Feb 2, 2010

Soweto yesterday, Gaza today………………..

The forces of apartheid demonstrate limitless capacity for barbarism!

Address by COSATU President to the Gaza Report-back Rally in Lenasia

Almost a year ago, Gaza was run down by the occupying forces of Israel in a barbaric show of might and in pursuit of their colonial expansionist ambitions. Schools, clinics, UN buildings, social services, water and electrical installations, cultural institutions and businesses literally crumbled under the weight of heavy bombs and artillery. Dangerous and banned warfare chemicals, like white phosphorus were used in an attempt to annihilate the entire population, in which case women and children were the worst victims. That was Israel at its best, doing what it knows best and what it has always done over the years to instil fear and terror amongst the occupied people.

Funded and supported by the US, Israel has no regard, whatsoever, for international law and continues to expand its colonial project to-date. Illegal settlements are all over Palestine and the inhumane treatment of the people of Gaza bears testimony to the savage occupation that some refuse to see, even when evidence is so naked.

Dear Comrades, we are not hear to tell more of the painful, yet real tales of Palestinian suffering. We are here to welcome back our heroes and internationalists who sacrificed their festive joys for the cause of other people. They set about an impossible mission to invade the lion’s den in a bold effort to demonstrate to the Gaza people that no matter how much their pain, the world community of progressive peoples shall never forsake them. You did that on all our behalf dear comrades and for that, we salute you!

As COSATU, we are proud of our contribution and are fully committed to work with all who share our views and commitment that the crisis in Palestine have gone beyond mere calls for Press statements and sympathies or even charity, to demanding concrete and practical action. The luxury of lamenting is for cowards and armchair activists. We all should be in the streets demanding justice and supporting all attempts to isolate apartheid Israel through the courageous efforts of the Global BDS Campaign. It remains the only peaceful method at the disposal of those in search for justice and a lasting solution to the crisis in that region.

We call upon all organisations, individuals and institutions to join our hands and support the efforts, as outlined in the historic Cairo Declaration, for effective co-ordination of all our efforts for maximum impact. In this regard, the many organisations in our country doing work in solidarity with Palestine are called upon to be part of the initiative towards a united front for solidarity with the people of Palestine, starting with all of us here in South Africa.

COSATU has, on several occasions, been asked by opportunists why is it interested in a matter so far away from our land. The answer is simple, solidarity knows no boundaries or even geography, its about living people and their plight.

Our destiny is tied to theirs, our liberation is tied to theirs, our humanity is tied to theirs. Therefore, no worthy human being would tolerate the suffering and pain of others, wherever they are, worst still, those of us who have fought heroic struggles against apartheid, colonialism and occupation immediately feel it however far. We received solidarity from people we have never seen and were far away from Africa, let alone our country. They heard and responded to our cries. They did not ask how far are we from them. They asked what can we do to assist and they assisted, hence we are free.

Finally, dear comrades, we salute the courageous efforts of the Palestine Solidarity movement for organising these bold initiatives and they have our full support. We shall not be intimidated by attempts to silence us or some of our comrades. We shall be inspired to speak out even more louder and anger for the threat to deny us our right to shout loud against savagery.

We are here to affirm the correctness of our legend, Nelson Mandela’s words, “……………………our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians”. On our part, we do not promise to do everything, but our most humble, yet effective contribution which we have no doubt shall make a decisive difference. Each one of us must do our part and together we shall conquer.

Amandla intifada!!

Dec 31, 2009

PowerfuL statement For GAza from Streets OF Cairo

Close to a 1000 people took the streets of Cairo, to march against being denied enter into Gaza and participation in the Gaza Freedom March . Delegates from almost 43 different nations had converged in downtown Cairo across the Egyptian museum bringing peak time traffic to a standstill as the marched for almost 2 kilometers.

A delegation of some 700 Palestinian activists from around the globe gathered early this morning to embark on their protest action.There was a heavy police presence, with reinforcements close by, which suggested that the Egyptian intelligence had already been informed about the events.

The lotus hotel, where part of the American delegation where staying was barricaded not allowing them to leave. The South African delegation was advised to leave the hotel as the police were stopping people from leaving the building.

