Tag Archives: Israel

Support needed in Cairo

Hello all,

You can read the newest update (yesterday’s) from Marie and Katerina in Cairo in the blog at: http://studentlifelinetogaza.blogspot.com/ I am including it attached at the end of this message. As you can see from their own message, the most critical thing they need now is support from home. So please keep making calls, sending emails, and letting people know of what is happening.

There are two things I would like to ask you for your support:

  1. First there’s another sample email and list of adresses below. Please either send an email or call.
  2. Secondly and this is very important, I would like to ask you to send me any relevant contact adresses or telephones you can find. Everybody reads English, so most of the sample emails we have can be send to many more adresses. If you can find contact details for the Egyptian embassy in your own country, or in other countries around the world for example, to important politicians again, in your country or others, important (or not so important) media, please send them to me, and we’ll try to put together a more extensive list of contacts that people can use.

_________________________________________

Sample letter:

Dear Sir, Dear Madam,

I am writing to you to urge the Egyptian government to let Code Pink’s Gaza

Freedom March continue so that 1362 international delegates can join the

Palestinians of Gaza to march together on December 31, 2009.

Currently all delegates are stuck in Cairo and have been refused the right

to move towards Gaza.

The UK government and David Miliband have openly condemned the blockade.

This is a crucial moment for the UK to use its influence as an international

player to take responsiblity and act upon behalf of peace, justice and human

rights.

The Code Pink delegates will not stand for this oppressive ban. This

indirectly endorses war crimes and the inhumanity caused by the blockade

onto the Palestinians of Gaza.

The international peace marchers have aid and are ready to deliver it.

They have

raised tens of thousands of dollars for medical aid, school supplies and

winter clothing for the children of Gaza. But we realize that in addition to

material aid, the Palestinians of Gaza need moral support. The Gaza Freedom

March offers that support on the difficult anniversary of an invasion that

brought them so much suffering.

Sincerely,

__________

Contacts:

-Foreign & Commonwealth Office Ministerial support team email address

MSU.PublicIn@fco.gov.uk

-Egyptian Embassy in London

Tel: 020 7499 3304/2401

eg.emb_london@mfa.gov.eg

-Egyptian Consulate

consulate@egyptianconsulate.co.uk

Irini Pantelidou has also found these addresses (thanks!):

questions@cabinet.gov.eg

or …complaints@cabinet.gov.eg

Cabinet of Ministers

Address : 2 Maglas El Shaab

Phone : +202-2793-5000

Fax : +202-2795-8048

Email : questions@cabinet.gov.eg

ministry of international cooperation for the egyptian government

Mrs. Fayza Mohamed Aboulnaga

Address : 8 Adly street – Cairo

Tel : 23910008

Fax : 23908159

URL : www.mic.gov.eg/

Egyptian ministry of foreign affairs?

Mr. Ahmed Ali Aboul Gheit

Address : Kornish el Nile, Maspiro- Cairo

Tel : 25749820 – 25749821

Fax : 25748822

URL : www.mfa.gov.eg/

E-mail:

General Inquiries:  Info@mfa.gov.eg

Citizens’ Complaint Unit: Contact.Us@mfa.gov.eg

Foreigners and Legalization Affairs: foreign.legalization@mfa.gov.eg

______________________________________________________

6th update from Cairo from Katerina and Marie:

We demonstrated all day at the UN today, demanding that

1) the UN put pressure on the Egyptian government so that we can continue our march

2) help let all our aid through to Gaza

3) organise a small group of delegates to Gaza to at least represent all the countries and be in bloody Gaza!!!

Answer:

No

No

and No.

It was a really peaceful demonstration, with lots of music, dancing, chess playing, talks by Walden Bello and Anna Haas (journalist).

Led by the 85 year old holocaust survivior Hedy Epstein, 14 are now on hunger strike. We were barricaded by police however, not allowing to leave the area for a few hours. Lol, we made a makeshift pee area but the atmosphere was super awesome.

Also, Netanyahu is coming to Cairo, to meet with Mubarak about Gilad Shalit.

The French delegates, around 300, have been camping outside the French embassy for the last 2 days. We will be joining them tonight, but they managed to get the French ambassador to negotiate and talk. The ambassador has been talking to the Egyptian government as a result. However, there were over 1000 riot police and since today they have not allowed any of the French people to leave or enter.

Any attempts for smaller groups to get to Gaza have been stalled. People have either been detained, put under hotel arrest or been forced to return to Cairo.

We are feeling quite demoralised, since we have put so much effort into getting to Gaza as has everyone else here. We are relying on support from back home, so please keep writing.

At this point you have more power than we do.

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Critical new update – Freedom March also blocked

Dear all,

First of all, apologies for the flood of emails and msgs the last few days. Unfortunately things are moving very fast right now, and we’ve now found out that the Freedom March to Gaza from Egypt, is also being blocked now, as is still the convoy which has yet to be allowed to enter Egypt. Hopefully we’ll be able to send fewer messages as things calm down.

I’m forwarding below the latest update from Sam from the ‘Can you help us end the Blockade of Gaza this december?’ group that was set up in facebook (join: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=188973921044 ), which inludes the message send from Cairo from Katerina and Marie, and also a sample letter to send to politicians and Egyptian embassies, together with relevant adresses.

