to the trade union membership and wider public
> internationally;
> 2) Participation in the Israeli Apartheid Week in March 2010;
> 3) A systematic unified approach to the boycott of Israeli
> products, involving consumers, workers and their unions in the retail,
> warehousing, and transportation sectors;
> 4) Developing the Academic, Cultural and Sports boycott;
> 5) Campaigns to encourage divestment of trade union and other
> pension funds from companies directly implicated in the Occupation
> and/or the Israeli military industries;
> 6) Legal actions targeting the external recruitment of soldiers
> to serve in the Israeli military, and the prosecution of Israeli
> government war criminals; coordination of Citizens Arrest Bureaux to
> identify, campaign and seek to prosecute Israeli war criminals; support
> for the Goldstone Report and the implementation of its recommendations;
> 7) Campaigns against charitable status of the Jewish National Fund
> (JNF).
> We appeal to organisations and individuals committed to this declaration
> to sign it and work with us to make it a reality.
> Please e-mail us at cairodec@gmail.com

Peter Presland
01-03-2010, 09:53 AM
Here's what I just sent the organisers:

You have my support 100%

I find the complicity of the Western World (and most especially the Arab World) surreal - unbelievable - almost like living a dream.

The sheer in-your-face Orwellian inversion of language in almost everything connected with the Israel/Palestine situation when it figures at all in the public utterances of the Western Political Establishment is quite simply breath-taking. How CAN any of them actually believe what they are saying? - I ask somewhat rhetorically. Answer? - THEY DON'T. The High Offices of State in the West require that those appointed or aspiring to them sacrifice any and all principles and considerations of common humanity to the absolute imperative of promoting the OFFICIAL NARRATIVE OF EVENTS (unless there is a 'humanitarian intervention' on the cards of course, in which case their hearts bleed). That narrative in summary is of a misunderstood alliance of superior democratic, freedom-loving nations valiantly striving to do good in the world. To describe it as 'Orwellian' does not do justice to its sheer bloody absurdity.

And to maintain the Orwellian fiction, we are lied to systematically and kept in a constant state of fearful compliance by the phoney 'war on terror' - JESUS CHRIST!! WAR ON TERROR - I ask you - Just who the hell do people think have caused more GENUINE terror and death in civilian populations throughout the world than the US/ISRAELI/UK military this past decade?

And to cap it all, the man responsible for more terror, death, bombing and general mayhem than any other individual on the planet for the year in question, is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize!

You really couldn't make this stuff up could you? In a rational world any attempt to do so - as a work of fiction say - would simple be laughed at as absurd. But WE are required to live and believe it!

In my dotage I have learned to be thoroughly ashamed of having to hold a 'British' passport. - and when I see puppets like the young Milliband patronising me - let alone that reptile Blair - I could be physically sick.

Sorry about the rant. It is cathartic - Not to mention TRUE.

The very best wishes to you and your efforts.

Magda Hassan
01-03-2010, 10:34 AM
Thank you Peter!
I always think about the deafening silence of Obama during the onslaught on Gaza. Not a word of condemnation. He said so much.

Magda Hassan
01-06-2010, 12:41 AM
Crisis in Egypt

Viva Palestina faced with 2,000 riot police in the port of Al-Arish!

January 05, 2009 --

To all friends of Palestine,

Our situation is now at a crisis point! Riot has broken out in the port of Al- Arish.

This late afternoon we were negotiating with a senior official from Cairo who left negotiations some two hours ago and did not return. Our negotiations with the official was regarding taking our aid vehicles into Gaza.

He left two hours ago and did not come back. Egyptian authorities called over 2,000 riot police who then moved towards our camp at the port.

We have now blocked the entrance to the port and we are now faced with riot police and water cannons and are determined to defend our vehicles and aid.

The Egyptian authorities have by their stubbornness and hostility towards the convoy, brought us to a crisis point.

We are now calling upon all friends of palestine to mount protests in person where possible, but by any means available to Egyptian representatives, consulates and Embassy's and demand that the convoy are allowed a safe passage into Gaza tomorrow!

Kevin Ovenden Viva Palestina Convoy Leader

Contact details including email addresses and phone numbers of Egyptian Embassies and consulates can be found here (http://www.embassiesabroad.com/embassies-of/Egypt#9957)

Magda Hassan
01-06-2010, 10:57 PM
Aid convoy breaks Israeli blockade of Gaza
Wed, 06 Jan 2010 17:48:07 GMT


The Viva Palestina aid convoy entered Gaza Wednesday, after it received the approval of Egyptian authorities to bring into the besieged, impoverished coastal sliver several tons of humanitarian supplies.

The activists entered Gaza through Rafah border crossing. More than 500 international activists accompany the convoy organized by the British-based group Viva Palestina, a Press TV correspondent reported.

