Update from Cairo: Gaza Freedom March rejects Egyptian offer to allow only 100 protesters into Gaza

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The latest from Cairo is that the Gaza Freedom March has rejected the Egyptian government’s offer to allow 100 protesters into Gaza. A press release from the march states:

After three days of vigils and demonstrations in downtown Cairo, Suzanne Mubarak’s offer to allow just 100 of 1,300 delegates to enter Gaza was rejected by the Gaza Freedom March.

Coordinating Committee as well as many of the larger contingents – including those from France, Scotland, Canada, South Africa, Sweden and New York State (U.S.).

“We flatly reject Egypt’s offer of a token gesture. We refuse to whitewash the siege of Gaza. Our group will continue working to get all 1362 marchers into Gaza as one step towards the ultimate goal for the complete end of the siege and the liberation of Palestine” said Ziyaad Lunat a member of the march Coordinating Committee.

The clip from Democracy Now above features an interview with Ali Abunimah giving the latest update (starts around 30:00). Abunimah states that between 50-80 people did board a bus to head to Gaza for various reasons, and according to this twitter update the bus may have been turned back at the Suez canal. Abunimah explained his own decision not to go to Gaza on his blog:

This was a very difficult morning. Many delegations to the Gaza Freedom March rejected the Egyptian offer of two buses to Gaza. Personally I wanted nothing more to be in Gaza. I did get on a bus. But I could not go when people I know and trust in Gaza did not want us to come under such conditions and when there was so much opposition to this. For me that was the bottom line. Their fear is this small delegation would be used by the Egyptian government for propaganda and there was great anger at the statements made by the Egyptian foreign minister last night maligning the Gaza Freedom March. I understand the agony of people on those buses who wanted to reach Gaza. I felt that. But it was impossible. We need to keep up the struggle to end the siege. We’ve come this far. Solidarity means standing together and continuing the struggle.

It’s been difficult to piece the situation together online, but clearly the march was put in a near impossible situation by the Egyptian offer and any decision regarding the offer would have been controversial. Here is a fascinating update on how march participants handled the news of the offer, and it’s clear that critics who felt that Egypt was using the march to whitewash their own complicity in the Gaza blockade won out. This decision was supported by Palestinians who were coordinating the march inside Gaza. Here is a statement from the Gaza-Gaza Freedom March Steering Committee:

Gaza 30.12.2009

Over the past week we, representatives of various civil society sectors in Gaza, have been humbled by the sacrifices that you, 1400 people, have made in order to come and support us in breaking the siege.

Despite our grave disappointment that we can not yet meet you all that we are still separated by this medieval siege we feel that your arrival in Cairo has already borne fruits. Your insistence to break the siege in order to be in solidarity with us has inspired many and shamed many others. Thanks to your presence with us, a network to break the siege and free Palestine has been established.

We support any decisions taken by the Gaza Freedom March Coordination Committee about the entry of just 100 of 1400 delegates into Gaza instead of all the delegates presently in Cairo. Obviously it is, as all previous decisions, a majority decision. We, at the Gaza- GFM Steering committee have reiterated our position, namely, that it is up to The Gaza Freedom March Coordination Committee in Cairo to decide. We initially felt that if representatives of all forty some countries can go to Gaza and join a march along Palestinians it would convey a very strong message to the world public opinion. Had they decided to go through with the Egyptian offer, we would have welcomed them in Gaza and deeply appreciated their solidarity.

The decision to send 100 delegates, however, seemed too divisive for the growing solidarity campaign with the Palestinian people. The unity of the global solidarity campaign is of utmost importance for us, the besieged Palestinians of Gaza. We have repeatedly argued that the march itself is not supposed to be only a symbolic gesture, but rather a part of a series of events which will lead to the end of the siege, once and for all. We want to intensify and continue building the solidarity campaign, not divide it.

We salute the GFM delegates and thank them for the tremendous amount of work they have been doing and whatever decision they came up with.

Gaza-GFM Steering Committee

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