________________________________________________________________

Dear Friends,

Sorry to be spamming your facebook inboxes but everything is proceeding quickly right now (hopefully it will calm down soon) and we do need your help!

Firstly, Katerina and Marie are now in Cairo, they sent this message today:

***********************************************************

Dear Friends,

Marie and I are both in Cairo and have bad news.

Like Viva Palestina, our Free Gaza March has also been banned by the
Egyptian government.
There are 1300 international volunteers in Cairo, who all want to go to
Gaza. We have aid and donations that will go to waste if we stay here.

The Free Gaza March have planned the following activities for the next 2
days:
Sunday
– small protest in the centre of Cairo
– protest at the French Embassy to pressure the European Commission
– public vigil at the Nile

Monday
– we will gather at the bus station to protest against the Egyptian’s ban on
our trip
– public protest in the main square of Cairo

Consensus is that we stay united and so that 1300 people demonstrate
together in Cairo to pressure Mubarak’s government to let us go. Small
individual groups have gone and we are waiting to hear what they encounter and how they get along.

The Egyptian government has put a ban on all freedom marchers meeting in groups of more than 6 people. This is oppressive and denies us the right to stand up to the Palestinians. Please protest against the Egyptian’s decision with us. By holding us back, their oppressive regime is as responsible for
the siege as is Israel’s.

*We need your help, you demonstrate the international spectrum of all of
this. *
*http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8425232.stm*

Sample letter to Embassies & MPs:

Dear Sir, Dear Madam,

I am writing to you to urge the Egyptian government to let Code Pink’s Gaza
Freedom March continue so that 1362 international delegates can join the
Palestinians of Gaza to march together on December 31, 2009.

Currently all delegates are stuck in Cairo and have been refused the right
to move towards Gaza.

The UK government and David Miliband have openly condemned the blockade.
This is a crucial moment for the UK to use its influence as an international
player to take responsiblity and act upon behalf of peace, justice and human
rights.

The Code Pink delegates will not stand for this oppressive ban. This
indirectly endorses war crimes and the inhumanity caused by the blockade
onto the Palestinians of Gaza.

The international peace marchers have aid and are ready to deliver it.
They have
raised tens of thousands of dollars for medical aid, school supplies and
winter clothing for the children of Gaza. But we realize that in addition to
material aid, the Palestinians of Gaza need moral support. The Gaza Freedom
March offers that support on the difficult anniversary of an invasion that
brought them so much suffering.

Sincerely,

***********************************************************

EGYPTIAN CONTACTS:
-Egyptian Embassy in London
Tel: 020 7499 3304/2401
eg.emb_london@mfa.gov.eg

-Egyptian Consulate
consulate@egyptianconsulate.co.uk

POLITICIANS:
-Jeremy Corbyn (Labour MP for Islington North)
corbynj@parliament.uk
Office phone:
020 7561 7488

-Clare Short (Independent MP for Birmingham Ladywood)
shortc@parliament.uk
020 7219 4264/4148

-David Miliband (Foreign Secretary/Labour MP for South Shields)
milibandd@parliament.uk
(0191) 456 8910

-Foreign & Commonwealth Office Ministerial support team email address
MSU.PublicIn@fco.gov.uk

-Nick Clegg (Leader of Lib Dems, MP for Sheffield Hallam, wrote this piece in the guardian the other day http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/dec/22/lift-the-gaza-blocade-nick-clegg)
nickclegg@sheffieldhallam.org.uk
cleggn@parliament.uk

-British Embassy in Egypt
Tel: (20)(2)27916000
information.cairo@fco.gov.uk

NB that MPs are not supposed to help UK citizens who live in other constituencies, but those listed above either have shown a personal interest in Gaza (Short, Corbyn, Clegg) or are the Foreign Secretary (Miliband) so you should perhaps make it clear that this is why you are contacting them, not in their formal duties as MP.

Secondly, a reminder of the vigil outside the Israeli embassy in London tomorrow: http://www.palestinecampaign.org/index9b.asp?m_id=1&l1_id=3&l2_id=62&Content_ID=976 Please come along if you can, this could be helpful for raising awareness of the Convoy and Freedom march inside the UK, which is really something we need to do right now.

I know we are sending out lots of messages but that’s because lots of important information is coming in quickly. We *will* take it easy again when things get back on track—which we hope they will soon. Thank you for your patience!

Season’s greetings,

Sam

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Gaza Convoy- News on how you can help

Hello all.

You must have received the message from Fred and Nora forwarded earlier today regarding the convoy to Gaza that is currently prevented from entering Egypt. We have also received news from Nora, and up to now, the news is they are still not allowed to Egypt. From what I’ve understood, the Egyptians have said they’ll be allowed to enter the country, if apparently they leave the aid to travel through Israel with the Israelis, they return to Lebanon, and then go from Lebanon to Egypt, hope to be allowed to land from there, and then hope to receive back the aid from the Israelis to take to Gaza. All in all, the ‘offers’ made up to now are merely a publicity stunt by Egypt and Israel to pretend they are allowing aid to pass through while it essentially becomes confiscated and the convoy prevented from finishing its mission.

