Detained, Deported, but not Deterred: Report from CodePink’s Int’l Women’s Day delegation to Gaza

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CODEPINK protest in the Cairo airport, March 4, 2014. (Photo: Cayman Kai).

On International Women’s Day although I woke up in America, my heart was in Gaza. After having been detained for over 22 hours in the Cairo airport without explanation, I was deported to London and ultimately sent back to America. I was the youngest American in an International Women’s Day Delegation bound for Gaza. We were answering a call issued to the women of the world to come and stand in solidarity. We were “armed” with microscopes for hospitals, toys for children, chocolate gifts, and solar lamps as a gesture to give them light in the darkness caused literally and figuratively by the Israeli blockade. As I sat stuck with an amazing group of forty women from around the world between passport control and the arrival gates exit, our thoughts were constantly with the women we were on a mission to visit

Tired from my seventeen hour flight and looking forward to finally crashing in a bed at the hotel, I was surprised when the guard at passport control picked up the phone after stamping my passport and then told me to go sit down without giving my passport back to me. I knew that it would be difficult to get into Gaza, but I did not think it would be difficult to get into Cairo at least.

At first I was still optimistic about getting into Gaza. Within the first hour of my detention a large group of French women arrived, joining eight French women from my flight and myself, all of us hoping to get to Gaza. When the newest group learned that the French who had landed first had their passports taken while they were detained, the new group refused to continue on to Gaza without them. They made it clear from the start: all of them were getting in or none of them were. And so they refused to hand over their passports to the authorities.

I was at first surprised by their solidarity and did not join in when they started to chant and sing and wave Palestinian and French flags. However I quickly realized they had the right idea; by forming a group and making one loud and unified demand, the authorities were forced to listen to us. If we had tried our luck, one by one, we would have been swiftly shut down. It made me realize that in this fight to speak the truth and shed light on the countless injustices committed against the Palestinians by the Israelis, we cannot do it alone – we must join as many hands as possible and lift up our voices together.

No one at the airport seemed capable of decision-making, not even the small redheaded man bopping around who was supposedly the owner. It quickly became clear that nothing was going to happen anytime soon, so I, along with my fellow American delegate, Donna, who had been on the same flight, abandoned trying to look like mere tourists and we slowly joined in with clapping, singing, and dancing.

We relinquished our hope that we would be able to get to Gaza and we shifted to a hope that we could somehow make a difference right there, stuck between passport control and the arrival gates exit in the Cairo airport. The authorities roped off the area around us, attempting to separate us from the rest of the airport.

Ironically it was not our efforts, but theirs that were in vain. Their attempt to contain us only inspired us to clap longer and sing louder. Passerbyers took photos and videos; some even clapped and danced or cheered. A pilot jetting by us even stopped for a second to give us a thumbs-up.

We were given food and clean water, but as we brought out the solar lamps intended for the women of Gaza, we could not help but think how those women are constantly denied these simple things. The people of Gaza cannot treat their sewage and they must pump it back into the sea. Because there are electricity shortages every single day up to 18 hours a day, they sometimes cannot even do that. The sewage contaminates the aquifer and their drinking water and sometimes it floods entire towns and people and babies drown – yes, they die – in sewage.

We were eventually all deported, not one of us let in to Cairo, let alone Gaza. A few delegates had gotten into Cairo before our large group, but they also did not make it to Gaza. As the authorities prepared to deport those of us in the airport, there were vague mutterings that we were “security threats,” but when I asked how I, as a 20-year-old college student who has never been to Egypt qualified as a “security threat,” no one could answer me.

It breaks my heart that the women of Gaza, contained in the largest open-air prison in the world, cannot even have visitors. In America we would call this cruel even for some of our worst criminals, yet we continue to pay for this oppression with our tax dollars by giving $3 billion a year to Israel, one of the world’s wealthiest nations.

Although we did not get in, we hope that our message has been heard by the women of Gaza and the people around the world: we have not forgotten the women of Gaza and we will continue to carry them in our hearts and speak, yell, and sing the truth until there is justice and accountability for what is being done to the Palestinians.

 

 

About Cayman Kai

Cayman Kai is an intern with CODEPINK in Washington, DC. She is a sophomore at Northeastern University in Boston majoring in International Affairs and Political Science.

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9 Responses

  1. Citizen
    March 19, 2014, 1:55 pm

    Meanwhile, did you know when Abbas met Obama so recently things got testy when Abbas revealed a map of the growth of illegal Israeli settlements since the latest rendition of the peace process began? It hasn’t exactly been breaking news in the US mainstream media. Here’s a report mounted by a Guardian Zionist mouthpiece in attempt to downplay the facts by nit-picking the number of new settlements: http://cifwatch.com/category/adam-levick/

    The Guardian has also been running a smear of Martin Heidigger–why, he’s no great philosopher, he’s just a run of the mill anti-Semite!

