Notes from the cells

ActivismIsrael/Palestine
on 15 Comments
Women held in Cairo airport, photo by Crystal Zevon at Facebook

Women held in Cairo airport, photo by Crystal Zevon at Facebook

Nine women are sitting in the backroom of the Egyptian border control waiting the twelve hours before we will be deported. We had come to Cairo to join a delegation of 100 women from around the world invited to meet the women in Gaza in solidarity on International Women’s Day.

Each of us was snatched out of the passport control line for reasons unknown to us. Others who were with us managed to enter. We were told to wait in a corner in the shiny new Cairo airport terminal, then escorted into the grimy backrooms where the police hang out.

We weren’t questioned, just told we would be put on the next plane out.

Who are these dangerous women? And why did we want to go to Gaza?

Sabrina Rabei from France  – I’m a strong supporter of Palestinian rights and want to meet Palestinian women.

Hasna Baidoury from Belgium- My heart, just my heart.

Annemarie Ghizzi from Belgium – Because Gaza has been blockaded for seven years and we want to bring some lights (solar lights since there is no electricity) and show our solidarity for the women of Gaza.  I can’t understand what danger we pose to Egypt.  We are peaceful.   I’m very sad for because the women of Gaza are expecting us.   What will we do now with all the presents we brought them?

Yamina Bounir from Belgium

Dominique Waroquiez Belgium –  Just to denounce the Israeli blockade. Israel has forbidden this delegation. No country will demand the right for us to visit our friends in Gaza. Our governments don’t do anything to break this siege.

Yasmine Schmidt from Switzerland –  I want to show solidarity with the woman and children of Gaza who have lived under siege for many years. And I want to give them a voice because our journalists stay silent. Silence is complicity.

Crystal Zevon from USA Vermont – I had a Palestinian friend from Occupy and met her family over Skype and saw what they went through on a daily basis just to do the things we take for granted.  And the stories of the people who never came home because they were imprisoned.  Or didn’t come back from prison.  The idea of bringing solar lanterns to women just trying to survive and provide for their families.  We have to continue to speak out and join women internationally to put an end to this.  Go to my Facebook page for photos of our deportation rathole.

Pat Hewitt from USA Colorado – I love the idea of celebrating International Women’s day with women from Gaza.  I’ve been so concerned about Gaza this year with the sewage in the streets, floods, no electricity, extremely cold water, the closure of the tunnels.  I wanted women there to know they are not forgotten.

Felice Gelman from USA New York – I believe so strongly that the women of Gaza should have the opportunity to tell their own story in their own voices.  They have been either silenced or interpreted by others but denied the right to speak for themselves. This delegation offered that opportunity.

Medea Benjamin's cell at Cairo airport, photo by Crystal Zevon

Medea Benjamin’s cell at Cairo airport, photo by Crystal Zevon

What do we have in common? An interest in calling attention to the terrible plight the women of Gaza face particularly in the face of the tightening siege. The UN has cautioned an humanitarian disaster is imminent. There is no potable water because Israel has not permitted the parts need to repair the water purification facilities to cross the border. There are major shortages of medicine and medical supplies because Egypt has shut down most of the tunnels that allowed those items to cross the Egyptian border. There is little future for children because it is nearly impossible for them to travel to study and, with unemployment above 40%, few work opportunities.

Egypt and Israel and probably the US are conniving to put tremendous pressure on the Hamas government in Gaza. Each has its own reasons. The Egyptian deep state has incorporated Hamas into its hysterical campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood in the same way George Bush conflated every resistance movement in the world with Al Qaeda after 9/11 in order to consolidate police power. The Israelis are simply continuing their siege – unbroken since June 2006. Their interest is to sever Gaza from Palestine and eventually turn it over to the very unwilling Egyptians. Then they have no need to provide a secure passage from Gaza to the West Bank in the unlikely event of a “peace” agreement with the rump Palestinian government in Ramallah, and the siege creates a handy source of incitement to maintain Israel’s fortress mentality. The US still entertains hopes of cramming an agreement on its terms down the throats of Palestinians in the West Bank but knows it could never succeed in bringing Hamas on board.

What’s the effect of all this political chess? Oops, the chess pieces are real people – 1.7 million people in Gaza. A bunch of Europeans and Americans being deported from Egypt has little significance in this context. It is just another marker of the game moving to an even greater repression.