We need help to pester the media, politicians, and the Egyptians. What we have done is divide up all the email adresses we have into Egyptian contacts, politicians and media. Im giving you the lists below, and further down are three sample letters to send to each of the three ‘categories’. Please, if anybody knows any more contact emails we can use, or Egyptian contacts in other countries outside of Britain (emails can be send from anywhere to anywhere after all) or other media, please send them to us, so we can update the contact lists.

All you have to do is simply send each of the three letters to the emails for the respective target category.

EGYPTIAN CONTACTS:

-Egyptian Embassy in London

Tel: 020 7499 3304/2401

eg.emb_london@mfa.gov.eg

-Egyptian Consulate

consulate@egyptianconsulate.co.uk

POLITICIANS:

-Jeremy Corbyn (Labour MP for Islington North)

corbynj@parliament.uk

Office phone:

020 7561 7488

-Clare Short (Independent MP for Birmingham Ladywood)

shortc@parliament.uk

020 7219 4264/4148

-David Miliband (Foreign Secretary/Labour MP for South Shields)

milibandd@parliament.uk

(0191) 456 8910

-Foreign & Commonwealth Office Ministerial support team email address

MSU.PublicIn@fco.gov.uk

-Nick Clegg (Leader of Lib Dems, MP for Sheffield Hallam, wrote this piece in the guardian the other day http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/dec/22/lift-the-gaza-blocade-nick-clegg)

nickclegg@sheffieldhallam.org.uk

cleggn@parliament.uk

-British Embassy in Egypt

Tel: (20)(2)27916000

information.cairo@fco.gov.uk

NB. the embassy email addresses are only meant for information, so you could include a kind note to forward the message to the appropriate diplomatic staff.

MEDIA

national@guardian.co.uk

foreign@guardian.co.uk

news@observer.co.uk

editor@guardianunlimited.co.uk

reader@guardian.co.uk

reader@observer.co.uk

newseditor@independent.co.uk

foreigneditor@independent.co.uk

http://news.bbc.co.uk/newswatch/ukfs/hi/newsid_4030000/newsid_4032600/4032695.stm

LETTER TO EGYPTIANS

Egyptian Letter:

Dear Sir / Madam,

I would like to express my dismay that you are preventing British / E.U. citizens who have driven many vehicles filled with medical supplies for the people of Gaza from crossing your border.

The Viva Palestina Aid Convoy has enjoyed the support of all the other countries on their long journey across Europe and the Middle East. The convoy’s sole objective is to deliver medical items, such as ambulances, bandages and wheelchairs.

Please let this convoy cross the border in a timely fashion. Please do not redirect the convoy to make this long journey even more difficult for the hundreds of volunteers on a journey of aid and goodwill.

Regards

(your name)

LETTER TO POLITICIANS

Politicians:

[Your address]

Dear ——-

I have been following the progress of a convoy taking aid to the Gaza strip. The convoy consists of over 200 vehicles carrying many thousands of pounds worth of aid, and has been organized by Viva Palestina and Code Pink. Many of the activists taking part have gone from the United Kingdom.

It has recently come to my attention that Egyptian authorities have blocked the progress of the convoy by denying entry to Egypt. The convoy is currently waiting in Jordan to be permitted to board a ferry across the Red Sea. I have heard from one person in the convoy who has decribed how they are cold and have little access to food at the moment.

I am kindly requesting that you use your position and influence to help us persuade the Egyptian authorities to permit the convoy to pass safely. This is very important to me, both for my hope that the people in Gaza will receive the much-needed aid, and also out of concern for my friends in the convoy.

Kind Regards,

LETTER TO MEDIA

Press:

Subject: Please report Gaza convoy.

Dear Sir/Madam,

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of Israel’s commencement of its operation ‘Cast Lead’ in which, according to the BBC, about 1,300 Palestinians and 10 Israeli soldiers were killed in three weeks. Three Israeli citizens also died in rocket attacks during the operation.

I hope that your publication will be noting this anniversary, and if so I strongly urge you to give news coverage to the Viva Palestina aid convoy to Gaza, seeking to break the ongoing blockade which a UN special rapporteur has called a “crime against humanity.” http://www.vivapalestina.org/home.htm

The convoy consists of over 200 vehicles; over 200 of the drivers are from the UK (including George Galloway MP). Currently Egyptian authorities are not allowing the convoy to enter and are therefore blocking their progress to Gaza. The convoy is currently in Aqaba hoping to get permission to cross the Red Sea. It would be very helpful if this was mentioned in the UK national press; I and many of my friends are extremely disappointed that it has not yet been. If a correspondent was sent there would be over 500 people willing to give interviews.

Thank you.

Yours faithfully,

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Convoy to Gaza – New letter from Fred and Nora

Hello all – glad tidings etc.

As you may be aware, I am currently on the Viva Palestina with my co-driver Nora, also from Warwick Uni. We are on a mission to deliver urgently needed supplies and medical aid to the people of Gaza, who are under siege as part of a genocidal long-term strategy by Israel, supported by our government and the USA, as well as Egypt.