Fifty-nine vehicles were not allowed into the strip but the supplies were unloaded and taken through by the activists.

The Egyptian approval came after activists and security forces clashed earlier in the day when Cairo refused to allow part the aid convoy to pass through its land to the Hamas-ruled territory.

More than 55 activists and over a dozen members of the security forces were injured in the clashes. Some sixty convoy-members were also arrested.

Gaza has been under a tight Israeli blockade since June 2007 when the democratically elected Hamas took control of the area. Egypt has come under fire from Arab and Muslim groups for cooperating with Israel.

British lawmaker George Galloway, who is accompanying the convoy, said that the activists had been forced to renegotiate with the Egyptian authorities.

"We refused this because it's a breach of the agreement which we reached in Aqaba between the government of Egypt and the Turkish side," he said. "It is completely unconscionable that 25 percent of our convoy should go to Israel and never arrive in Gaza, because nothing that goes to Israel ever arrives in Gaza."

Egyptian authorities had also refused the convoy entry into the country from the Red Sea, forcing it to change course to a Mediterranean port.

Magda Hassan
01-08-2010, 09:02 PM

Hi, friends, many apologies for not keeping you up to date. I have had difficulties getting on line etc But others have been much more efficient and I hope you were able to access that.

I am now in Israel, got through n o trouble at all, but I was well prepared on case there was, all revealing materials carefully removed.

Overall, I think the actions in Egypt were remarkably effective. We made our presence felt with the people of Cairo and beyond. They were very supportive to see us doing what they have no right to do. We exposed the role of the Egyptian government as a supine client state of the US and Israel @ $US2billion US aid a year, second only to Israel as a recipient of US aid, They have just been bashing the shit out of the Viva Palestina people at Al Arish? Rafah?

We have the Cairo Declaration of BDS against Israel with a plan of action to go with it, including a tour by a Palestinian and aSouth African speaker, (the Declaration was done at th initiative of the South African delegation) so that raises the campaign to a new level.

People have worked together who have ever done so before, and there will now be an international steering committee representing the 43 countries who took part in Cairo. Another important gain.

The rally on 31 December was particularly good. The strategy had been to gather in twos and threes around a major square in Cairo. Then, at a given signal we all swarmed together in the centre of the square with signs, including in Arabic. It was a great sight. We were all crushed together and |I applied all my energies to staying on my feet. Some people sat down on the road I felt too vulnerable doing that and stayed standing. |I moved to the pavement when shioved in that direction by a cop. Others made of sterner stuff sat down and some got pretty roughed up. At least one broken limb. Gareth got a kick or a bad hit on his ankle that came up in an ugly bruise that blistered and wept. We had to take him to hospital. Marlene got dragged by the hair and felt pretty sore afterwards. It was evident that the police had decided to tolerate us if we stayed corralled behind their lines of bovver boys. But we still got the word out with banners strung up on trees. Overa!
ll, we were treated with kid gloves compared with what the Egyptian citizenry would get if they challenged the limits.

One taxi driver I was with responded Go-o-o-d woo-maan! when told him I had been on the Gaza Freedom March. Then he went on to say how much he hated the Egyptian Government and how everyone in Egypt felt the same. Not 90%, not 95%, not 99% but one hundred % of the people ha-a-a-te this government. He told me he earns E200 a month as an accountant with the government and drives taxis to make ends meet. This was a similar story to our driver to the pyramids who was a teacher and earned E135 a month. My taxi driver friend said the government ministers earned millions a month. While that may be passionate exaggeration, the disparity, and the hatred it engenders are not in doubt. He recalled the call for revolution of the French camping outside the French Embassy and said that his country needed a revolution. He said it could happen in a year. Whatever the reality, that certainly was his hope.

Our guide to the pyramids was a fervent Nasser supporter and was absolutely delighted when we sang the Internationale. He insisted that we sing it when we came back to the camel stables so that his boss could hear it.

The manager of the hotel I stayed at was not at all on side with the Palestinians but even he said people were happy with what we had done.

The few who did go to Gaza from the Gaza Freedom March (but as individuals, not representing us) brought important insights back about the relationship of the NGOs with the Hamas government. The march was very small because PNGO, the Palestinian Non- Governmental Organisations group had pulled out of it because Hamas insisted on taking control. The blatant removal of the women was very revealing of the nature of the regime.

So overall, our intervention was quite a success.

I have a number of meetings set up in Israel/Palestine and plan to take part in the weekly demos in Sheik Jarrah (against the expulsions of Palestians from their homes in Jerusalem) and Blin against the dispossession wall. And on Saturday I am going for a hike in the Jordan Valley.

