Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hunger Strikers In Cairo

Hedy Epstein, 85, a holocaust survivor, and a Gaza Freedom Marcher, announced on December 26 that she would begin a hunger strike in solidarity with the people of Gaza. Of the approximately 25-30 people who have joined her,are nine of our own Hudson To Gaza affinity group: Helaine, Cheryl, Pia, Tarak, Laurie, Jen, Linda, Mauritzio, and Nic. Today, January 1 is the fifth day of our fasts. On December 28, we gathered, along with 200 other GFM'ers, on the steps of the Society of Journalists to announce our Hunger strike with the following statement:

We are doing this hunger strike in solidarity with the Palestinian People of Gaza who are hungry for food, shelter, and, most of all, for their freedom. We call upon people everywhere to join us in short fasts and other non violent actions to help end the siege of Gaza.

We were, as always, immediately blockaded by police in their usual riot gear.This didn't at all dissuade us from chanting,singing displaying our protest signs, and generally having a spirited protest that was even covered in the NY Times(at least a picture). .We disbursed peacefully after approx 3 hours.It was considered by all to be a very success protest.

We continue our fasts with many of us uncertain about how or when to end.The fasts have deepened our commitment to work for the freedom of the Palestinian People. We all acknowledge that this denial of sustenance to ourselves is only symbolic of the daily suffering of our oppressed bothers and sisters in Gaza. While our goal of breaking the siege has not been accomplished, and may not be for a great while, we do feel that, along with the other actions on this trip, this has been an important undertaking both politically and personally

Denied Access to Gaza Activists Demonstrate in Cairo

Several hundred members of the Gaza Freedom March, including six members of the Hudson to Gaza delegation, were caught up in  a police action as they attempted to march peacefully  in front of the Egyptian Museum Thursday at 10 am amid heavy morning traffic. They were met by overwhelming numbers of riot police who pushed and grabbed them forcing them into a cordoned off area. Some support members were forced inside the area but succeeded in leaving. Others filmed and photographed the march, which got violent. As of 3 pm Diane, Sarah, and Laurie were still being detained but were safe and in good spirits as the protest continued with banners and signs waving. Cheryl was assisted in getting out by a Palestinian woman. The three hotels that served as meeting places for the GFM were blocked by police early in the morning to prevent guests registered there to attend the  march and police in uniform and plainclothes were everywhere. Several marchers, not members of Hudson to Gaza, suffered injuries like broken ribs and arms. As of this time, at least one hotel remains blockaded and Gaza Freedom Marchers are still at the museum.

Not quite in Gaza

After all the successful publicity we got (see front page of NY Times) from the Journalist building rally, the GFM went into a very distructive split. Code Pink had negotiated for two buses to Gaza, with a number of stipulations (no French, no Mid-eastern peoples, only 16 hours, and an end to political action here in Cairo). Since everything is rumor, these conditions may not be accurate.

As soon as this was told to various groups, there was a rebellion. Long meetings into the night. The next morning there was a nasty scene at the busses with people getting on and off, depending on who was trying to convince them. In the end, the second bus was only half full when it left.

Today's action was really hard to pull off. The Lotus Hotel was blockaded by police, and groups of three or more were not allowed on the sidewalks. Communications was terrible and plans kept changing. But at 10:00 am about 250 took to the street in a large square by the Nation Museum, stopping all traffic. Very soon, things got tense and the pressure of people crowded together caused some to fall. We were forced ahead, over the people who were sitting. Arms, legs, screams. There was a woman who couldn't get up after she had been stepped on. She was screaming for her life.

Ahead of us were the special police who were throwing and dragging people off the road. More yelling, as some people were punched and hit. After one of the special police had punched someone, a guy in a suit came up and pulled him back and out of the line. Maybe the official position was not to hurt people.

I talked to some Muslim protesters, and they thought they had been targeted for bad treatment. But the scene in the road was tough for everyone. Anyone infirm to start with faced some real danger. Not what most of the GFM had really signed up for. There were about 5 who needed and got medical attention.

We were then condoned off by the side of the road, with police lines all around. After about an hour, they started letting people out.

It was also the most exhilarating of the actions we have done. Intense energy, and I was very glad I had done it. I got some great footage of the cops as they broke things up.

May be my last time in Egypt unless I change my name.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Marhaba from Cheryl in Cairo

I am having much trouble with my blackberry and anything to connect me to my outside world, nonetheless, my spirits are good. Indeed they are blocking us from entering Gaza. Yesterday we were at the 'World Trade Center/UN'building and the police surrounded us for hours - I stood eye to eye with young soldiers - most of them so very young (some no older than 16 or 17) - we taught each other how to say peace in our respective languages, we laughed, one guy even cried a little when I told him he had ein halwah/beautiful eyes - but don't get me wrong - I am not naive about how dangerous this could get at an any moment. It is just that, once again, I am reminded that when given the opportunity to see each other's humanity, really look at each other and try to see each other, walls can come down.