  2. thetruthhurts
    March 19, 2014, 2:02 pm

    to cayman kai- i strongly suggest you pester the hell out of your fellow females who are tv reportaers like diane sawyer and katie couric and get them to do stories on thepalestinian crisis.
    maybe as fellow women you’ll have better luck.
    i remember hillary was character assassinated by jew/israeli loving women for allegedly kissing the cheek of the wife of yassir arafat.
    i studied it closely and she didn’t kiss her by just did a cheek to cheek and still they bugged her.

  3. DaBakr
    March 19, 2014, 5:13 pm

    while having much sympathy for the ordinary woman living under the absolute rle of the Hamas-i think the promotion of Gaza as an “open air prison” is part of the BDS Hasbara campaign to gain the words sympathy where women in places like Africa, Asia and other places in the ME are suffering FAR worse from conditions of war , conflict and statelessness that has nothing to do with Israel. For such a tiny enclave there is an abundance of luxury restaurants, hotels, amusement parks, auto dealers and shopping that, as far as we all know, is not prohibited to all Palestinians with the means to patronize these places. While not doubting there is poverty i Gaza-there is poverty in Cairo and a dozen other Arab cities this woman could have visited in solidarity.

    • Sumud
      March 20, 2014, 3:14 am

      You disgust me.

      Ordinary Germans citizens could reasonably claim they didn’t know about the true nature of the terrible crimes committed against minorities by the Nazis. No internet, no twitter, facebook, instagram, no cheap digital still & video cameras, no smartphones, no blogs, no citizen journalism – the flow of information was tiny.

      And Germany has recovered and worked hard and now consistently rates in the top few most admired nations in the world; a spectacular comeback.

      I don’t think Israel will fare so well. It is unrepentant, and zionists, like DaBakr and so many others are absolutely aware of the awful things Israel has done and is doing, and they deny or misdirect or fake sympathy and sometimes even celebrate these atrocities. Disgusting.

      They will never be able to claim “we didn’t know what was really happening.”

      Gaza in reality in 2014, as told by Harriet Sherwood:

      “This is what we have come to. We wake up in the night worrying about small things: cooking gas, the next power cut, how to find fuel for the car,” he said dejectedly. “We no longer care about the big things, the important things, the future – we just try to get through each day.”

      The people of Gaza are reeling from a series of blows that have led some analysts to say that it is facing its worst crisis for more than six years, putting its 1.7 million inhabitants under intense material and psychological pressure. Israel’s continued blockade has been exacerbated by mounting hostility to Gaza’s Hamas government from the military regime in Cairo, which sees it as an extension of Egypt’s deposed Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptians have virtually cut off access to and from Gaza, and as a result Hamas is facing crippling financial problems and a new political isolation.

      Power cuts, fuel shortages, price rises, job losses, Israeli air strikes, untreated sewage in the streets and the sea, internal political repression, the near-impossibility of leaving, the lack of hope or horizon – these have chipped away at the resilience and fortitude of Gazans, crushing their spirit.

      The UN recently warned that Gaza was rapidly becoming uninhabitable. But this is not as a result of a natural disaster – an earthquake, say, or a typhoon – but of destruction, de-development, suffocation and isolation caused by the deliberate policies of Israel and Egypt, with significant contributory factors from both Hamas and Fatah. And the material and psychological siege of Gaza has profound consequences not just for the population, but also for regional security.

      Goodbye Gaza: our correspondent reflects on her time in the Middle East

      • ziusudra
        March 20, 2014, 4:53 am

        Greetings Sumud,
        …ordinary german citizens….
        As a lapsed catholic american, vintage 41 living in Germany since 65, i’ve asked many Germans over the yrs. as to whether they knew anything about the atrocities. You are correct by saying that there just weren’t today’s communication tools back then. The men were gone, children at schoold, women at the kitchen stove. Life was more rural.
        S. Wiesenthal onced quipped that it only took a Group of 150K People to fully run all the camps & they lived right outside of the compounds.
        Whether they knew or not is irrelevant as today’s Governments of the US,UK,FR & Zionistan control anyone who will move against them.
        I’m simply moved by some retired IDF soldiers, who voluntarily spend their time on the small farms & orchards in the WB helping defend the Falesteeni against those vile, heinous settlers & active soldiers.
        I’m simply moved by all those jiddische mama’s who stand voluntarily at the checkpoints assisting the Falesteeni women & aged getting them through quickly.
        Sumud, The 19th C americans knew of the atrocities against the Indians.
        Shalom, Salam
        ziusudra

    • talknic
      March 20, 2014, 6:27 am

      @DaBakr “For such a tiny enclave there is an abundance of luxury restaurants, hotels, amusement parks, auto dealers and shopping”

      For such a tiny mind you display an abundance of bullsh*t and whataboutery.

