The Egyptian Foreign Ministry’s opposition to the Gaza Freedom March has "hardened" since it announced on December 20 that it would not allow the Code Pink-organized demonstration to enter the Strip from Rafah, on the Egyptian border. So a friend informs, and the San Francisco paper confirms.
The Egyptians have also revoked a permit for a planning meeting of marchers on Sunday Dec. 27th in Cairo. And they have indicated that they will block travel by marchers to El- Arish in the Sinai desert, the stopping off point for the Gaza border. From the facebook page for the Gaza organizers:
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 Freedom 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…. See More
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.
I’ll update when I learn anything firmer.
Medea Benjamin said on Democracy Now today that she is still appealing to the Egyptians to relent. "[T]he Egyptian government, we have worked with them for months, since September, on this, and suddenly, this week, they told us that we would not be allowed to go in. So we are flooding their embassies around the world with phone calls and pleas to let the Gaza Freedom March proceed into Gaza."