We are currently stuck in Aqaba, Jordan, waiting for a ferry to Nuweiba. The Egyptians are preventing us from getting on the ferry and entering Egypt. They have said we are allowed in, but only through Al Arish, on the Mediterranean side. This is simply a chimera. If we comply with this demand, we will be in an even weaker position than we already are – they have also given us a list of conditions for getting into gaza – that we donate all of our aid to UNWRA, that we coordinate with Israel (!!!) and a load of other rubbish. These channels have a terrible track record of getting aid into Gaza. Essentially they are trying to make it impossible for us to get our aid into Gaza.

Therefore I am asking you to put pressure on the Egyptian government in any way you can. The simplest way is to email / phone your local embassy. However, if you have the time and the inclination, you can go further – contact media, press, local organisations, whatever. The main point is to maintain the momentum we already have here in the Arab world, and to cross over into the European news.

The situation we find ourselves in is extremely precarious – we could easily be stuck here for several weeks. If this isn’t a major news story, the Egyptians will not feel the need to let us in. We won’t get to Gaza. The aid we are carrying will be useless. You can make a difference.

Please help, and take the time to do something about this. I have attached a sample email you could send to your local embassy. Putting pressure on English embassies in Egypt will also help.

Thank you, tell all your friends

Fred

linkz:
http://readingpsc.org.uk/convoy/
http://vivapalestina.org/home.htm
http://www.presstv.ir/search.aspx?q=viva%20palestina

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Convoy to Gaza – New update

We’ve received another update from the Viva Palestina convoy and the students attending. If you are not receiving the updates yourselves, you can get them send to you on facebook, by joining the relevant group (see link below).

I’m attaching the update below.Please remember to help us much as you can in publicizing the convoy.  Even if you cannot contact newspapers or politicians, you can still send messages and emails to your friends, invite them to the facebook group or the blog, update on twitter or facebook, or  any other social networking site you belong to, or even just talk to people. Also remember that you can still donate to the group.

If you would like to become more involved in publicity and you did NOT attend the publicity workshop at the end of the term or been assigned a specific contact to try to reach, please send us an email and we’ll see if there’s a way you can help more directly.

You can follow the concoy from its blog website at: http://studentlifelinetogaza.blogspot.com

on at the facebok group:http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=188973921044

on twitter: http://twitter.com/WarwickInGaza

If you want to make a donation, still VERY important, please click here:

https://cms.paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/?cmd=_render-content&content_ID=marketing_us/send_money

then enter the email address fredsters_s@mac.com and send!

Follow the Convoy through press.tv at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=113929&sectionid=351020202

For the Viva Palestina website: http://vivapalestina.org

The Update:

____________________________________________________________________________

I was on the phone to Nora yesterday. They are well and at the time of speaking to her, she was sat in the van at the Jordan crossing, waiting to pass. They had been there for a couple of hours and Fred has snuck over to another van to play Playstation.

Apparently Syrians received them extremely well, offering accommodation and providing a great morale boost with their generous and warm welcome. The drive through Syria was calm, but Jordan may pose some troubles.

The only Arab countries to have signed agreements with Israel are Egypt and Jordan. The convoy explicitly implies “no deal with Israel”, to which Jordan must react. In a way they are obliged to, as a result of the deal with Israel.

Hours later I stumble across this article, which details the events following my phone conversation with Nora. As predicted, Jordan did cause the convoy some troubles.

As not predicted, however, many Jordanian civilians protested against the Jordanian police’s treatment of Viva Palestina, taking to the streets to support the convoy. Eventually the police let Nora, Fred and all other vehicles through.

Now our friends are in Jordan, creeping ever closer to the Gaza border. The Egyptians have released this statement:

“any attempts to violate the law or public order by any group, whether local or foreign, on Egyptian soil will be dealt with in conformity with the law”

Is it a psychological threat? Are the Egyptians standing up to us just like Jordan stood up to the convoy? We do not know.

I wonder in amazement at the sheer force and power that collective agreement or disagreement can have, just look at the people in Jordan. Please support the convoy as much as you can through word of mouth or by writing to your local MP or newspaper. The more support it receives the greater its effect.

Check out the blog: http://studentlifelinetogaza.blogspot.com/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/WarwickInGaza

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Gaza Convoy – first press release

The latest press release concerning the convoy to Gaza attended by 4 Warwick students has come out – please, please, please, remember to pester your papers, local politicians and anybody and everybody you know to try and raise awareness of the convoy. Facebook messages, status updates, twitter, emails, blogs, if there is any way you can help to raise awareness, your help would be most appreciated. If you have any friends who you think would also want to help, let them know as well.

You can follow the concoy from its blog website at: http://studentlifelinetogaza.blogspot.com

on at the facebok group:http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=188973921044

on twitter: http://twitter.com/WarwickInGaza

If you want to make a donation, still VERY important, please click here:

https://cms.paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/?cmd=_render-content&content_ID=marketing_us/send_money

then enter the email address fredsters_s@mac.com and send!

Follow the Convoy through press.tv at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=113929&sectionid=351020202

For the Viva Palestina website: http://vivapalestina.org

The Press releae

For immediate release: 18/12/2009University of Warwick, Coventry

Four students from the University of Warwick are travelling to the Middle
East as part of an international convoy to break the blockade of Gaza and
deliver aid to its citizens.

