Cairo meets the movement, with tears and chaos and exaltation

on 110 Comments

Today the Gaza Freedom March fragmented slightly when in the face of stern opposition from their fellows about 80 people headed off to Gaza on buses, the rest staying in Cairo.

But wait, weren’t you trying to go to Gaza? Yes, but it has been quite a drama. How to state this clearly…

Over the last week, as the international marchers arrived in Egypt, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry made it very clear that it did not want them going into Gaza, and it would arrest them short of that goal. But these 1400 are not tourists or milquetoasts, they are activists; and they were not going to be stopped by any old Ministry, even the ministry of a police state. Many set out by bus and taxi to the Sinai desert, while the 300 members of the French group camped out in front of the French Embassy across from the Cairo Zoo, demanding to go even as they were ringed by riot police.

After hunger strikes and demos and international press, and supposedly too the intervention of the president’s clement wife Suzanne Mubarak, the Egyptians relented yesterday and said, Well 100 of you can go in, two busfuls. I heard about this first as a rumor last night at an Egyptian-led rally at the Journalists Syndicate building in opposition to Bibi Netanyahu’s visit to Hosni Mubarak (Down Down Hosni Mubarak!), and already many of us were wondering, who would get the call? Code Pink, the antiwar group that has led the organizing, claimed victory and sent out a bulletin to delegations to select the two or three members who could go. Some delegations duly nominated representatives. But the decision set off an angry and wrenching round of all-night meetings, some of them in hotel stairwells, with many coming out against the deal. Even the Gaza Freedom March steering committee voted against the slice of bread that was being offered, instead of the whole loaf.

Then, I gather, the Egyptians made the deal even more problematic by issuing a statement saying that the 100 peaceful people were being allowed to go to Gaza, implying that the rest of us were hooligans.

Still Code Pink went forward with its plan, and at 6:30 this morning the lucky few gathered on a sidewalk on Ramses Street near the bus station. Over the next 4 hours I witnessed agony and torment, and said a secret blessing that I had not tried to get on the buses last night. A crowd of those opposed to the 100 stood outside barricades set up around the buses and shouted "All or none!" and "Get off the Bus!" It turned out that they had many confederates among the 100 who boarded the buses– confederates who at a signal marched off the buses, some giving heroic speeches.

The people staying on the buses leaned out the doors to say that the Gazans wanted them to come so as to to join their march to the Israeli border on the 31st. But they wavered. Indeed, you saw some of the most resolute activists on the planet—Bernardine Dohrn, the law professor and former member of the Weather Underground; Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada; and Donna Mulhearn, an Australian woman who was a human shield during the beginning of he Iraq war, board the bus and get it off it, and then board it again and get off it, and on and on.

Abunimah, who had been roughed up by security at the American Embassy yesterday, told me it was the hardest decision he’d ever had to make. It was an individual decision, he had no clarity on it, and no one could tell you what to do, and he respected the decisions of all parties. Mulhearn said that going to Iraq in 2003 had been easy compared to this; for that choice was in the face of physical danger and she would take that any day, this was in the face of moral doubt. As for the Egyptian statement that only hooligans were staying behind in Cairo, she said it was a lie, she would say so on her blog, and the people who were against anyone going on that basis were giving the Egyptian security state power. Dohrn said that the principle of "All or none" was a miserable one for activist politics. You always took what you could get and kept fighting for more. A European man in a red keffiyeh screamed at her that she was serving the fascisti. Her partner Bill Ayers gently confronted him and asked him why he was so out of control. Between getting on and off the bus, Dohrn, who wore a flower in her hair, said that she didn’t like the absolutist certainty of the people on the other side of the police barricades, and having been in the Weather Underground, she knew something about absolutist feeling.

In the end Dohrn and Abunimah got off the bus. Mulhearn stayed on, I heard. A big reason for them was a call that Abunimah had with leaders of civil society in Gaza, who said, if this is going to hurt the movement, don’t come. We will march without you. (The message, from Haidar Eid and Omar Barghouti, says, "After a lot of hesitation and deliberation, we are writing to call on you to reject the ‘deal’ reached with the Egyptian authorities. This deal is bad for us and, we deeply feel, terrible for the solidarity movement.") Abunimah abided by that call (and later told me he had no regrets, he was clear now). I saw other friends sitting on the sidewalk crying, as they tried to figure out what to do.

No one had slept. Many were smoking (when in Rome…).

The argument for the majority went like this: We have come a long way with the support of an international community. We have come to march in Gaza to lift the siege against the people there. Many of us are walking our talk, by confronting the Egyptian power at the French Embassy. Now we are giving into the siege by accepting a piecemeal offering, when the core principle here is inarguable: the people of Gaza must have freedom of movement, freedom to come and go. We will show our power and solidarity not by acceding to the terms of a police state that is working with the U.S. and Israel, but by demanding our rights as a bloc here in Cairo. And by doing so, we will dramatize the Palestinian condition and serve the most important element of the struggle: activating an international movement.

I could see the other side, too. There is nothing like an actual trip to Gaza to politicize people, and having had that experience myself, I had urged some young people to have it. But I can see that I am a lousy movement person, and that the overall sense of the movement was clear and emphatic. We will work from Cairo to gain publicity for Palestinian oppression. Big deal we’re not in Gaza, it’s like being in Birmingham when the big march is going down in Selma.

By the way, the South African contingent, many of them veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle, were no-doubters on the question: we stay in Cairo.

I can see both sides, but it was a convulsive experience. People turned on one another, the Code Pink leadership was accused of being all hat and no saddle. Young people I saw last night walking around biting their lips in the hope that they might be chosen to get a seat on the bus were today enraged and vituperative at the idea that anyone was getting on the bus—a transformation out of As You Like It.