About Felice Gelman

Felice Gelman is a member of the Wespac Middle East committee and is on the board of the Friends of the Jenin Freedom Theatre

Other posts by .


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15 Responses

  1. just
    March 5, 2014, 6:21 pm

    What beautiful women with such grace and strength. Wasn’t Medea headed to be with you all? How insane that Israel and Egypt are so afraid of the truth and of peacemakers.

    You ladies have made an indelible mark on the shameful faces/forces of those that would silence your voices, curtail your freedom, and try to break your solidarity with the oppressed people of Gaza. They will not succeed. They broke Medea’s arm, but not her will.

    ——-
    “MEDEA BENJAMIN: No, I arrived at the airport. When I gave in my passport, I was taken aside, brought into a separate room, where I was held for seven hours without anybody ever telling me what was wrong. Then I was put into a jail cell in the airport, held overnight. And in the morning, five very scary-looking men came in and wanted to take me away. And I said, “The embassy is coming. The embassy is coming.” They were supposed to have arrived. Instead, they dragged me out, tackled me to the ground, jumped on me, handcuffed my wrists so tight that they started bleeding, and then dislocated my shoulder, and then kept me like that, grabbing my arm. The whole way, I was shouting through the airport, screaming in pain. Then the—I demanded to get medical attention. The Egyptian doctors came and said, “This woman cannot travel. She’s in too much pain. She needs to go to the hospital.” The Egyptian security refused to take me to a hospital and threw me on the plane. Thank God there was an orthopedic surgeon on the plane who gave me another shot and put the arm back in its shoulder. But they were so brutal, and, as I said, Amy, never saying why.

    AMY GOODMAN: Did the U.S. embassy representative ever come to see you at the airport?

    MEDEA BENJAMIN: No. Some of the delegates, including Ann Wright, who had already arrived for the Gaza delegation, had been calling the embassy non-stop. The CodePink people in D.C. were calling the embassy non-stop. They were always saying, “They’re supposed to show up. They’re supposed to show up.” They never showed up. I was on the tarmac. The Turkish airline was forced to take me, but we delayed an hour while they were debating what to do. There were about 20 men there. And the embassy never showed up the entire time.

    AMY GOODMAN: And how long were you held, that the U.S. embassy, that’s supposed to protect U.S. citizens, never showed up?

    MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, I was held from 8:30 in the evening until the next day at about 11:00 a.m. They—as I said, we put in so many calls. And they even knew then, when I was attacked and I was in excruciating pain and wanted their help to get to a hospital. They still didn’t show up then. And so, they were missing in action the entire time.

    AMY GOODMAN: Medea, talk about what your intention was. Talk about why you were going to Gaza.

    MEDEA BENJAMIN: We had plans for March 8th, International Women’s Day, to go on a 100-woman delegation to Gaza to show our support for women who feel really abandoned. Since the upheavals in Egypt, the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza has been closed much of the time, and people are feeling very desperate in Gaza. So this was to highlight their situation. We had Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire coming with us; a heroine from the anti-colonial struggle in Algeria, very well known in the Arab world; and many other very well-known women. And I was one of the main organizers of the delegation.

    AMY GOODMAN: And this meeting is taking place as Benjamin Netanyahu is in Washington, D.C., the Israeli prime minister, meeting with President Obama. What were you calling for? What is CodePink calling for?

    MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, we have been calling for the lifting of the siege on Gaza. We’ve been calling, of course, for the stop of the settlements. We’ve been calling for basic human rights for Palestinians. In fact, we were out in front of AIPAC protesting during their policy conference on Sunday. And we’ve been very vocal in our support for the Palestinians and our call for Israel and now Egypt to open up those borders and, especially for Gaza, allow goods to come in and out, so people can have more electricity and more of the goods that they need just to survive.

    AMY GOODMAN: And now what is your intention, now that you are—where are you in Turkey?

    MEDEA BENJAMIN: I’m in a hospital in the airport right now. The doctors just gave me another shot. They’re going to do an MRI on my shoulder. And they are going to continue with the deportation. There’s not a plane until tomorrow, so I will be here overnight, and then I will be leaving tomorrow back to the U.S.

    AMY GOODMAN: Well, all the best to you, Medea. I also want to let people know, of course, about the four Al Jazeera reporters who are currently being held in Egypt, three of whom have been charged with belonging to a terrorist group and spreading false news. Many thousands of activists are being held in Egypt right now. Medea, thanks so much for joining us.