So love to you all, and all best


Magda Hassan
01-08-2010, 09:05 PM

Hi, everyone, now that I am in Israel, I have been doing some activist tourism. Yesterday I went on a guided tour with Rotem Dan M. Some of you will remember him as a twenty year old refusenik when he came to Australia eight years ago. He is now running his own business as a social justice tour guide. We went to Silwan a large but poor Palestinian suburb of Jerusalem. Silwan is the real Old City of Jersualem, where the palace of King David, if he lived, may well be. Silwan is the focus of politicised archeology digs and progressive exclusion of Palestinians from their homes. A right-wing organisation, Elad, with the mission of reclaiming the Jewish history of Silwan stops at nothing to gain possession Palestinian homes and digging to demonstrate the exclusively Jewish history of the site. The name Silwan has been removed and replaced by the "City of David". It is privately funded with the blessiing of the Israeli authorities. Elad activists have posed as tour operators to!
gain the confidence of Palestinian families and find out about the details of their ownership of their homes. These have been used to manipulate them into selling. In one case the fingerprints of a dead woman were used to forge a signature agreeing to sale. While a court judgement declared the documents to be forged, the 'sale' was not cancelled.

Rotem took us to visit a family whose home or part of it had been demolished twice because there was no permit (very few Palestinians get building permits,). Two of th sons of the house are under house arrest for allegedly throwing stones. Rotem speaks fluent Arabic and it was joy to see him engage so warmly with our hosts. This is peace-making in action. |How healing for that Palestinian family to encounter an Israeli who reaches out to them by learning their language and speak with them on an equal level. What a contrast from having their history obliterated and their property rights over-ridden. This scary need to eliminate the Other, when embracing them as equals brings such rich rewards.

Rotem then took us to the Wadi Hilwah Information Centre. This is how the people of Silwan are fighting back, by putting their limited resources into a community centre that puts their story and affirms their rights.

Today I joined the weekly demonstration against the dispossession of Palestinians by fanatical ultra religious Jewish settler in Sheikh Jarrah. It is led by young people in a new coalition to fight house demolitions in East Jerusalem. About two hundred and fifty of us marched the one and a half hour walk from trendy Ben Yehuda Street in central Jerusalem to the \palestinian suburb of Shekh Jarrah. Cops accompanied us , chasing away the odd character who yelled abuse at us in the \jewish area. We were welcomed with Arabic coffee by the local \Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah. Slogans and banners said 'Sheikh Jarrah is Palestine, remove the settlements!' 'Free Palestine = Free Israel' 'This is Apartheid' 'Democracy cannot live on Dispossession'. We were orderly, stayed on the footpath by agreement with the police. A number of the young people wore flowers in their hair. A group of drummers led by an unflagging young woman played all the way to Sheikh Jarra There were a numbe!
r of people from the Gaza Freedom |March there, including Phil Weiss of Mondoweiss. A number stayed on to be in the homes with the Palestinians after the settlers came out of their Shabbat service, when not infrequently they harass the local Palestinians. Since I am leaving at seven am tomorrow morning to go to the South Hebron Hills tomorrow, I gave that one a miss, though I would have like d to do it. Next time I must plan to stay longer!

Anyway, people, signing off for tonight


Magda Hassan
01-11-2010, 12:15 PM

Hello everyone, the last two days have been a blast. I have spent them in the South Hebron Hills with the Israeli group Taayush and with the Villages Group. The South Hebron Hills are in the southernmost part of the Occupied West Bank. It is very sparsely populated. We were told that the intention of the Government is to remove the Palestinian population to local towns like Yatta or Hebron and take over the land. Shades of similar efforts in Australia?

Taayush are committed to co-operation between Palestinians and Israeli Jews. I went with them at 7am in the morning to a tiny village Ber Al Idd - it is just a collection of tents. Since the early 90s, the people of Ber Al Idd have been fighting eviction from their land. Two months ago, they won a significant victory in court - they could return to their land. But there is always a but, they cannot erect anything on it, not even tents. Even the outhouse dunny is under a demolition order!

They are now fighting the demolition orders for their tents. (These are designed and manufactured by Palestinians, funded by OCHA (UN Organisation for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Aid. They are well engineered, cool and insulated under the hot winter sun.)

Sounds like an inverted demand by Portia of Shylock that he may have his pound of flesh but to be sure no blood is taken. The Palestinians may place themselves on their land but not support for their flesh and blood. The Palestinians must fight a continual legal war of attrition to maintain a grip on their land.