Yet I remind readers that good things are arising from this experience. The Americans, who are so conditioned to living with the Israel lobby, as an abused wife to her battering husband, are being exposed to a more adamant politics—we are having a rendezvous with the Freedom Riders. For another thing, our direct actions and demonstrations seem to be awaking Egypt, a little, and getting a lot of publicity. Helen Schiff told me that the front page of an official government newspaper today said, "Mubarak to Netanyahu: Lift the siege and end the suffering of the Palestinian people." We gave him that line! she said. A longtime civil rights activist, Helen told me it’s "fabulous" what happened, we are achieving more in Cairo than we would if we had gotten into Gaza.

So there’s a tumultuous and ascendant feeling here tonight, in the little hotels that we have to meet in to make our plans. I can feel the spirit of the Freedom Riders and of the abolitionists, who fought the limits on freedom of movement of black people for so long in my country. As for the divisions, and bitterness, I think they will go away. A European friend advised me tonight that those who take the Palestinian side will find that they share somewhat in the Palestinian experience. They will experience isolation, division, bitterness, failure, contempt, manipulation. Surely not on the scale of the Palestinians; still, they will experience some of those things, and they will grow from them.

Having weathered the storm, tomorrow this group has more action plans. I have to be quiet about them now, because I crunched into another stairwell tonight for a planning session. Still, it should be dramatic. The international street has come to the Arab street, and everyone is learning. 

110 Responses

  1. potsherd
    December 30, 2009, 4:27 pm

    How your account reminds me of long-ago days! You are making history, it will never be forgotten.

    • zamaaz
      December 30, 2009, 5:08 pm

      Wow, what an euphoric peak! The ecstacy is similar to breaking down the Iron curtain (despite there was no war involved…), or the rallies in Iran (despite no electoral fraud involved in Israel conflict). In this case, it is just Egypt facing a scenario of ‘sowing the seeds’ of subversion, and the prospect of rebellion. This is real trouble!

      • Shafiq
        December 31, 2009, 3:16 am

        There is a wall though – a wall that isolates the Gazan Palestinians from everyone else. Breaking that down would be similar to breaking the Berlin Wall down. Remember the euphoria when that happened?

    • annie
      December 30, 2009, 7:26 pm

      absolutely! we are having a rendezvous with the Freedom Riders.

      i hope they cover lots of ground. tomorrow i will be joining many to march across the golden gate. let there be solidarity action tomorrow all across the globe for a free palestine.

    • James Bradley
      December 30, 2009, 8:36 pm

      Phil, you guys will go down in history, no doubt.

  2. Rehmat
    December 30, 2009, 4:37 pm

    ADL, Mossad, CIA and MI5, all have fantastic backgrounds to create or infiltrate the protest rallies against the people they don’t like. That’s what is going on in Tehran before and after the June presidential election. In case Mubbarak start listening to his conscience – Israel Lobby’s know how to perform his character-assassination as they’re currently doing with Ahmadinejad, Erdogan and Chavez.

    link to

    • zamaaz
      December 30, 2009, 5:10 pm

      ADL, Mossad, CIA and MI5, Ahmadinejad, Erdogan and Chavez or not, what solely remains is the future of the Egyptian government…

  3. Susie Kneedler
    December 30, 2009, 4:40 pm

    Thanks, Phil, for your great conscience and reports.

  4. Oscar
    December 30, 2009, 4:49 pm

    Great stuff, Phil! Glad you didn’t get on the bus. Stay in Cairo with Ali and make some history.

  5. Eva Smagacz
    December 30, 2009, 4:50 pm

    It reminds me of heady days of pre-Solidarity, after visit of Pope John Paul II made people realise just how many of us there were who shared a vision of better, more equitable Poland.

    We drew symbol of Anchor with letter P at the top of the shank as a symbol of free Poland.

  6. sammy
    December 30, 2009, 4:54 pm

    Wow, sounds like an emotional experience. Tell us more.

  7. Richard Witty
    December 30, 2009, 4:58 pm

    Interesting reporting.

    I hope that you are successful at realizing a consented relaxation of the Gazans isolation.

    I personally hope that it is accompanied by Shalit being returned to his family, relaxation of the border crossings, establishment of international management of the Gazan harbor, recognition by Hamas of Israel (not only acceptance of Palestine at 67 borders).

    Maybe you were the straw that changed the game.

    I hope that you respect that things can fall apart, and urge your colleagues to express care, including love of their “enemy”, and not just non-violent civil disobedience as an instrumental tactic, a force.

    • Citizen
      December 30, 2009, 6:15 pm

      What do you mean, Dick Witty, when you say ” recognition by Hamas of Israel (not only acceptance of Palestine at 67 borders)?”
      What do you want recognized as morally, ethically, and legally enforceable?

    • aparisian
      December 30, 2009, 8:51 pm

      Shalit again and again Yes Free Free Shalit but Free free the Palestinian prisoners, Stop the war criminals and send them to the hague. Remember Gold Stone Dick Witty?

      The enemy can not be loved, its like Nazi.

    • potsherd
      December 30, 2009, 9:32 pm

      He can’t ever not stick his own agenda in, under a false pretense of good will.

      • Richard Witty
        December 30, 2009, 10:03 pm

        The agenda of reconciling, rather than only victories.

        If victories make reconciling possible, wonderful. If they just add up to “we’ve got them on the run”, better that the approach be criticized.

        There is rational basis of distrust of all positions there. Better that some means to improve trust occur. Untying the knot in fact.

      • Chaos4700
        December 31, 2009, 2:31 am

        And reconciling means not prosecuting Israeli war crimes, huh? That’s your angle, I’m guessing. You’re happy to see octogenarians go up on trial for their participation in Nazi Germany many decades after the fact, but crimes against humanity that happened last year are supposed to be forgotten, huh.