Leaving from Folkestone on Saturday 5th December, Warwick finalists Nü De Vrede and Fred Stevens-Smith will drive through Germany, Austria, Italy, Greece and Syria before reaching Cairo in late December. There they will be met by Marie Sophie Pettersson and Katerina Elias-Trostmann, also finalists, who are flying to Cairo from London on Christmas Day.

The convoy will take provisions of food, medicine, educational supplies and other goods to the civilian population. It will also raise international
awareness of the effects of the blockade on the citizens of Gaza. The
vehicle the Warwick students are using has been paid for by a series of
fundraising events on the Warwick Campus, including a booksale and a charity dinner. These events raised over £3,000.

The convoy has been planned by Viva Palestina, an organisation formed in 2009 consisting of volunteers from across the U.K. A similar convoy took place in July 2009 from the U.S.A.

The convoy expect to reach Gaza on the 27th December. This is the first
anniversary of the commencement of the Israeli Operation Cast Lead in which, according to the BBC, about 1,300 Palestinians and 10 Israeli soldiers were killed in three weeks. Three Israeli citizens also died in rocket attacks during the operation.

Once inside Gaza the students will distribute the supplies they have brought from the U.K and on New Years day 2010 they will participate in a freedom march for peace alongside members of Code Pink: Women For Peace.

The convoy will be supported by a team of Warwick Student in the U.K who will regularly report on their progress using social media such as Twitter, Facebook and a blog.

A military blockade of the Gaza strip has been enforced by the Israeli
Defence Force since June 2007. The blockade prevents the free movement of people and restricts imports of essential goods including aid. Amnesty International has described the blockade as a “form of collective punishment of the entire population of Gaza, a flagrant violation of Israel’s obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention.” The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, Richard Falk, condemned Israel’s siege of Gaza as amounting to a “crime against humanity.”

Notes for Editors:

Friends of Palestine Society, Warwick University will be maintaining a blog
documenting the progress of the convoy:
http://studentlifelinetogaza.blogspot.com/

Follow the Warwick convoy on Twitter: http://twitter.com/WarwickInGaza

Viva Palestina website: http://vivapalestina.org/

Code Pink website: http://www.codepinkalert.org/

Contact:

*Name: *Natasha Lewis-Smith *Tel: *07984525697 *Name: *Sam Playle *Tel: *
07817919112

Friends of Palestine Society, University of Warwick.Next ImageNext Image

* *

*Email:* warwickingaza@gmail.com

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Convoy to Gaza – Update

As most of you may know, most of our activity at the start of the year has been focused on charity collection to support the convoy trying to break into Gaza this December. 2 of the Warwick students attending are already on their way traveling all the way through Europe then the Middle East, while another 2 will be joining them soon in Egypt.

We’ll be trying to keep you updated with the movement of the convoy as it nears Gaza – please, please, please, remember to pester your papers, local politicians and anybody and everybody you know to try and raise awareness of the convoy. Facebook messages, status updates, twitter, emails, blogs, if there is any way you can help to raise awareness, your help would be most appreciated. If you have any friends who you think would also want to help, let them know as well.

You can follow the concoy from its blog website at: http://studentlifelinetogaza.blogspot.com

on at the facebok group:http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=188973921044

on twitter: http://twitter.com/WarwickInGaza

If you want to make a donation, still VERY important, please click here:

https://cms.paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/?cmd=_render-content&content_ID=marketing_us/send_money

then enter the email address fredsters_s@mac.com and send!

Follow the Convoy through press.tv at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=113929&sectionid=351020202

For the Viva Palestina website: http://vivapalestina.org

Finally, below is the latest update from the convoy.

It was a tired but happy Nora I got on the phone, after my 127th attempt to reach her UK mobile this evening from my snowbound home in Copenhagen. Can’t even put words to the incredible feeling of relief and excitement I got when I finally heard her voice!

They were both safe and intact – though Nora explained how her ONE pair of jeans started to smell of puke (I promised her Kat and I would bring her an extra clean pair!) and her hair was turning into one massive dread, whilst bearded Fred was turning into a Santa look alike. I heard him joking in the background that it would probably make him blend in perfectly well with the local people in Gaza. Nora said they’d had to spend many sleepless nights in the van, as the cold weather conditions weren’t suitable for tents. However, despite the tough trucker lifestyle, Nora said they were still having an incredible time with the rest of the Viva Palestina team and with all the wonderful support they had been receiving along the way they were only getting more and more motivated to reach their final destination in Gaza.

The convoy has now safely arrived in Turkey, Istanbul, where they received a truly unforgettable reception. Hundreds of people stayed up till 3-4am standing outside in the cold and rain on the motorway to wave and greet the Convoy vehicles as they arrived at the Turkish borders, and provide them with food and accommodation.

Nora told me that the convoy received massive support by the people in Istanbul- political as well as practical, providing everyone with food and accommodation. In Istanbul there have been lots of press conferences, rallies through the city and speeches by MP George Galloway. Turkish National TV is reporting live coverage as the convoy moves through their towns. A lot of Turkish supporters have given the Viva Palestina convoy very generous donations of aid, and a huge numbers of Turkish vehicles have joined the convoy doubling the convoy size to around 200 vehicles!

The next stop is Ankara, and from there the convoy will be heading on towards the Syrian borders. Nora says calmly that she believes Syria should hopefully be a safe drive-through.

