As you may or may not have heard today, the Egyptian government, citing security concerns and escalating tensions, has decided not to let the Gaza Freedom March cross into Gaza.
The foreign ministry has said they would not allow the march to take place because of the “sensitive situation in Gaza.” When was the last time the situation in Gaza wasn’t sensitive? The strip has been under siege and blockade for years now, by not only the Israeli government but the Egyptian government as well. What’s really amusing is while all of this is happening, Egypt has just begun constructing (with US funds) a metal wall along it’s border with Gaza, which will measure 10km long and delve some 18 metres below ground; a desperate attempt to cut the only lifeline the people of Gaza have left – the infamous “smuggling” tunnels. Of course, this is only after they initially denied it. Could their decision to ban the march be an attempt at brushing over the issue of the wall and steering media attention in a new direction?
It is interesting just how quickly this story made it to the headlines today. I got a call this morning from our Canadian coordinator for the march, in which she briefly mentioned an email that would come out later this morning informing us of this decision. By around noon today, the BBC story made it to my Facebook feed and from there it spread like wildfire to various alternative news sources. This is the first time since signing on to the march that I’ve seen a story this big about the Gaza Freedom March come out of a news source as well-known as the BBC. It’s as if the Egyptian government was waiting for just the right moment, with just the right statement, before feeding the press the perfect angle with which to cover this march.
Honestly, I may be the only one who feels like this, but I see this “ban” by the Egyptian government as a good thing. First, like the old adage goes: “any press is good press.” And that couldn’t be more true in this case. One of the core goals of this march (to me, atleast) has always been to amass as much media attention to the matter as possible. I wanted to see Al Jazeera, Press TV, Ramattan and others, at the march covering it with a live video feed streaming back to viewers all over the world! Ok, so the BBC article doesn’t necessarily match up 🙂 but it’s a start!
Second, it’s clear the Egyptian government simply just doesn’t care anymore; not about what they say, how they look to the world, or how they’ll be judged or accounted for their actions….kind of like their teacher and master, Israel. And like Israel, they too will be singled-out and targeted by massive campaigns of boycotts (tourism), formal complaints to consulates and embassies, and even just some good ol’ fashioned protests and demonstrations.
So even if we don’t get into the Gaza Strip on the 28th of December (or ever), I still can’t help but imagine what 1,400 internationals gathered at the Rafah border would look like from an aerial view…and that’s not even considering what may or may not happen with the Viva Palestina convoy! I can’t even begin to picture the visual impact that would make as it streams to all the television sets and computer monitors of the world.
Egyptian embassies and missions all over the world have already begun hearing by phone, fax and email from delegates and the supporters of the Gaza Freedom March with the clear message: “Let the international delegation enter Gaza and let the Gaza Freedom March proceed.”
We set out to break the siege of Gaza and that is EXACTLY what we will do!
If you want to help, please spread and share this information everywhere, through email, facebook, twitter, and blogs. Then, make sure you contact your Egyptian embassies and consulate offices to voice your support for the march and the delegates who are going.
You can find the contact information at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website here.
Below is a some sample text you can include in your correspondences:
I am writing to express my full support for the December 31, 2009 Gaza Freedom March, and am in touch with my Member of the Canadian Parliament on this issue.
I respectfully urge the Egyptian government to allow the 1,360 international delegates to enter the Gaza Strip through Egypt.
The aim of the march is to call on Israel to lift the siege. It is also humanitarian: the delegates will also take in badly needed medical aid, as well as school supplies and winter jackets for the children of Gaza.
Please let this historic March proceed. Doing so will do much to endear Egypt to both the marchers and their many friends and supporters.