      • aparisian
        December 31, 2009, 8:48 am

        reconciliation means bringing justice to the victims, its easy to go and massacre your neighbours, and steal their home and then ask them for reconciliation. How can you talk about reconciliation when the sufferance is still there? When the crimes are still committed? How can you keep humiliating someone and on the other hand you ask him for reconciliation? reconciliation is mutual Witty. Huh Dick Witty, are you a robot with no humanity at all in you?

      • Richard Witty
        December 31, 2009, 9:00 am

        And, on the flip side, its easy to harass and murder your neighbors without qualm for decades, and ask for “justice”.

        Are you a robot with no humanity at all?

        There is a difference between agitation that urges reconciliation (and justice as a means to that) and agitation that urges revenge.

      • aparisian
        December 31, 2009, 9:14 am

        Witty, they are not the one who used the F-16s and the white phosphorus on children, they are not the ones who destroy homes, schools and factories, they are not the one who impose the siege on Gaza concentration camp, they are not the one who fuck up with the international law, how could you talk about justice if you just ignore the international law?

        Nope i m not a robot, i am a human being and thats why i feel the huge injustice the people of the ME feel, You are the robot with no humanity at all, programmed with religious myths, and cruel colonial enterprise ideologies.

        “Agitation that urges revenge”, are you serious? people want justice to be served? is that what you call a revenge?

        Dick witty, are you a robot please tell me, do you like human beings?

      • Richard Witty
        December 31, 2009, 9:23 am

        I feel multiple injustices. I feel injustices instigated by Israel state. And, I feel injustices instigated by Hamas.

        Neither of them are the civilians caught in the crossfire.

        To ignore one civilian or the other, puts one in the role of partisan rationalizer, rather than humanist.

        You are mistaking my question to you. Are you a partisan or a humanist, is perhaps a more accurate question?

      • aparisian
        December 31, 2009, 9:38 am

        Witty if you sincere about these injustices, what are your recommendations what do you think the International community should do?

        “Neither of them are the civilians caught in the crossfire.”, does that mean that Israel is like a tyranny with no control, but how can you keep supportting this dangerous tyranny with F-16s, chemical and nuclear weapons. Ok Hamas are bunch of crap, why do Israelis then dont make peace with Fatah? why they keep colonising and expelling Pals?

      • Richard Witty
        December 31, 2009, 11:00 am

        I think the international community should do what it can to improve the status of Palestinians, first short-term by focusing the urging of single large humanitarian shipments through one of the Israeli crossings.

        Mid-term, by establishing auditable international protocols for guarantee that Israelis are not shelled from Gaza.

        Also mid-term, that some nation contract to manage the Gazan port, including inspection and record-keeping to a level of double the 2007 level of cross-border trade.

        If Hamas learns then that that improvement in Gazans status is better than a state of war, that they will then reconcile with the PA, and negotiate with Israel for borders and treaty, actually treaty.

        I don’t favor agitation as the means to get there. This event is education and will likely be quite effective in that. Maybe one more Gazan boat run would need to make it more present.

        But, beyond that, I favor productive approaches that actually help, and also construct peace.

      • aparisian
        December 31, 2009, 11:03 am

        Witty you are being a Zionist snake here, you are telling me in other words i dont give a fuck, fuck up Hamas and Israel has the right to continue its Nazi policies.

        Witty i asked you about Fatah and you said nothing….

      • Julian
        December 31, 2009, 11:25 am

        “Ok Hamas are bunch of crap, why do Israelis then dont make peace with Fatah?”
        Here’s reality. Fatah rejects every offer of peace. Here is the map of Olmert’s offer.
        link to
        link to
        Included in this offer was the right of several thousand Palestinians to “return” to Israel.
        Abbas rejected a Palestinian State. Just as the Arabs have done for over 60 years.

      • potsherd
        December 31, 2009, 11:32 am

        Olmert was a lame duck under indictment and knew perfectly well that the Knesset would reject any agreement he made.

        And the Palestinians did not reject Olmert’s offer. Negotiations were still going on when Olmert was kicked out of office and Netanyahu reset the game clock.

      • Richard Witty
        December 31, 2009, 11:39 am

        A snake for only answering your first question. Lame.

        Israel does negotiate with Fatah, right now at lower levels, later publicly and at top levels.

        At some point soon, Fatah’s nation-building efforts will be ready for full governance. Then it will be a good question if Israel delays in negotiating full sovereignty at green line.

        There will be questions relative to Hamas, and they are likely to disrupt any negotiations between Israel and Fatah that results in actual recognition of Israel as Israel. They are running out of options as to how to do that.

        Terror is hated in the Arab world. There is no global sympathy for resumption of intimate terror (school buses, cafes). Shelling is hated. There is very very limited sympathy for resumption of shelling of civilians. Marching is potentially effective, and if that is what they limited their action to, that would be a wonderful transformation.

      • Chaos4700
        December 31, 2009, 11:53 am

        At some point soon, Fatah’s nation-building efforts will be ready for full governance.

        At which point Israel will bomb or confiscate said institutions, like they always have in the past. And then the Wittys of the world will turn around and say, “See? The Palestinians are uncivilized brutes who don’t deserve a nation.”

        Did Israel have to do any nation building before they were allowed to seize sovereignty?

        Wittypocrisy. Jews have rights that other people don’t. Racism is Witty’s drumbeat.

      • Shafiq
        December 31, 2009, 12:08 pm

        Aren’t you forgetting the biggest institution the Palestinians created for themselves, only to see it destroyed by Israel? A democratically elected government?

      • Shingo
        December 31, 2009, 7:21 pm

        “And, on the flip side, its easy to harass and murder your neighbors without qualm for decades, and ask for “justice”.”

        Not nearly as easy as masaacaring civilian populations with weapons provided at US tax payer expense, and claiming that you have a right to defend yourself.

        The difference being that one side has a justification for what they do while the other is simply protecting their ill gotten gains.