      ” women in places like Africa, Asia and other places in the ME are suffering FAR worse from conditions of war , conflict and statelessness”

      And if they weren’t, would it change what Israel is doing to the people of Palestine as it illegally acquires their territory? Would Israel suddenly start adhering to its legal obligations as the Occupying Power?

    • ritzl
      March 20, 2014, 7:49 am

      God DaBakr, you forgot to mention a beautiful beach and palm trees. Gaza must be paradise, eh?

      I see the benefit of letting comments like this make it past moderation. Everything you said is just 100% wrong. It’s good for casual readers to see that diseased, rationalizing mentality in full display.

      I guess to start, the GDP/standard of living in Gaza is right around that of Haiti. Dirt poor. In Gaza’s case (if not Haiti’s), artificially dirt poor, malnourished, poisoned with brackish and nitrate-laced water, and disease-prone. Intentionally made artificially dirt poor, malnourished, poisoned with brackish and nitrate-laced water, and disease-prone by Israel (and its pal Generalissississimo Sisi). Yet here you are claiming Gaza isn’t so bad. Is Haiti paradise as well? They too have nice beaches and palm trees.

      Everything you said here is from distorted Israeli propaganda. It’s from this article last summer http://www.idfblog.com/2013/08/12/what-happened-to-the-humanitarian-crisis-in-gaza/, circulated by the IDF that made all those false claims and more. Parts of it were shown to be outright fiction by Electronic Intifada (http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/israel-army-publishes-fake-image-huge-gaza-shopping-mall). The/your “But shopping!!!” claim was illustrated by a picture that turned out to be of a mega-mall in India. Pure BS.

      The stocked store in Gaza is a ~10,000 sq. ft. building. That’s the size of ONE corner drug store in the US. http://www.ilsr.org/how-big-are-bigbox-stores/ Here in my town of 250K people, we have probably 30 corner drug stores of that size. And that’s just drug-stores. There’s almost 2M people in Gaza.

      Also, NYC is probably the richest city in the world. It’s the poster city for largesse. Yet there’s hunger there (20% are food challenged, http://nyccah.org/learn-about-hunger/hunger-new-york-city). Just think how much more and more severe hunger there must be in dirt poor Gaza.

      There is ONE troubled/empty, semi-open “luxury” hotel in Gaza. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/aug/08/gaza-first-five-star-hotel It was begun in the ’90s and has been been bombed since. Far from a sign of largesse as you would have it, it is a sign of some hope for normalcy for Gazans (begun during the hope of Oslo, and finished as a sign of determination). Yet you ridicule them for that. Pathetic.

      I could go on, but what you ridicule, I praise as signs/tendrils of a normal life amidst a brutal Israeli siege. Resilience. Unbelievable resilience. I suspect it’s that resilience that scares you all the most (and if I need to complete the connection for you, couple that resilience with the Rudoren article on changing Palestinian generational attitudes toward one-state).

      This is a non-argument that no Palestinian/supporter can every win. You all just keep repeating the same body of untruth. I just hope that people just becoming aware of this moral issue/conflict see your kinds of statements for what they are: detached rationalizations of meticulous Israeli cruelty.

      And what Sumud wrote.

  4. Daniel Rich
    March 19, 2014, 5:41 pm

    @ Cayman Kai,

    I’m a real sucker for headlines, so your ‘Detained, Deported, but not Deterred’ is right up there in my fav top 3.

    Physically you may not have made it to Gaza, but spiritually and morally you have outclassed each and everyone of the monsters that prevented you from getting there in the first place.

    Please keep up the good work, for those who’re running on the fumes of justice can’t let the flatulence of injustice let their flames of humanity die down.

  5. just
    March 19, 2014, 6:07 pm

    “It made me realize that in this fight to speak the truth and shed light on the countless injustices committed against the Palestinians by the Israelis, we cannot do it alone – we must join as many hands as possible and lift up our voices together.”

    This is the ONLY way that we can change the situation. My heart is filled with thanks for your solidarity with the people of Palestine. When our voices are raised in a veritable, deafening, and demanding choir for justice, then not only will the Palestinians be lifted up, but those responsible for this horror and those that carry water for them will be drowned out in their own execrable excrement.

    Thank you Cayman. I hope that you know your disappointing journey made a difference– a big one!

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