The latest news is that the Convoy has received a warning letter from the Egyptian authorities that no aid vehicles will be allowed past the Egyptian borders and that they will use all means to stop the convoy from entering Egypt. Nora explained how this was especially worrying as the last Viva Palestina Convoy’s border-crossing in Egypt got really violent.

Fortunately, MP David Miliband has contacted the Egyptians to request safe passage for the convoy.

Nora, Fred and the rest of the Viva Palestina team urges everyone to help get the word out and contact media. It would especially be helpful to put pressure on the BBC Middle East Correspondent to come to Egypt to cover the Convoy’s arrival at the Egyptian borders, to pressure the Egyptians to let them pass by safely.

Nora and Fred both send you all their love and biggest thanks for all your support. They are deeply sorry they haven’t been able to update you more frequently themselves, but they have sadly had very limited access to internet. Next time they get the chance they promise to try to upload some of the many million photos they have taken so far.

Until then, please make sure to follow updates from the Viva Palestina Convoy on: http://readingpsc.org.uk/convoy/

Peace,

Marie

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World refugee day

On the Occasion of the  World refugee day yesterday, let’s all remember that the Palestinian refugees remain the largest and longest standing refugee problem in the world.  Find below the press release from the Badil Resource Centre for Palestinian residency and refugee rights:

Statistics released by UN agencies on the occasion of the 2009 World Refugee Day testify to the fact that Palestinian refugees are the largest and longest standing refugee population world wide. They lack access to just solutions and reparations, including return, because Israel and western governments continue to deny or belittle the scope of the problem and make no effort to respect and implement relevant international law and best practice.

According to a forthcoming Survey of Palestinian Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons for the years 2007-2008 produced by Badil, at least 7.6 million Palestinians have been forcibly displaced since 1948 as a consequence of Israel’s systematic policies and practices of colonization, occupation and apartheid. That figure represents 71 percent of the entire worldwide population of 10.6 million Palestinians. Only 28.7 percent of all Palestinians have never been displaced from their homes. (click here for information pdf)

The great majority of the displaced (6.2 million people – 81.5 percent) are Palestinian refugees of 1948 (the Nakba), who were ethnically cleansed in order to make space for the state of Israel and their descendants.  This figure includes 4.7 million Palestinian refugees registered with the United Nations (UNRWA) at the end of 2008. The second major group (940,000 – 12.5%) are Palestinian refugees of 1967, who were displaced during the 1967 Arab-Israel war and their descendants.

More attention and concern should be given to the phenomenon of forced displacement of Palestinians because it is ongoing.

Steadily growing populations of internally displaced Palestinians (IDPs) are the result of ongoing forced displacement in Israel (approximately 335,000 IDPs since 1948) and the Occupied Palestinian Territory since 1967 (approximately 120,000 IDPs since 1967). Badil’s Survey identifies a set of distinct, systematic and widespread Israeli policies and practices which induce ongoing forced displacement among the indigenous Palestinian population, including deportation and revocation of residency rights, house demolition, land confiscation, construction and expansion of Jewish-only settlements, closure and segregation, as well as threats to life and physical safety as a result of military operations and harassment by racist Jewish non-state actors. Israeli governments implement these policies and practices in order to change the demographic composition of certain areas (“Judaization”) and the entire country for the purpose of colonization.

Data about the scope of ongoing forced displacement of Palestinians is illustrative and indicative, because there is no singular institution or agency mandated and resourced to ensure systematic and sustained monitoring and documentation. The total number of persons displaced in 2007 – 2008 is unknown. UN agencies, however, confirm that 100,000 Palestinians were displaced from their homes in the occupied Gaza Strip at during Israel’s military operation at the end of the year; that 198 communities in the OPT currently face forced displacement; and that 60,000 Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem are at risk of having their home demolished by Israel.

The Palestinian refugee question has remained unresolved and forced displacement continues, because Western governments and international organizations have been complicit in Israel’s illegal policy and practice of population transfer and have failed to protect the Palestinian people. Indicators of the severe gaps existing in the protection of Palestinian refugees and IDPs are seen in the recent crises in Iraq – where thousands of Palestinian refugees became stranded on the Jordanian/Syrian and Iraqi borders, Lebanon – where 27,000 Palestinians refugees of the Naher al-Bared camp are still waiting to return to their 2007 destroyed camp, and Gaza – where over 1,400 Palestinians were killed and 100,000 displaced, most of them 1948 refugees).

On this World Refugees Day, Badil calls upon all those concerned with justice, human rights and peace to:

  • Challenge Israel’s racist notion of the “Jewish state” and immediately halt its practices of displacement, dispossession and colonization;

  • Strengthen the global Campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) in order to ensure that Israel other states become accountable to international law and respect their obligations;

  • Improve the mechanism of international protection so that all Palestinians receive effective protection from, during and after forced displacement, including the right to return as part of durable solutions and reparation;

  • Ensure that the Palestinian refugee question is treated in accordance with international law and UN resolutions in future peace negotiations, including return and reparation.

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Everyday racism

7 Palestinian families southeast of Nablus have been ordered to evacuate their houses so that they can be demolished. This is the third mass-demolition announcement in 2 months. The reason? So that nearby Israeli settlements can expand and park build on the areas.