      • Shingo
        December 31, 2009, 7:30 pm

        No it’s not lame to accuse you of being a snake, because your answer ignores the basic fact that there is no way to improve the status of Palestinians without enforcing compliance from Israel. You are snake because you are presenting the false argument that the status of Palestinians is entirely the consequence of Israeli actions and policies.

        You also continue to peddle the myth that Fatah is nation-building, when they clearly have nothing to show for it, and that Israel will never permit them to exercise full governance.

        Your next lie is to pin the blame on Hamas and accuse them of disrupting any negotiations between Israel and Fatah, when it was Israel that strong armed Fatah into launching the failed coup to topple Hamas. The mantra about Israei’s recognition has been exposed time and time again as a red herring and a carnard. If Isral can flout international consensus at will, it woudl hardly be cocerned with being reognized by stateless entities.

        You can make all the platitudes you like about terror being hated in the Arab world (though you probabyl don’t mean it) because terror is revered in Israel.
        They are running out of options as to how to do that.

      • Citizen
        December 31, 2009, 7:51 pm

        You mean the usual Palestinian taking of an eyelash for an eye? Downright, biblical, that!

  8. Richard Witty
    December 30, 2009, 5:22 pm

    The effort to make this actually happen, opening of Gaza, will happen only by collecting data on the condition of Gazans that is statistically verified that can demonstrate the proportion of the affects of the isolation (I don’t like the word “siege”), so that when presented publicly it will be minimally dismissed.

    An activist’s sign, a slogan, a rant instead of information that stands being poked, won’t accomplish mass support. It will alienate mass support.

    I think it is close, and can be deal that gets closed by completing the Shalit negotiations. Posturing on that will delay Gaza reopening. If its as urgent as people say to relax the crossings, its better to accept 500 prisoners exchanged, rather than 520, or whatever the number is.

    • Mooser
      December 30, 2009, 6:15 pm

      “An activist’s sign, a slogan, a rant instead of information that stands being poked, won’t accomplish mass support. It will alienate mass support.”

      Now there’s advice from a source you can trust.

      • Citizen
        December 30, 2009, 6:18 pm

        What exactly does Witty want to be supported? Surely he’s not talking about the many comforting benefits of his American ciitizenship.

      • potsherd
        December 30, 2009, 10:10 pm

        Israel, of course.

      • Chaos4700
        December 31, 2009, 2:33 am

        Yeah really. The self-proclaimed “liberal” who I’ve seen attack and disparage every single aspect of liberal activism. Who, ridiculously enough, believes in “separate but equal” between Jews and non-Jewish Palestinians.

      • yonira
        December 31, 2009, 4:01 am

        separate but equal

        what do u mean?

      • Shafiq
        December 31, 2009, 4:35 am

        I think he means the separation of Palestinians and Jews in the form of two different states

      • yonira
        December 31, 2009, 9:48 am

        well he’s using segregation era lingo for something which is completely different.

        unless of course there was a nation for the African Americans which I didn’t read about in my history books. (I did grow up in the Midwest, anything is possible)

      • Chaos4700
        December 31, 2009, 11:58 am

        Hey man, you want to act completely stupid, we can continue to treat you like you’re completely stupid, yonira.

      • Citizen
        December 31, 2009, 12:12 pm

        You mean you didn’t read about it in your mythical bible? Too bad.

    • Shingo
      December 30, 2009, 7:28 pm

      “The effort to make this actually happen, opening of Gaza, will happen only by collecting data on the condition of Gazans that is statistically verified that can demonstrate the proportion of the affects of the isolation (I don’t like the word “siege”), so that when presented publicly it will be minimally dismissed.”

      You mean like say, the Goldstone Report?

      • Richard Witty
        December 30, 2009, 9:58 pm

        The Goldstone report isn’t enough. It is dismissable.

        To be convincing, dissent needs to test the presentation against skeptical inquiry. All of the potential questions need to be answerable, not only selections.

        So, for example, on Aref’s informative list of events related to Gaza/Israel conflict in December, 2006, it was detailed in areas that supported his/her contentions about Israeli abuses, but neglected any reporting of incidents that did not support his/her contentions.

        So, anyone that has read US or Israeli press would find the omissions to be dismissable, even if the information that he did present was very informative.

        Its a communication process. A mobilization process might feel like success, but not accomplish its end. The Vietnam War did not end by dissent. It certainly did not end by militant dissent, and there were hundreds of thousands demonstrating then.

        I’m surprised to see Scott McConnell writing supportively about the 60’s. The American Conservative originator, Pat Buchanon, was one of the most violently contemptuous critic of the 60’s alive.

      • potsherd
        December 30, 2009, 10:09 pm

        WITTYLIE #117


      • Shingo
        December 30, 2009, 11:00 pm

        “To be convincing, dissent needs to test the presentation against skeptical inquiry. All of the potential questions need to be answerable, not only selections.”

        What contrives rubbish!

        Skeptical inquiry can take place regardless because the facts, by definition, will stand up to such inquiry.

        It is theoretically to conceive all “potential questions”, thus no report would ever be produced if it were required to include all such “potential questions”.

        You’re talking out of your ass again Witty.

      • Richard Witty
        December 30, 2009, 11:07 pm

        The “facts” that have been presented here are not convincing to a skeptic.

        If those are the sum total of presentation, then they will be distrusted, and not because of mass media propaganda, but negligence on the part of dissent.

      • Shingo
        December 30, 2009, 11:12 pm

        “The “facts” that have been presented here are not convincing to a skeptic.”

        I don’t know what your smoking Witty, but you sound even less coherent than usual.

        Firstly, how would you know what a skeptic would think?
        Secondly, facts are by definition, capable of being scruitinized and stand the test of time. A skeptic is welcome to test them.

        Facts will remain facts, regarldess of “the sum total of presentation”. If after that, they are distrusted, then the inquiring party is not a skeptic but a propagandist.

      • Richard Witty
        December 30, 2009, 11:21 pm

        Perception is real. Facts are interpreted.