Ber AL Idd lies between two illegal (even by Israel standards) outposts. However, these supposedly illegal structures are supplied with electricity and water, whereas Ber El Idd must buy in water tankers. They have one solar panel with supplies enough energy for a cell phone, some light - and videos! To them that hath shall be given, from them that have not, even the little they have shall be taken away

Our task with Taayush was to rehabilitate a well that, through neglect during the enforced absence of the Palestinian owners, had got filled with all sorts of rubbish. One group was down a large cave digging the increasingly muddy soil, filling buckets and sending them to the surface where the other half of the team emptied the buckets on the stony land around. So I got my hands (and clothes) well covered with the soil of Palestine, the Holy Land, whatever, a toiler of the soil for a day. And my body knew it by the end of it.

Generally, I was told, the police or army try to stop the Taayush minibus. We were told to fasten our seat belts to give them no pretext to block our progress. Often, too, settlers come down and harass the Palestinians on their land. Sometimes, the Palestinians take their sheep a little farther afield on lands occupied by settlers. Even 5 hours grazing is a struggle yet it can save the precious cash that would otherwise have to be paid for feed for the flocks over that time. An illustration of the fragility of the economy and their lives.

>From all of this, it is obvious that it is not just the fanatical settlers that are pushing the agenda of ongoing dispossession of the Palestinians. It is conscious government policy and has been so through successive Israel governments. The settlers are the shock troops on whom responsibility can be deflected.

Our Palestinian hosts plied us with glasses of sweet minted tea throughout the day. Their condition of life is incredibly basic and the economy very fragile. They farm goats and sheep for the milk largely and meat for food. This gives a very modest cash surplus. I saw women making butter in the traditional way. The cream was in large goat skin sacks which were suspended on a pipe. The women sat on the ground jiggling the full closed bags endlessly to churn the cream into butter. This would no doubt be sold at a local market.

The next day, yesterday, I met with Hamed a Palestinian who works for OCHA. But in his free time, he works with a number of dedicated Israelis calling themselves the Villages Group developing sustainable projects particularly with the people in the South Hebron Hills who are so poor and disadvantaged. The idea is to support the people to be technologically skilled and equipped, independent in a very grass roots consultative way. This enables them to retain a hold on their land and gives them confidence to do so. The solidarity breaks their isolation and empowers them.

I took the bus from the East Jerusalem Bus centre (the Palestinian buses). I needed to negotiate the Bethlehem checkpoint (no problems) and eventually found Hamed in his UN blue and white jeep. Thank God for mobile phones! I was not so lucky on my way back to Jerusalem, however, 50 minutes standing at the checkpoint, everyone was incredibly patient, even good humoured!

We visited the same village, Ber Al Idd. With us was a Palestinian lawyer funded by Rabbis for Human Rights. The task of the day was to discuss the issues of the case they were taking against the demolition orders on their few tents. I sat while the men of the hamula, (of course not the women), animatedly discussed the issues of the case. Hamed and the lawyer with the elders were identifying the tents and locating them precisely with a GPS gadget. It seemed clear to me that the lawyer needed to manage everyones expectations and provide a reality check. He said the case would be hard to win. When the power and the law defend the occupation, how else can it be?

Our hosts then fed us a magnificent lunch. Chunks of boiled sheep carcass were served on a large platter of rice. One sheeps eye stared balefully at me. This was accompanied by a tasty stock, obviously the liquid in which the mutton had been boiled, with some yoghurt added to give it a tang. Several bowls of the stock were laid out with spoons and forks. I took a bowl and started eating the soup but that was a boo-boo! The way it was done, was that several people sat around one platter on the floor, took a spoonful of broth and put it on the rice on the platter near them, mixed it up with the rice and ate, accompanied with chunks of meat. This was definitely not the beaten tourist track!

After the legal work was completed, Hamed took me to another family, a Bedouin one, who lived within a couple of metres of a cyclone fence where a settlement had boldly encroached on their land. They had built the most modern of poultry houses. We could see the electricity lines going from the buildings of the settlement on the hill over the pitiful tent dwelling of the Bedouin to the poultry building. Piped water to the setlement was visible on the ground. Electricity and air-con for the chooks, none for the Palestinians

It is said by some that there is no Israel peace movement, no Israeli Left, just dedicated individuals. But what I have seen belies this completely. The demonstrations against the Jewish takeover of Palestinian neighbourhoods like Sheikh Jarrah take place weekly and are growing. Taayush have been coming weekly for years to Ber El Idd. There are numerous other weekly demonstrations, such as those at Blin against the depredations of The Wall, where Israelis alongside the Palestinians and internationals, battle the tear gas and general IDF brutality.

Indeed this movement is tiny and has little impact on the wider Israeli political scene (how much actual impact does the global justice movement have?) and the grim Israeli consensus of establishing an Iron Wall of force to subjugate the Palestinians. But, like the global social justice movement, the Israel Left is incredibly dedicated and is there. They keep the flame of human decency and justice alive in Israel under extremely difficult circumstances. I take my hat off to them.

Vivienne Porzsolt
10 January 2010