There seems to be little outrage in the international community for the continued expansion of Israeli oppression over the ruins of Palestinian lives. But racism in Israel has become such an everyday phenomenon, that it is hardly newsworthy anymore. It is a surreal world we live in, when outrage only comes when one dares name the truth as it is – none can apparently criticise Israel for what it is.

Quote from a report on the mass-demolition:

Nablus – Ma’an – The Israeli military ordered seven Palestinian families to evacuate their homes and farm buildings within 48 hours on Tuesday.

All of the structures, all southeast of the West Bank city of Nablus, are slated for demolition.

According to Jad’an Qasim, chair of the Al-Falah Society, Israeli authorities decided to demolish the homes and sheds in the Jetit area near the Israeli settlement of Mekhora. Families received notices to evacuate their properties within 48 hours, Qasim explained.

The effort marks the third mass-demolition announcement in two months, after Israeli authorities warned residents of Al-Baqa’a in south Hebron and Silwan in East Jerusalem that their homes would be destroyed so a settlement can be expanded and park can be built on the areas. Forty will be rendered homeless in Al-Baqa’a and 1,500 in Silwan.

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‘Birth of a nation’

‘The Birth of a Nation’ is considered one of the greatest silent films ever made in American cinematography, both for its technical, narrative and artistic achievements. The entire film can be viewed online here. One of the first ever film blockbusters, a huge financial and critical success, it is also considered one of the most controversial films in American cinematography, for its glorification of white supremacy, and the Ku Klux Klan. The film, made in 1915, helped in the founding of the second Ku Klux Klan, and the inflaming of anti-black sentiments.

The film is centered on two families, one from the North, and the other from the South, and their relations before, during, and after the Civil War. Southern society is seen as under threat from the black militias during the war, and afterwards, by Northern politicians portrayed as empowering black people through election fraud at the expense of the communities of the South. One black man, shown as typically violent and immoral leads to one white girl committing suicide, to escape his unethical advances. In the end, the new Ku Klux Klan, working for the protection of Southern Society, hunts down the man, and disperses the rioting ‘crazed Negroes’ from the streets. In the next elections, the Klan manages to disenfranchise and disarm the blacks, and thus defend the character of the South.

The film quotes from Woodrow Wilson’s history of the American people: ‘The white men were roused by a mere instinct of self preservation… until at last there had sprung into existence a great Ku Klux Klan, a veritable empire of the South, to protect the Southern country’. The messages it wants to give are clear – that African Americans were incapable of integrating into American society and were violent and dangerous, that the KKK was an instrument of ‘defense’, defending the more moral and ethical society of the South, and that this society was based, as the film itself shows it, on Christian teachings, and the ‘Aryan birthright’ of Southern Whites, and their right to protect it in their states.

What is the significance of the film to us today? It is not merely as a historical film to study the era of racism and segregation in the US. Though the parallels with the Palestinian conflict should be obvious, those are also not the only points to be made. What is perhaps more significant, is the nature of the rationalization of racism itself, its non-controversial nature, and the type of ideas used to do so.

What is significant is that the Southern Whites who supported racism, segregation, and the Klan, truly believed in the logic depicted in the film. It was not merely a propaganda tool for external audiences to justify racism as ‘moral’, with the Klan and the South itself self-aware of themselves doing something ‘wrong’. The Whites of the South truly saw their actions as righteous, as protecting their society and families, and as moral and proper. And understanding this, is to understand much of the nature of ideologies which we recognize today as unethical. There are no groups of people which are born biologically more ‘evil’ than others. The southern whites did not have any ‘gene’ for immorality. Nor do people wakeup with a self-aware intent to ‘do evil’. Evil may be what they do, but it is almost always rationalized to themselves by an internal discourse that explains their actions as rational and moral. And such people are otherwise humans like the rest of us – were you to meet a member of the Klan, and avoided topics on politics or race or religion, you might feel as if that person is somebody good enough to socialise with.

This is not meant to excuse away racism, or any other immoral ideology – both the behavior and the social worldview that produces it is condemnable and to be fought against. But it still a reality that one must understand, to be able to judge one’s self and actions. Since most people rationalize their actions in such ways as described above, they cannot accept them or see them as evil or immoral; perhaps because they think that all those other people whom we condemn as unethical, the Nazis, and Fascists, and Klan members, were self-aware of doing ‘evil’ and since they themselves are not self-aware of doing so, they cannot be similar to those groups. Yet in fact all such groups consist of self-rationalizing members, and our ability to justify our actions as part of a discourse which paints them as moral, does not mean they truly are so.

Which brings us to the conflict in Palestine. Most Israelis seem shocked, angered and indignant, when someone from outside their society, who has not been conditioned with the same rationalizations, calls them racist, or Nazis, or Fascists. To them, this cannot be so, because ‘their’ actions are ‘obviously justified’ to themselves, dressed in the language of defense, ‘protection’ of a ‘democratic’ and ‘just’ society and of ‘moral’ values. They are not themselves conscious of, and actively seeking to, be ‘evil’. Knowing each other personally, they see people who, whatever their politics, seem normal human beings. So, how, to them, can they be compared to such condemnable views? Obviously it must be that the ones giving the criticism do so because they are not really familiar with Israeli society, and simply fail to see their point of view, and how their actions are rationalized.