        Organizing is a communication process.

        I know you think of me as an Israeli apologist, but a more accurate description is of a skeptic towards militant propaganda.

        I’ve not seen a convincingly complete summary of events say on Gaza from anyone here. There have been snippets. Seemingly detailed, but with glaring ommissions.

        The converted love those summaries. But that is only preaching to the choir. I would think that you would want to change minds, not only preach to the choir. (I guess getting out the vote is a strategy as well.)

        I would include my own summary as ommitting important facts, even that might shift rational conclusions.

      • Shingo
        December 30, 2009, 11:39 pm

        Perception is subject to manipulation. Facts are NOT.

        Of course you think of yourself as a skeptic towards militant propaganda, but that is rediculous because your skepticism only applies to Israel’s enemies and it’s victims.

        The reason you won’t find a convincingly complete summary of events on Gaza is because that is what Israel intended when it banned foreign reporters from entering. In any case, what are the “glaring ommissions” from the snippets you have been presented?

        The converted are simply able to put 2 and 2 together, having studied Isra4li’s raison’ d’etre and MO. Gaza was just another version of the 2006 attack on Southern Lebanon. The choir knows what Israel’s agenda is. Once you know what that agenda is, the rest is self evident. Those who are genuinely interested in the fact will find the truth eventually. There is nothing to be gained by converting the ignorant or changing their minds. That is your agenda not ours.

        The only thing that matters is that your lies and propaganda are exposed and debunked. That is the most effective means of changing minds.

      • Chaos4700
        December 31, 2009, 2:34 am

        People like Witty are going to go down as the next generation of Holocaust deniers, with the way he keeps mindlessly attacking the Goldstone report simply because its evidence of how corrupt his Zionism is and the vaterland it produced.

      • Richard Witty
        December 31, 2009, 6:34 am

        An editorial selection of facts to present is a likely distortion.

        A democracy is constructed on a complete set of facts, in which individuals have the latitude to interpret. The mass media does not complete that task (it goes far). The propagandistic media goes less far.

        The converted put 2 and 3 and 4 together and come up with 9, when if the parantheses are seen (2+3)*4, the answer is 20.

        Israel’s “agenda” is diverse. There are some common elements to preserve the Israeli state, and against those that seek to dissolve or eliminate the Israeli state, they commonly respond militarily when attacked.

      • Citizen
        December 31, 2009, 8:51 am

        The US congress did not see fit to call in Goldstone and make skeptical inquiry, despite Goldstone’s UN mandate and top credentials. Our government simply dissed that report as biased and our MSM did little to inform the public. The Israeli government blocked Goldstone’s attempts to get direct Israeli input. (Compare how easily the US congress and White House took the flimsiest evidence of Iraq
        WMD to justify the USA’s attack on Iraq.)

        Mass protests leading up to the police actions in Chicago during the DNC in 1968 were prevalent across the USA; in 1970 Kent State was highly influential,
        signaling American kids dying at home as well as overseas–it’s misleading for those of us who lived through those events to simply assert “The Vietnam War did not end by dissent.” Political protest was very important, especially the
        highly symbolic act of burning one’s draft card and eventual joinder of Vietnam Vets Against The War. The pressure on our most recent presidents to end our current wars would go up dramatically if the military draft was activated.

      • Citizen
        December 31, 2009, 9:06 am

        Dick Witty, give us an historical or contemporary example or two of a report
        containing political gravitas that you consider convincing even to an arch
        skeptic. Otherwise, your objections here are merely talking as Shingo says
        you are–pure theory.

      • Richard Witty
        December 31, 2009, 9:16 am

        I don’t have a citation. I could construct one.

        As I said relative to Aref’s post, the likely accurate and complete description of the events in Gaza and Israel related to the hudna and post-hudna conflict and military assault are an overlay of our two summaries.

        I notice my own and others reactions to comments here.

        When I speak about Gazan suffering to my friends and synagogue members, in the limited occassions that I get to, I am able to convey their dilemma and condition without falling into the political trap of supporting Hamas’ power objectives, nor without denying Israelis’ experience.

        I urge peace and reconciliation in political and social relations, personal and social sensitivity to the other.

        That usually precludes militant approaches whether right or left, as insensitive for their zeal and anger.

        I recommend making different choices, rather than the impossibility of self-denial implied in condemnation.

        How to make change actually occur, in fact, not only in talk.

      • Richard Witty
        December 31, 2009, 9:19 am

        It was very important to me. I was an enthusiastic and non-violent direct action opponent to the war.

        I realize though that the results of my actions, and the manner of collective expression did NOT stop the war. It possibly stopped the draft in favor of a volunteer/professional army.

        And, it did create the blowback of the Nixon election, Reagon election, Republican Congress in the 90’s, and George W Bush.

      • Citizen
        December 31, 2009, 9:22 am

        Have you ever seen or read any factual presentation, including its sequencing, that is/was not a likely distortion, Dick Witty? If so name it. Also, what report
        have you seen that does not omit facts, and/or contains less material facts?

        What democracy has ever been constructed on a complete set of facts?

        Try your counting experiment with dollar bills. And that’s an odd use of an
        * in lieu of “and.” What exactly is your multiplier when related to facts?

      • Richard Witty
        December 31, 2009, 9:28 am

        On Gaza I assume you’re speaking of.

        I haven’t seen any yet that I consider reliable. I’m waiting. It would be important work.

        Do you have recommendations?

        History is difficult (actually impossible) to present completely. But, it is possible to identify key perspectives and present them in both balance and proportion.

        There is no denying that the experience of Gazans is critical in that telling, but to tell that story alone is not accurate, not informative yet.

      • Chaos4700
        December 31, 2009, 12:01 pm

        I haven’t seen any yet that I consider reliable.

        Like I keep saying — “Jewish Holocaust denier.” There will never be any Palestinian who Witty considers credible because treating a Palestinian viewpoint as worthy of equal consideration is anathema to his Jewish supremacy.