    MEDEA BENJAMIN: Thanks for having me on, Amy. Bye-bye.”

    link to democracynow.org

    Shame on the US government and the State Department in particular!

  2. JusticeForPalestine
    March 5, 2014, 6:22 pm

    Thank you so much to all of these activists for sacrificing on behalf of the tens of thousands of Gazan women, men and children who suffer unjustly everyday under US-funded Zionist occupation.

  3. bilal a
    March 5, 2014, 7:06 pm

    Israel org claims responsibility for Codepink incarceration in Egypt:

    The news wires were all abuzz today with the report that Medea Benjamin of Code Pink was deported from Egypt on trying to enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing. Stop the ISM, a division of DAFKA.org was responsible for this.

    Upon learning that Benjamin was planning a trip to Gaza under the ruse of bringing lanterns to the Palestinian Arabs, our agency contacted the Egyptian embassy in Washington D.C. and alerted them to her plans. The result was Egyptian officials met her airplane when she arrived and immediately arrested her.

    Benjamin, who exults in creating media scenes, attempted to resist the Egyptian police who, she claims, then dislocated her shoulder as they dragged her to a holding cell prior to her deportation to Turkey.

    link to israelnationalnews.com

    PJ Lifestyle accuses Codepink of Terrorist ties
    link to pjmedia.com
    by S.L.M. Goldberg @slmgoldberg
    Author, Aspiring #Yogi, #Wine drinker, #Beatles fan, #Zionist. #plantbased #tcot writer at PJLifestyle

    Progressive Except Palestine ?

    DAFKA – an unregistered Israeli front ?
    link to dafka.org

    • Daniel Rich
      March 5, 2014, 11:06 pm

      @ Felice Gelman and company,

      Kudos to you all. The flatulent winds of oppression are no match for the light of the candle of light to shine into even the darkest of corners. Proud of all of you.

      :[]: <- Big Hug

      @ bilal a,

      Q: 'The result was Egyptian officials met her airplane when she arrived and immediately arrested her.'

      R: Besides the casual and matter of fact mentioning of an arrest, the author [not you] doesn't seem to be that much worried about trivial trinkets like the pursuit of [true] justice, presumption of innocence and more of that human dreck only yogurt flogging, alfalfa munching, loincloth wearing, sandal weaving, tofu massaging and tree hugging dingbats like myself care about.

  4. dbroncos
    March 5, 2014, 10:16 pm

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that the US Embassy in Cairo helped arrange the deportation of these inspired, inspiring women.

  5. alfa
    March 5, 2014, 10:35 pm

    This brings this powerful poem from a very powerful woman to mind, Meena-

    This is the translation of an inspiring poem by Meena published in “Payam-e-Zan” No.1,1981

    I’ll never return

    I’m the woman who has awoken
    I’ve arisen and become a tempest through the ashes of my burnt children
    I’ve arisen from the rivulets of my brother’s blood
    My nation’s wrath has empowered me
    My ruined and burnt villages fill me with hatred against the enemy,
    I’m the woman who has awoken,
    I’ve found my path and will never return.
    I’ve opened closed doors of ignorance
    I’ve said farewell to all golden bracelets
    Oh compatriot, I’m not what I was
    I’m the woman who has awoken
    I’ve found my path and will never return.
    I’ve seen barefoot, wandering and homeless children
    I’ve seen henna-handed brides with mourning clothes
    I’ve seen giant walls of the prisons swallow freedom in their ravenous stomach
    I’ve been reborn amidst epics of resistance and courage
    I’ve learned the song of freedom in the last breaths, in the waves of blood and in victory
    Oh compatriot, Oh brother, no longer regard me as weak and incapable
    With all my strength I’m with you on the path of my land’s liberation.
    My voice has mingled with thousands of arisen women
    My fists are clenched with the fists of thousands compatriots
    Along with you I’ve stepped up to the path of my nation,
    To break all these sufferings all these fetters of slavery,
    Oh compatriot, Oh brother, I’m not what I was
    I’m the woman who has awoken
    I’ve found my path and will never return.

    Keep the BDS pressure growing the occupiers are approaching panic. They will fall faster than they can imagine.

  6. concernedhuman
    March 6, 2014, 12:35 am

    This is really very sad , these governments have become dictators and are scared that people if go in to gaza will know the truth !
    Please be safe !!