At 10am, the group broke free from where they were standing at the gates of the Egyptian Museum and ran into the center of the road in a symbolic protest.They were joined with other delegates all coming together from different angles. Chanting as they the marched through the street, they completely blocked traffic,and security officials had taken their positions around the protesters. Riot police had been violent, shoving protesters, grabbing their equipment and pushed protesters with steel barricades, closing off the entire area.

One protester was pulled off the street by the police, which started a sit-down in protest by other protesters. Chaos reigned when police turned violent and started pulling people off the street and shoving them onto the sidewalk.

The Egyptian police punched, kicked and pinched women as they tried to evacuate people off the street. After some resistance people all moved to the sidewalk where they where contained. Walking around the besieged square, one could see many hysterical peoples, tears and blood flowed and many sported injuries from the manhandling.Fellow journalist, Cii reporter, Azhar Vadi has video footage of the police kicking demonstrators.

The South African delegation was out in full force, with some of its members suffering minor injuries. Faeza Desai said that they had push the steel barriers over her and dragged her by her feet, when she had fallen they had dragged her by her. thy had also thrown her camera into the crowd, but she managed to find it. According to Desai, the only thing that saved her was "screaming Allahu Akbar".

A Canadian delegate of Palestinian descent was very distraught as she recounted the police pulling her hijab and her pants as they pulled her to the sidewalk. Tears ran down another Canadian delegate who was punched in the face caused her nose to bleed profusely.

A group of approximately 500 people where barricaded into a part of the square by riot police. In solidarity the different delegations chanted slogans, sang, danced and protested against the Egyptians governments refusal to allow safe passage in Gaza and the continued enclosure of the Gaza strip.

The protesters where kept in for the entire day, with protesters hanging banners an flags of their country from trees and poles showing their support to the course. Branches of leaves symbolizing the olive tree were waved in the air as the delegates chanted anti Israel slogans!Each country had a chance to address the group and share their messages to the international audience, the South African delegation led the protest in a chant of Amandla Intifada!

The riot police had tried to compress the crowd and constrict them closer together but the group had managed to keep them from advancing further onto the group. The square nicknamed Gaza Square was a symbolic siege that the Palestinians go through each day. The riot police increased in numbers, generals, the military and Egyptian intelligence where all present.

As the day got hotter, the crowd simmered down, with people sitting down in little groups singing songs of freedom and hope. Water and some food was allowed in, but generally people where not allowed back n after they had left. The lack of taps and facilities for water became a problem, and after some thought a contingency plan was found, a makeshift men and ladies were created. As the time of midday prayer drew in,protesters made tayyamum and perform salaah with items of clothing and boxes used as prayer mats.

With the sun getting lower,there was talks of people camping over and seeing in the new year at Gaza square,the calmness of the group soon made the police ansy, with intelligence infiltrating within the group. This caused a reaction of people protesting a little more fervently, rallying in the support of the cars passing in one of the main roads in Cairo.The march came to a dignified end with a speech by Scottish Delegate member, Mick Naipers.

Today's action,contrary to the concern of many, had created a wave in the media, with many media breaking the story.

Delegation's left the square and were followed by an Egyptian Intelligence member to ensure people do not start anther protest.

Currently the French are still camped outside their embassy to protest being denied access to Gaza.Few hunger strikers re observing dry fast until they are allowed into the occupied territory.

** pictures to follow **

hasina Gori
Live 4rm Cairo, Egypt

all or nothing

This morning many event had unfolded in Cairo amidst speculations of whether or not the 100 person convoy will proceed to Gaza. Last night saw many delegations still deliberating over whether to participate and send a representative to Gaza, accepting the offer by the Egyptian government to allow less than 7% of the entire delegation to travel with aid to the besieged area.

Ilham Rawoot of the Mail and Gaurdian wrote this article :

Protesters have rejected the Egypt's offer to allow 100 of the 1 300 protesters and journalists in Cairo to enter Gaza for a freedom march.

About 40 people boarded buses for Gaza late on Wednesday morning. The remaining protesters have planned a demonstration for Thursday morning in the city.