      • Citizen
        December 31, 2009, 12:17 pm

        So, it’s clear you have no model from historical reality; you are talking through your…hat. Just as Shingo posited. Thanks for the admission. BTW, your “falling into the political trap of supporting Hamas’ power objectives, nor without denying Israelis’ experience” is more honestly stated as:

        “…falling into the politcal trap of supporting Hamas’s power objectives, nor
        of supporting Israel’s power objectives.”

    • potsherd
      December 31, 2009, 11:33 am

      Witty doesn’t like the word “seige”.

  9. seeingformyself
    December 30, 2009, 5:43 pm

    Philip, you need not worry about stating things clearly; your writing was as clear, concise, personal and excellent as usual. I have spent the day reading press releases, interviews, blogs…..getting confused and anxious….kept returning to mondoweiss hoping to hear your accounting of what’s transpired. Thank you! I’m there in spirit!

    Witty…you are pathetic! Worse than an old, worn out and broken record; playing a song that was always off key and written for a very limited, shrinking audience!

    Your understanding of the situation in Gaza is limited…by your own design. A siege, is a siege, is a siege….it’s not isolation. Perhaps you’re experiencing isolation, you certainly sound that way!

    • Citizen
      December 31, 2009, 9:32 am

      Witty finds descriptive terms like “conflict” or “dispute” more informative than terms
      like “siege” or “occupation.” He gets more abstract by the day in his contributions on this blog. You think he likes the painting Guernica? What if it was named Gaza? Same artwork, different name.

  10. Mooser
    December 30, 2009, 6:13 pm

    Isn’t that nice, Witty has decided not to impugn Phil’s integrity. Gee Richard, how come last time Phil was “coerced” or “brainwashed” but this time it’s all hope and flowers? What changed? Would you like to withdraw those words?

    What hasn’t changed, of course, is Witty’s obsessive attempts to somehow try and “own” the stand Phil is making, so he can subvert it. He’ll make some sort of counciliatory noises, but at no point does Witty ever expect Israel to concede anything.

  11. Citizen
    December 30, 2009, 6:21 pm

    Witty is the perennial guy who says he’s your buddy in the trench. Does anyone trust him?

  12. VR
    December 30, 2009, 8:12 pm

    Let them know what the international community stands for, liberty, equality fraternity and peace. So that by the time you are done they know that this is what the world of decent people stands for, you represent us all. Thank you for your commitment and resolve.

  13. aparisian
    December 30, 2009, 8:54 pm

    Great post Thanks Phil. Well done on what you guys achieved, we applaud you. You make Witty, yonira and co so nervous about the future of their Nazisrael empire.

  14. Scott McConnell
    December 30, 2009, 9:23 pm

    Yes, I agree with Potsherd’s first comment–it has the redolence of the 60’s, (and Bernadine Dohrn even!) but a wonderful piece of writing.

  15. Aref
    December 30, 2009, 9:36 pm

    Thanks Phil. Great reporting. I heard the interview with Ali this morning on Democracy Now. It must have been an incredibly tough decision to make. However, what matters is like what Ali said, breaking the siege and it must be broken.

  16. DICKERSON3870
    December 31, 2009, 12:41 am

    Action in Support of the Gaza Freedom March
    The Arab Jewish Partnership supports the Gaza Freedom March and is hosting and participating in events and actions to show this solidarity. For more information, check out the Gaza Freedom March website. – link to
    • Urge the State Department to pressure Egypt to let the Gaza Freedom March through Rafah
    • Sign the Gaza Freedom March letter addressed to the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs
    • Sign the Jewish Voice for Peace letter to the head of the Palestine Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    • Sign a letter to the New York Times and the Washington Post concerning their failure to cover this story
    • Contact your Representative through the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation to urge them to sign the two letters in Congress against the blockade
    LINKS FOR THE ABOVE – link to

  17. Todd
    December 31, 2009, 1:43 am

    I don’t understand marching for a cause. Seriously, what happens if you aren’t beaten on camera? I

  18. Nevada Ned
    December 31, 2009, 2:21 am

    Hey folks, Richard Witty is playing a little game, getting people to respond to his outrageous statements. Responding to him is playing his game. Don’t play his game. Ignore him.

    I don’t know how the Gaza march will turn out, but I think and hope that it signals a new phase in the development of an international movement to support the Palestinians.

    For background in Gaza, see the interview with Rashid Khalidi conducted during the Gaza massacre by Laura Flanders on Grit TV.
    link to

    • Chaos4700
      December 31, 2009, 2:36 am

      Is it cool if I just keep treating him like the clown that he is, though? Honestly, it’s stress relief and half the time he finds no opening in my responses to continue a protracted argument anymore.

      • MRW
        December 31, 2009, 7:24 am

        It’s no longer cool. And I should stop it too.

      • MRW
        December 31, 2009, 7:37 am

        What I mean, Chaos, is that it’s become diversionary now. I mean, when someone writes, “Perception is real. Facts are interpreted,“ you can count on being played like a cat with a fake mouse to respond. The stupidity is an attention-getting technique, and in light of the purpose of the thread — for crissake, one of the blog owners is in a danger zone — completely inappropriate. Great commenters have left this site in droves because of the needless obsession with responding to these off-topic comments that are gob-smacking (to use a British term) in their calculated inanity. I’m as guilty as any. But Nevada Ned, Shmuel, and Richard Parker are 100% right: ignore him. Write it if you must, but press Cancel Reply, not Submit.

      • Shmuel
        December 31, 2009, 7:41 am

        I fell for it yesterday, and regret it. Going back to my old policy.

      • MRW
        December 31, 2009, 7:45 am

        Yeah, but it thrilled me no end to see you succumb. I didn’t feel so dumb. :-)

      • MRW
        December 31, 2009, 7:47 am

        I meant: didn’t feel so undisciplined.

