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Palestine/Gaza: In Preparation for the Gaza Freedom March

Gaza Victory
On the 31 December, the Gaza Freedom March is taking place to mark a year passing since Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli attack on Gaza.

The International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza is mobilising an international contingent to march alongside the people of Gaza, in a non-violent show of solidarity and with the hope of ending the Gaza blockade.

Many of the participants have already arrived in Cairo in preparation.

The Freedom March has the participation of many noteworthy people, including author Alice Walker, Syrian actor and director Duraid Lahham, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, and French rap group MAP, amongst others.
Amongst the participants is 84-year old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstien.

Hedy Epstein has been actively raising awareness about the march. On 01 Dec 2009, along with J’Ann Allen, the wife of a retired military officer and Sandra Mansour, a Palestinian refugee, she issued a public invitation to political activist, Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel to go to Gaza with them.
Wiesel was urged to “Break Your Silence and Come With Us”, during a speech at St.Louis University:

Hedy Epsteins participation in the March has been met with much appreciaton:
Desertpeace applauds her participation:

Seeing a survivor of those horrors [The Holocaust] struggle against today’s evils is truly an inspiration. I am speaking of Hedy Epstein, who as I write this, is on her way to Gaza to take part in the Gaza Freedom March. This is what the Holocaust should have ‘produced’ as an ‘industry’, an industry that does not allow a repetition of the past…. NEVER AGAIN!

The organisation of the march has not, however, been without its hurdles, and organisers the International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza, have not been beyond criticism.

Norman Finkelstein, author of The Holocaust Industry and ‘dreamer’ of the march, was initially an active member of the coalition, but has since resigned. His frustration came from a much-debated change in the statement of the coalition. The original statement of the coalition was to march to break the siege in accordance with the principle of non-violence and anchored in international law. The statement was later amended to include the ‘political context,’ which Finkelstein deemed divisive as it brought in potentially contentious issues unnecessary to the original appeal.  While he does not specify the exact amendments with which he objects, he comments in his address Why I resigned from the Gaza Freedom March coalition:

It should perhaps be stressed that the point of dispute was not whether one personally supported a particular Palestinian right or strategy to end the occupation. It was whether inclusion in the coalition’s statement of a particular right or strategy was necessary if it was both unrelated to the immediate objective of breaking the siege and dimmed the prospect of a truly mass demonstration.

His high-profile departure was accompanied by the withdrawal of a number of other active members. Max at Jewbonics noted his departure from the movement with regret. As an organiser of the march he responded to fears that others would leave the movement, reporting:

I think it is safe to say that number lost will be dwarfed by the number gained, if what I've seen in-person and on-line has been any indication

Despite concerns over the numbers endorsing the march, this is indeed a mass demonstration, and is the first time that Palestinians will be coming together in such large numbers along with international support: there are an estimated 1,300 international participants participating, who will meet in Cairo and march alongside a predicated 50,000 local residents once they have crossed into Gaza through Rafah.

At the Electronic Intifada, Rami Almeghari reports that:

In recent months, people in Gaza believe the international community began to direct its attention elsewhere, neglecting the siege of Gaza. Few international media outlets pay attention to the situation here.

The march hopes to change this. Mustafa al-Kayali, coordinator of the steering committee for the Gaza Freedom March, reports:

We call on the internationals who come here not to consider their visits as tourism. Rather, they should convey a real message from the ground to their peoples, organizations or governments…
Most of local youth with whom I talked over the Gaza Freedom March expressed excitement and enthusiasm for participation. They are keen to send a message to the outside world that the Palestinian people are there and that humans should be united for the sake of freedom.

More information about the Gaza Freedom March, its participants, mission, and on-going preparation, can be found here.

36 comments

  • I’m glad to see Global Voices is taking a stand on this issue. The Left needs to stop treating the Palestine question as a taboo subject.

    • Not intending to speak for Katharine, only myself, but as a Global Voices author, I often get comments implying that I am championing or decrying the content of the article.I think it is a mistake to say that an author is “taking a stand” in covering a particular area. As GVO authors, it is our role to bring stories to light that are underrepresented in the mainstream media.

      While I agree that this is an important article for the issues it raises, it seems to me you are making assumptions about it.

      I do question calling Operation Cast lead “the Israel attack on Gaza,” however, without elaborating further because that makes it sound purely offensive when there was serious impetus for it to occur.

      There’s a separation that needs to be made between the:
      – How it started– both sides have perspectives
      – What happened in the duration (the March’s and this article’s focus)– again and as always, both sides have perspectives

      ~ Maya
      Global Voices Online, Israel

      • The intention of the article was to raise some awareness about the GFM, which has not been covered adequately by the press here in the UK, and to present some of the issues that have arisen during its’ planning.
        It is difficult to present all perspectives without writing very lengthy articles;- this is particularly true when it comes to topics such as the above. As such it was not my intention to take a stand, but more to cover the narrow scope of the preparation for the GFM without discussing the wider issue here.
        Maya: You make a good point. It was an error on my part to not elaborate regarding Operation Cast Lead and i should have defined it differently. I acknowledge that the way it is presented above is only offering one viewpoint on the matter. Apologies.