  7. yonah fredman
    March 6, 2014, 4:50 am

    Quote: “Egypt and Israel and probably the US are conniving to put tremendous pressure on the Hamas government in Gaza. Each has its own reasons. The Egyptian deep state has incorporated Hamas into its hysterical campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood in the same way George Bush conflated every resistance movement in the world with Al Qaeda after 9/11 in order to consolidate police power. The Israelis are simply continuing their siege – unbroken since June 2006. Their interest is to sever Gaza from Palestine and eventually turn it over to the very unwilling Egyptians. Then they have no need to provide a secure passage from Gaza to the West Bank in the unlikely event of a “peace” agreement with the rump Palestinian government in Ramallah, and the siege creates a handy source of incitement to maintain Israel’s fortress mentality.”

    This is propaganda that even believers don’t really believe. Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt do not need to be artificially linked to each other. They are linked to each other. There may be differences, but they are not major. The coup in Egypt that kicked out Morsi and the MB was a major blow to Hamas and to pretend that the military junta needs to trump up some emotion in order to hate Hamas is poppycock.

    Hamas wishes to destroy Israel. Hamas has other emotions that balance this wish with practical wishes as well, but to write: “the siege creates a handy source of incitement to maintain Israel’s fortress mentality” is about as unbalanced a sentence that has been written in MW. It is ridiculous and poppycock.

    The desire to help the people of Gaza with material and spiritual support is worthy. Spreading lies and propaganda are not worthy. The cited paragraph is sludge, waste and pollution. It deserves to be tossed down a memory hole and never heard from again. It does not help anybody to talk in such nonsensical terms. Is it ridiculous to expect a modicum, a bare minimum of reality and honesty in this so called “war of ideas”? Maybe.

    • just
      March 6, 2014, 6:03 am

      “Is it ridiculous to expect a modicum, a bare minimum of reality and honesty in this so called “war of ideas”?”

      Good question, yonah. There’s not one word of anything helpful or kind in your post about these women, except a throw- away: “The desire to help the people of Gaza with material and spiritual support is worthy.” Then you immediately spring to the attack with: “Spreading lies and propaganda are not worthy”.

      It’s true that Israel and you have a “fortress mentality”. You hate it when the truth comes out.

    • Cliff
      March 6, 2014, 7:12 am

      @Wondering Jew

      Hamas wishes to destroy Israel. Hamas has other emotions that balance this wish with practical wishes as well, but to write: “the siege creates a handy source of incitement to maintain Israel’s fortress mentality” is about as unbalanced a sentence that has been written in MW. It is ridiculous and poppycock.

      You Zionists oppose ANY and ALL resistance to your ideology and to your supremacy/tyranny of the majority.

      In effect, Palestinians must either convert to Zionism or die/leave.

      So wanting to ‘destroy’ Israel is a noble cause.

      You and Zionism are pure evil. A form of slavery. For Palestinians, this effect is immediate. Their entire identity has been defamed and warped by Jewish supremacists.

      For non-Jews elsewhere, any expression of solidarity w/ the Palestinians is also warped by Jewish supremacists.

      So the message for your cult is the same everywhere: convert or die. Accept Jewish rule in Israel/Palestine or die.

      So I say to you, colonist, Israel, such as it is, SHOULD be ‘destroyed’.

    • puppies
      March 6, 2014, 9:22 am

      The telling part in that paragraph is “The Israelis are simply continuing their siege – unbroken since June 2006. ” It doesn’t even mention the thousands of murders, acts of piracy, genocidal deprivations, etc. committed by the Zionist Brotherhood, your tribal family, for whom you work at your computer. Now you are working for a comic opera bunch of putsch generals, murderers set by the same Zionist Brotherhood. War of ideas my ass. It is war period; you started it, and you’ll be destroyed by it.

    • piotr
      March 6, 2014, 11:36 am

      The link between Brotherhood and Hamas may not be artificial, but may I remind you, it is always “the others” who are “all the same”. The tag of “terrorists” was applied arbitrarily to both. This tag is a mockery at the best of times, the same organization is “terrorist” when it operates in Pakistan and “freedom fighter” when it operates in Iran, to give but one example.

      The current junta in Egypt fits every facet of the definition of fascism. Yea, they had a support of a popular movement, and they call all opponents “terrorists”. Israel presents a more mixed picture, some opponents are called terrorist, some savages, and some fellow travelers, one can see a much higher level of sophistication than in Egypt.

  8. alfa
    March 6, 2014, 7:19 am

    Yes just. Truth is the Zionists natural enemy!

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