      • Shmuel
        December 31, 2009, 7:47 am

        Then it was not a total waste of time ;-)

      • Richard Witty
        December 31, 2009, 7:51 am

        You don’t understand that the process is a communication process? That how something is perceived will affect the reaction?

        It applies both ways. You argue for your perception, your interpretation, and basis of selection of relevant facts to confirm your conclusions.

        Open your thinking to that.

        Some conclusions will support your views, and some won’t, as it applies to mine. I learn over time.

        I don’t conclude that “Zionism is racism” though. I’m interested in reform not the fantasy of revolution.

      • MRW
        December 31, 2009, 7:52 am

        No, Shmuel, the spanky-spanky has sunk in. Finally.

      • Citizen
        December 31, 2009, 9:43 am

        Yeah, “perception is real. Facts are interpreted.” Duh. That’s why there’s laws in every state to legally retain nut cases dangerous to themselves and others. Nothing like a pompous and banal lecture from Dick Witty to overshadow Phil’s
        courageous risky business in Cairo to inform us of effective prescription.

  19. Pamela Olson
    December 31, 2009, 3:35 am

    I’m so proud of this movement, so happy to see it going strong despite — and in some cases because of — so many obstacles. 1,400 points of light as this dim decade draws to a close. I think someone should also dress up like Moses and intone, “Let my people go!” If only we had a nice, vengeful God on our side…

    Seriously. If irony were a commodifiable resource, the Middle East would be effing rich.

  20. Shmuel
    December 31, 2009, 7:11 am


    Egyptian Police Crack down on Gaza Marchers

    Cairo, December 31, 2009 (Pal Telegraph)- Today is the day when the Freedom Marchers should be in Gaza, marching in solidarity with Palestinians towards the Erez Crossing with Israel to protest the occupation. Instead, some of us are locked like prisoners in our hotels (mine is surrounded by about 100 cops in riot gear), and our Internet connection has been cut since this morning (we are stealing an on-and-off signal from a neighboring building).

    The protesters who made it to the site in Tahrir Square (now renamed “Free Gaza” square by the demonstrators) for the planned, peaceful demonstration against our continuing “detention” in Cairo were quickly infiltrated by plain clothed security personnel, the surrounded by police. Tthe minute-by-minute reports I’m getting by telephone say they are being punched and shoved, and their cameras smashed when they try to document the worst state repression I’ve ever seen. “I was lifted by the Egyptian police forces and literally tossed over the fence,” said Desiree Fairooz, one of the protesters. One woman who is lying, passed out, on the street, is being shielded from view by the security police; no medical care, in other words, but they want to be sure their handiwork cannot be seen.

    Undaunted, marchers are chanting and managed to hang a large Gaza Freedom Banner high up in a tree in the square. They are resisting the attempt to disperse them, and are vowing to remain there until they are allowed to go to Gaza.

    The bright spot is that — until forcibly detained and dragged away — they were joined by Egyptians who also wished to denounce the role of their government in sustaining the Gaza siege. The authorities have sought to separate internationals from the locals throughout the week; in fact, one day when I was walking on the streets of Cairo wearing my Free Gaza T-shirt, a young Egyptian man who approached me to express his solidarity was ordered away by passing policeman. However, their support for our cause is obvious, if surreptitious. Even many of the Egyptian police (those not enthusiastically beating us) are secretly sympathetic. But conscription for three years is mandatory, although they are paid only 40 EGP per month, and Mubarak brooks no opposition.

    We represent 43 countries in this march…yet we are being bullied in full view by hundreds of police, in full public view, with no intervention by our embassies.

    Reporting: Pam Rasmussen.

    • MRW
      December 31, 2009, 7:24 am


    • Richard Witty
      December 31, 2009, 7:25 am

      I hope this doesn’t spin out further.

    • Shmuel
      December 31, 2009, 7:56 am

      It’s now hit the Italian MSM. About 400 demonstrators in Cairo, near the Egyptian museum, surrounded by large numbers of police in anti-riot gear. Tension, some violence against demonstrators (hitting, shoving, dragging), about a dozen demonstrators injured so far – none seriously.

      Demonstrations planned for this afternoon, in front of the Egyptian embassies in Rome, London and Paris.

    • Shmuel
      December 31, 2009, 9:25 am

      About 30 seconds of video footage from Cairo:

      link to

  21. Richard Witty
    December 31, 2009, 7:31 am

    Hamas leader to Israeli activists: You strengthen us

    link to

    Is “us”, Gazan civilians as is the stated purpose of the march (who could disagree with helping suffering civilians). Or is “us”, Palestinian militancy that insists on all of Jerusalem as its capital (not divided Jerusalem). Or is “us”, the Hamas organization on the Palestinian street.

    Does this move peace forward? Is this democracy?

    • Richard Witty
      December 31, 2009, 7:33 am

      “Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Thursday told activists gathered on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides of the Gaza Strip border that residents of the besieged territory had not given up hope and would never stop fighting for a state with Jerusalem as its capital.

      “Because of international solidarity and your support, we have become stronger,” Haniyeh declared. “The Palestinian nation will never give up its national aspirations or its right to Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine and the Islamic people.” “

    • Richard Parker
      December 31, 2009, 8:07 am


      “Palestinian militancy that insists on all of Jerusalem as its capital (not divided Jerusalem”

      This is crap. No-one has called for all of Jerusalem; Only the holy Old City and its surrounds. The Israelis can keep the Knesset , Yad Vashem, etc, in the western suburbs.

      It would be nice, though, if the Paelstinians could put up a memorial at Deir Yassin, so close to Yad Vashem.

      • Richard Witty
        December 31, 2009, 8:38 am

        Hopefully you’re right that they only mean East Jerusalem.

        I’m not sure from Haniyah’s speech. It looks to me when he says “Islamic capital” that he means something grander.