The offer to allow 100 of the 1 300 protesters and journalists in Cairo to enter Gaza for a freedom march.

About 40 people boarded buses for Gaza late on Wednesday morning. The remaining protesters have planned a demonstration for Thursday morning in the city.

The offer to allow 100 protesters into Gaza -- made by Suzanne Mubarak, wife of Egypt President Hosni Mubarak and the chairperson of the Red Crescent -- was accepted by one of the march organisers, Code Pink, a US anti-war group that is mainly composed of women.

The decision was met by anger, and much deliberation, with protesters climbing on and off the buses. Only about 40 people finally headed to Gaza.

Kevin Pardo from San Francisco, who had been on one of the buses, said: “From the beginning there were mixed feelings on the buses, everyone was so unsure."

"People were crying and breaking down," he told the Mail & Guardian.

Code Pink have since decided not to accept Egypt's offer.

Ziyaad Lunat, a member of the march coordinating committee, said they rejected Egypt's offer as a "token gesture".

"We refuse to whitewash the siege of Gaza. Our group will continue working to get all 1 362 marchers into Gaza as one step towards the ultimate goal for the complete end of the siege and the liberation of Palestine” said Lunat.

The South African delegation, led by Judge Siraj Desai, which also includes members of the South African Congress of Trade Unions, opted not to send delegates, with a view that it was a “sell-out position”, and “dilutes” the political campaign against the occupation of Palestine.

Canada, Greece and France also decided not to send delegates.

Haroon Wadee, a coordinator of the South African delegation, told the M&G that international solidarity was crucial to freeing the Palestinian people. “We don’t want to see this diluted. In going from sending 1 400 people to sending 100, we are not only diluting the group, but we are diluting the message.”

Sensitive situation
After months of discussions with the organisers, the Egyptian government announced last week that they would not allow any of the contingent through the border due to what it termed, “the sensitive situation in Gaza”.

This led to a number of large international protests against the Egyptian government in Cairo since Monday.

Earlier on Tuesday, the South African delegates found a large police contingent awaiting them outside their hotel in the morning, who then questioned and accompanied them for most of the day.

Dec 30, 2009

100 to go to Gaza

Protest leaders stranded in Cairo accepted an Egyptian offer on Tuesday to allow only 100 out of about 1,300 protesters into blockaded Gaza after the activists staged demonstrations and a hunger strike.

The decision split delegates from more than 40 countries who came to Cairo planning to reach the Palestinian enclave, which shares the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.

Some organisers said Egypt's offer was a victory after it initially refused to allow any of the protesters into the Gaza Strip for the Gaza Freedom March, which is scheduled to take place on Thursday.

"It's a partial victory," said Medea Benjamin, an American activist and one of the demonstrations organisers. "It shows that mass pressure has an effect."

They said the foreign ministry offered to let them choose 100 delegates who would be allowed into Gaza. They were due to leave Cairo for Gaza on Wednesday morning.

Activists have staged demonstrations and sit-ins around Cairo to push for entry to Gaza. Dozens of French activists camped out in front of their embassy in Cairo after being refused passage.

The offer, however, angered many of the activists. A French organiser rejected it as divisive and said the sit-in in front of the French embassy would continue.

"This just gives the Egyptian government a photo-up and the chance say we allowed people through," said Bassem Omar, a Canadian protester. Activists left behind in Cairo said they planned further protests.

Egypt had said it barred the protesters because of the "sensitive situation" in Gaza. It has refused to permanently open the Rafah crossing since the militant Islamist group Hamas took over Gaza in 2007, prompting Israel's blockade, but opens it for a few days every month.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said earlier at a press conference that his country would allow some of the protesters to enter Gaza.

"We are looking into allowing a limited number...in the coming days," he said. He accused other protesters of "conspiring" against Egypt and said they could remain "on the street."

Egypt has vigorously contested allegations of complicity in the blockade of Gaza, which was devastated last winter during a war between its Hamas rulers and Israel that killed more than 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.