        • Completely understood. It’s hard in this region to know where to begin an explanation and to find a footing when it comes to starting a story.

          I appreciated reading your article.

          ~ Maya

  • Concerned

    What about the Israeli children killed by Qassam rockets (which is the very reason for the Gaza Operation last year), will the international community be marching for them as well?

  • MERC

    The Gaza Freedom March is international grass roots politics at its best and a reflection of the fact that the real world, as opposed to the world of gutless and clueless Western political leaders and their clients in the Middle East, is solidly on the side of the Palestinian people in their hour of need.

  • MERC

    Would ‘Concerned’ care to be more specific? Can he name these “children” killed by Qassam rockets fired from the Gaza Strip and provide a date for their deaths? If he can’t, we might – Heaven forbid! – be forgiven for thinking that his post is more about (post-Gaza/Goldstone) Israeli propaganda than genuine concern.

  • MERC

    But do “both sides have” equally valid “perspectives,” Maya?

    • MERC, your antagonisms leave me cold– which I’m sure will have you talking about the cold children of Gaza with no heat or something equivalent.

      To reiterate here and for all future posts, you know who I am, I do not know who you are nor do you ever care to step out from behind your mask. I do my best in covering the many voices of the Israeli perspective, while your sole purpose is to cut down anything with the name “Israel” associated with it. I’ve tried to have discussions with you in the past, but you’re not interested in discourse. This leaves us with no possible middle ground from which we can, either of us, gain a better understanding of each other, so I see no point in engaging further.

      ~ Maya

  • MERC

    For Heaven’s sake, Katharine, what “perspective” is it that you’re apologising for not presenting? That of the war criminals and ethnic cleansers which dominates the Western corporate media? We’ve got a march on here precisely because the Israelis have had their boots on the necks of the Palestinian people for over 60 years, and you feel the need to apologise for not also presenting their point of view. Why?

  • MERC

    Maya, your lame excuse for Israel’s recent running amok in Gaza (and elsewhere) – that Israel has its reasons, and that these should be endlessly parotted and referenced by everyone who writes on the topic of its crimes in Palestine – belies your claimed interest in ‘discourse’ and ‘understanding’. Your POV is simply ‘My country right or wrong’. And by intervening on this thread with such a line you are knowingly doing your bit to marginalise and silence the truly global voice of the Gaza Freedom marchers.

  • Kevin Charles Herbert

    Maya: may I ask you what you believe was the serious impetus for the Cast Lead operation to occur?

    I believe it’s important that when points of order are raised, that the reasons are concisely provided.

  • Inna

    Hi Maya,

    Of course there were serious motivations behind the Israeli assault on Gaza. But you probably know as well as I do, that these motivations have nothing to do with Qassams or the safety of southern residents. They have much more to do with Israeli politics of isolating the Gaza strip, fragmenting it from the West bank, encouraging Palestinians to migrate from Palestine, radicalizing Hamas and other para-military groups in order to have a good excuse to refuse negotiations, returning the lost “honor” from the Second Lebanon War, etc.

    Katharine – I don’t think that the “Israeli attack on Gaza” which is pretty descriptive (by air, land and sea), is somehow less neutral or objective than the official defenition of the Israeli government. It is not “above one point of view”, it is exactly one point of view – of the Israeli government.

    When the attack begin, I was among the organizers of the protest actions in Israel. During the last week of the attack I was speaking in Germany, and I always emphasized that I don’t mind how people call it “attack”, “war”, “massacre”, “ethnic cleansing”. No word can be strong enough to describe the hell created by Israel in Gaza (not only as a result of this attack, but also for the 4 years of siege and over 40 years of occupation – not to mention that so many of the elderly Gazans are refugees from 1948).

    What bothers me is not the fact that people don’t address the official position of the Israeli government, but the fact that people are often not as critical of their own governments as they are of others. Migration is a good example.

  • Robby

    Does anyone HONESTLY believe the war in Gaza was based on a unilateral decision? Doesn’t HAMAS own some of the responsibility by refusing to stop the missiles?

    I am not in support of the Egyptian/Israeli siege on Gaza, but don’t you think HAMAS owns some of the blame? HAMAS refused the three conditions for negotiations when they took control, 1) Renounce violence, 2) Recognize Israel and 3) Honor past agreement. IMO HAMAS could have just agreed to the first two, but they didn’t.

    You would expect HAMAS to have the health and welfare of the people that elected them as their primary job, not their own ideals. Why would the Palestinians expect the Egyptians or the Israeli’s to care more about them then their own elected government?

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