What they fail to see is how all societies and all groups rationalize their actions in the same way as to seem natural to them. Humans are psychologically similar everywhere in the world. Israelis like to point out that there is internal ‘debate’ in their society, and different view points, as if that makes the fundamental nature of their society any less unethical – as if the debate, and difference in viewpoints in the old US, made segregation and widespread racism any less wrong. It is the very fact that the actions of the state of Israel and its fundamental Zionist nature are even topics for debate, and not immediately condemnable by all members of society other than the extreme fringes, that indicates that there is something with Israeli society.

Looking at the language of rationalization shows the same patterns in most cases of oppression. What is done, is done for the sake of defense, protecting society, or the state, or its ‘Aryan’ or ‘Jewish’ character, maintaining its ethical nature etc. Often this is done against an enemy who is somehow more inherently evil, or violent, who cannot come to accept the moral doctrines which must be protected. It is commonly said among Israelis that the only language Arabs understand is force. Ben Gurion described the Arabs as living in the 15th century. To many Zionists this line of thinking goes even further, seeing the Arabs not only as an immoral, violent group of people, but also as one that is, or was, actively occupying something they had no right to – so it was the Irgun and Lehi, and the early Haganah commanders were rationalizing their actions as ‘liberating’ the land of Israel from the occupying Arabs, even as they were carrying out atrocity after atrocity in ‘47-48 and forcing the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. This has been rationalized, as have all the range of policies of Israel throughout the decades, through the language of ‘defense’ and ‘protection’, of the myth of the irrational Arab who wants to kill Jews, and the myth of a moral Israel whose actions cannot be the main reason for the conflict and violence of the region.

Again, this sort of thinking is not new or original in any way. I’ve mentioned the similar rhetoric in ‘Birth of a Nation’. The same undercurrents can be seen in ‘Triumph of the Will’. In the start of the film, in the only commentary given, we are told ‘On 5 September 1934, …20 years after the outbreak of the World War… 16 years after the beginning of our suffering… 19 months after the beginning of the German renaissance… Adolf Hitler flew again to Nuremberg to review the columns of his faithful followers…’. Again, the Germans attracted to Nazi ideology did not do so because they were genetically more ‘evil’ than other men. They did so because the message it gave them was rationalized, in the language of protecting and creating a German renaissance, something that was ‘good’ and to be protected; It was rationalized in the language of a German society under attack and suffering, from its enemies outside and inside, from the powers that crippled it after WWI, and the ‘Jewish and Communist conspiracy’ devoted to humiliating it.

What is actually defended is an idea and a message. A message of a ‘White’, ‘Christian’ South, or an ‘Aryan’ Nazi nation-state that will bring forth the glory of the German people, or of a Jewish-state in Palestine that would be a ‘beacon onto the nations’, explained through anachronistic rhetoric of the ‘land of the ancestors’ and millennia old histories. All these messages were given more weight by a sense of the group in question being under attack or oppressed – whether such oppression was real or perceived – and none are any more moral than the other.

For the early Zionists, and Israelis today, it could not be conceivable that their state, or the state they were trying to create, was based on a set of ideas, that fundamentally, was not moral, and could not be acceptable to any other group of people it would affect. From its own perspective, Israel never did anything ‘wrong’ before or during 1948. Thus with this denial of its own character, it refused to acknowledge the grievances of the displaced Palestinians and surrounding Arabs, self-created the myth of the violent, immoral, uncooperative Arab, and reinforced the concept of its ‘security’ being guaranteed through a massive differential in force between it and the Arabs, which would involve a disproportionate use of force against them, and active work to keep the surrounding states weaker than itself. Israeli actions in effect created an internal racism against the remaining Arabs both inside it and in the neighboring states, policies of discrimination and displacement, active attempts for the de-development of the Arab states and the non-fulfillment of the aspirations of their citizens, and a huge number of military actions that led to the deaths of countless people. In being such an unstable influence in the region, Israel also helped in the radicalization of Arab politics, and the empowerment of extremist groups in the surrounding area.

That Israelis rationalize all of the above, and see all their actions as legitimate and moral defense is immaterial – everybody as we have seen does the same. The difference between Zionism, for that is really the message that is rationalized, and all the other movements examined, is that those are no longer supported, because the outside world has flooded the societies that followed them with messages of de-rationalization, and narratives that present the unethical nature of their character. This was not done in the case of Israel, initially due to Holocaust guilt, and today because of the earlier success of Israel in redefining and retelling history to the outside world.

I do not expect an Israeli or a supporter of Israel to be convinced of the immorality of Zionism by this argument, because to them, the narrative of the legitimacy of early Zionism leading to the creation of a largely blameless and moral Israel, that has to defend itself through legitimate actions and policies, is what they perceive as reality – and my aim here is not to proceed with historical analysis of events, trends, and statements, to disprove this view. That would be a much larger exercise. The point here is, that the fact that a narrative can be produced by the Israeli side to rationalize itself and its actions, does not mean that narrative is correct. Such narratives have existed for all movements, and for all cases of injustice – and the fact that Israelis do not see themselves as consciously unjust does not make them any less so that the Klan members of ‘Birth of a Nation’.

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