Separately, organisers of another aid convoy trying to reach Gaza -- Viva Palestina led by British MP George Galloway -- said it would head to Syria en route for Egypt after being stranded in Jordan's Red Sea port of Aqaba for five days.

They had planned to drive to Gaza from the Red Sea port of Nuweiba -- the most direct route -- but Egypt insisted the convoy could only enter through El-Arish, on its Mediterranean coast.

Chants as Netanyahu meets Mubarak

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Cairo for a 90-minute meeting on Tuesday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for talks that focused on breaking the deadlock in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. He was greeted by a sour atmosphere in The Egyptian capital.

The chants of “Down with Isreal”, “Stop the War”, “Free Gaza”, and “Down with Netanyahu” could be heard ringing outside the Syndicate of Journalist building in Cairo from late this afternoon. Egyptian nationals and foreign delegates from 43 nations converged on the stairways of the building to protest Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Egyptian government had deployed their riot police to create a human barricade to contain the growing crowd. The load vocal group consisted of local Egyptians including housewives and journalist and international delegations from Austria, Italy, South Africa, Switzerland and many more.

Chatted with an Egyptian journalist Ahmed Ragb, who had come to lend support to the protest, Ahmed was one of the journalists who had been detained on Monday, at the French Embassy in Cairo, for recording footage of the protest. He says that Egyptian police had detained him for a few hours, letting him go after minor harassment.

According to Ragb, this was the first time that riot police had not being physical at a protest. Egyptian police usually have long baton that they use on demonstrators. He recounted an incident of his arm being broken last year while protesting on the 27th of December against the Israel offensive.

Checkpoints for Gaza

Day 2 for the South Africans dawned with grey skies. The group found themselves harassed by local “tourist” police at their hotel demanding to know their movement for the day. After informing the police of where they would be heading, the police obtained taxies for the group, taking down the particulars of the taxi drivers as well as escorted the delegation to the South African embassy.  They were welcomed by the General of the Police Force outside the South African embassy in Cairo and allowed to meet with the Counsellor, Seaelo Ramokgopa.

Ramokgopa expressed her sympathy to the delegation and informed the delegation that “we are in a police state (Egypt)”. The Egyptian government is known for their vigilant security and especially with an issue that’s very sensitive to then, the Rafah crossing.

According to the Counsellor  the group has been monitored since they touch downed in Egyptian soil and Egyptian intelligence had known of our movements before the Embassy had even being aware that we where present in the country.

The South African delegation had met with the embassy to ensure security form the Egyptian harassment and to be allowed to move freely. They also wanted the South African government to support the South African delegation and help facilitate entry into Gaza. The demands of the delegation were also for the South African government to put pressure for the Gaza Freedom March to be allowed.

A statement by the Egyptian government dated the 22 of this month was brought to the attention of the delegation. The document stated that “Egypt will not approve the Gaza freedom march… and any activity on Egyptian soil is illegal.” The ambiguous statement does not define what activities are not permitted placing limitations on the delegates to mobilize and strategize effectively. According to Egyptian law, any meeting of more than 1000 is illegal.

Achmat Azzam, a member of the Palestinian Issues in the Foreign Ministry, informed the embassy that the Rafah crossing will be opened for a few days next week only to allow Gazans that need healthcare to enter Cairo and not for foreigners to enter the Strip.

After the lengthy meeting where the embassy stressed their support for the wellbeing of the delegation and empathized with the situation the delegation was in, yet stated the South African embassy could not do much.

The delegation exited to find the General and his team still lingering outside where once again they where asked their destination, found taxi and their drivers particulars noted down.

This was not the last of the monitoring, the group has been tailed throughout the day by plain cloths as well as uniformed police officers whop claim its for the safety of oneself.

Dec 29, 2009

sa delegation monitored by egytian police

Live update :sa delegation being followed by egyptian police. We are currently being esc0urtd to the sa embassy where we have a meeting with our ambassador . The police have got us taxies and taken details of driverz and also tailing us to ensure we are going were we claim 2!they claim itz 4 our safety.just passed d french embassy the army has encircled the area wile protesters dem0nstrate.
Hasina gori live from cairo,egypt