        Short of just assertion, do you have any indication that he and others mean just East Jerusalem?

    • Shingo
      December 31, 2009, 7:17 pm

      “Does this move peace forward? Is this democracy? ”

      As opposed to what Richard? Blockades, sieges, bombing of densely populated urban areas and white phosphorous?

  22. MRW
    December 31, 2009, 7:50 am


    Are you getting word from Phil?

  23. Richard Parker
    December 31, 2009, 7:57 am

    Waiting for more news from Cairo.

    Meanwhile, the other protest, the Viva Palestina convoy, holed up in Aqaba, Jordan, until now, has negotiated to enship from Latakia, Syria, to El Arish in Sinai.
    link to

    This is plainly obstructionism from the Great Ox’s government; Aqaba has a very short 1 hour ferry line to Nuweiba in Egyptian Sinai. Diversion to Latakia will take 2-3 days, plus extra costs involved with negotiating transit costs under time pressure. Latakia is a piddling little port, and certainly has no single ship that can take 210 vehicles.
    link to

    If Israel does block the transit, no-one will fucking care.

    They will probably face many more problems in El Arish or Rafah, if they ever get there.

    I can’t imagine why these two simultaneous campaigns didn’t get together to organise a dual prong strategy, but I fear it is that one is organised in America, and the other in Europe, so they are rivals.

  24. MRW
    December 31, 2009, 8:02 am

    While we’re waiting for word from Phil, there is an interesting translation of an op-ed published in Hebrew on Ynet:
    Cast Truth – Michael Sfard on the Gaza war and Jewish morality
    link to

    For three weeks, during Operation Cast Lead, we sent fighter jets to drop bombs on one of the world’s most densely populated areas. We aimed our guns at clearly civilian targets. We used [white?]phosphorous bombs. We deliberately and systematically demolished thousands of private houses and public buildings, and all the while we maintained a tight siege on the Gaza Strip, preventing civilians who wanted to from fleeing the war zone. We did not erect a temporary refugee camp for them. We did not create a humanitarian no-mans’-land corridor for them. We did not spare hospitals, food repositories, or even UN aid agencies’ buildings. At the same time, we did not express fake regret. We did not argue we made tragic mistakes. We did not even take wounded children to Israeli hospitals.

    The results were horrendous. Some 1,400 Palestinians were killed, of which half did not partake in the fighting, 320 were minors, and 120 were women (according to B’Tselem data). In three weeks, we killed more Palestinians than in the entire first Intifada and all the violent incidents that preceded the second Intifada put together (that is, 1987-2000). Gaza residents, whom we earlier locked up in a prison we created for them, realized that the jailers set fire to the jailhouse and threw away the key. We no longer pretended we were meeting standards we did not believe in. We did not even pay lip service. Government offices were bombed? No problem. They are a legitimate target. Civilians worked there? Why should we care if this was the headquarters for civilian life, transportation, agriculture, and social welfare services for 1.5 million humans? What about the collective killing of more than 100 police cadets who were parading on their graduation day? No problem there. They were Palestinians in uniforms. No biggie. You say we fired white phosphorus, the kind of substance that keeps burning for days in alleys where children were playing? Our gut is made of iron. We can stomach anything. Our heart is made of steel. We spare no one.

    Operation Cast Lead was our second war of independence. In the first, we freed ourselves of 2,000 years of living under and being oppressed by foreign regimes. In the second, we broke the shackles of Jewish morality and heritage that were shoved down our throats for years.

  25. Richard Parker
    December 31, 2009, 8:38 am

    That was a nice quote, MRW, but it didn’t begin to encompass the evils that Israelis have inflicted upon Palestinians over the past 60 years.

    “In the second, we broke the shackles of Jewish morality and heritage that were shoved down our throats for years.”

    Can this be real? does it give a license to Israelis to behave like Nazis?

    • MRW
      December 31, 2009, 8:58 am

      Yup. They’re doing it aren’t they? Israel is 1938 Germany. That’s why Netanyahu keeps saying it’s 1938.

  26. Todd
    December 31, 2009, 10:53 am

    I still don’t understand why this protest is being held in Egypt rather than in Israel.

    • Citizen
      December 31, 2009, 12:23 pm

      Why are there no protests in the USA over our wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and likely Iran? Mostly, the protests occurring get little news coverage. Same in Israel.

      • yonira
        January 1, 2010, 2:40 pm

        The war with Iran is on the way back burner. There is no need for war when they will self destruct first, just like in ’79. There are already contingency plans for the Supreme Leader(s) to be whisked away to Russia after their government is unable to control the opposition.

    • Chaos4700
      December 31, 2009, 12:49 pm

      Because there is no way to get into Israel, if you’re on the watch list. Even if you’re just traveling singularly on low profile business, you’ll get harassed.

      link to
      link to

      Israel would flat out block protesters before they even got out of the airport security gates. At least by going to Egypt, there was some time lag to get things derailed (as I said earlier, Netayahu calls Rahm, Rahm calls Hillary, Hillary calls Mubarak).

      • yonira
        January 1, 2010, 2:44 pm

        you love to repeat yourself, you are like my drunk uncles @ the holidays.

  27. Todd
    January 1, 2010, 12:19 pm

    I am well aware of how Israelis treat travellers, having been detained at Ben Gurion and questioned in the back of a military vehicle by a soldier with an Uzi. But I see no reason not to try. Why not at least heavily protest Israeli interests in the United States? I just have to wonder if certain groups refuse to aggressively take on Israel at home in fear of harming their own interests.

    To be honest, I think the real fight is against Israel’s supporters at home in Europe and the United States. The problem in Gaza can’t be solved in Egypt, and the pro-Israel marches in the U.S. dwarf any anti-Israel protests that I’m aware of. Besides, I’m more worried about the U.S. than I am about Gaza, and I think that ending U.S. support for Israel would go a long way towards helping both Palestinians and Americans.

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