The same walls that seem so impenetrable to get from Cairo to Gaza for this march.

I suppose that this whole effort to stop us from bringing support and humanitarian aid is just another extension of the formidable walls that surround Palestine in general. Yet when I think of the 1400 people who have come to participate in this effort from all over the world, I truly feel in my heart that one day this blockade will be lifted.

We will find a way to get the aid and the school supplies including the 12 laptops purchased by our group. I am also bringing something precious to me from my friend, Noura.  The day before we left, she gave me her beautiful floor-length engagement dress saying 'Some young girl will want this for herself - to celebrate her own engagement'.  So I have brought the dress to Cairo and am determined that it will get to Gaza, not just because some young woman will be thrilled to have it but because it signifies that that young woman is creating a future for herself, that she expects to have a future.  One of the most devastating affects of violence and the longlasting aftershocks of trauma is the loss of a sense of future.  I stay on course to give that young woman a dress and to say to her and to you that I believe in a better future for Palestine. I pray daily that the evergrowing tide of global support will rise to lift Palestine out of isolation, poverty and terror.

Many of us are joining Hedy Epstein, an 85 yo survivor of the Holocaust, in a hunger strike. Her story seems to be getting the most international press. Hard for me to pass by the shwarma, balawa, and figs I see on the streets but I am hungrier for this blockade of our march to get the attention of the world and I am hungrier yet for peace and justice.


Pia's comments

My dear ones,hope you get this,why didn't i get your emails? Again,all well with us,many meetigs
about plans,nobody wants to get arrested,police know all,are there before we get there. 

Love you all tremendously,do not worry about me(other ones want to write),we are very careful, 
               hugs,       mom

A Love Letter to Gaza

A Love Letter to Gaza
It is hard to see far into the future from the smog that covers Cairo. On the ground it looks like a traffic jam of humanity and sounds like a mad symphony of horns. At the end of the day I can not wash Cairo off my skin.
Simply, I DO NOT WANT TO BE IN CAIRO. I want to be in Gaza. I am not alone. The 1360 Internationals from 42 countries should be in Gaza. We came to Cairo only because it is our transit point to the Rafah boarder crossing into Gaza. We stay in Cairo only because the Egyptian government has denied us entry, first in Gaza, then even to the crossing, then also to the town of Al Arish near the border crossing, and now even outside of Cairo.

Have you ever experienced sitting inside a locked room where you could see only yourself and one other person yet sensed there were others lurking in the shadows or even in charge? The seige of Gaza has spread its arms into Cairo. The UN? No relief. The embassies? No relief. The press? Barred.

Did you know that you are not allowed to bring love letters to Gaza? You can not deliver your heart, or computers, or childrens crayons, or supplies. You can not walk side-by-side with with Gazans to speak to the world about ending the seige. You are not allowed to tell why you came all this way from France, the U.S., South Africa, Australia, Spain.

No, in the world of Obama, Netanyahu, Mubarek, you can not deliver love letters to Gaza! So we write our love letter in Cairo and send it to you with hopes you will spread it everywhere.

Dear Gaza,

And we begin our first paragraph

“You are not alone.”             The French delegation, surrounded by hundreds of police encamp outside their embassy. Delegates who took buses and taxis to get to the border are detained. We have all come ready to march with you. There are hunger strikers now too.

“Look at our faces.”             We come from all around the planet. We are young and old. We believe there should be a crisis of conscience everywhere to demand that the seige be ended.

There is a pause in the letter. It is hard to express the heartbreak and anger at being
kept from you, Gaza. But we write more.

“Our call is to humanity.       Quiet the car horns, lift the veil of this damned smog, let the entire world see the Gaza Freedom March. We are a glimpse of the future.

Every well-constructed love letter has a second paragraph. So we continue

“Do you know that we will never give up?”          We will, someday, break bread together and share clementines.

“To Gaza. To Gaza.”

Finally, the salutation.

“With heartfelt solidarity and undaunted determination. The Gaza Freedom March.”
-Hope B. 12/29/09

from helaine

Hi, everyone,

Time is somewhat limited, so here is a shortened version of our trip so far:

On the Ground in East Jerusalem

1. House removals of Palestinians: Religious Jews from Brooklyn took over two Palestinian homes--the Jews spit on the ground near the Palestinian children and teens, and the P children and teens call the Jews "pussy" and "faggot"--the IDF arrives to stop the "dialogue" and is clearly there to protect the Jews

2. The many checkpoints throughout the West Bank are obviously there to stop the movement of the P people and to make their lives miserable--what used to be a 20-minute drive can now take one and a half hours—this obviously interferes with people going to work and school and it makes it very difficult to visit family and friends

3. The Separation Wall (the so called security wall) goes on and on, snaking throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory--it seems mainly to separate P from P, and P from their land—from what we could see, it has little to nothing to do with the security of the Israelis (this wall does not follow the Green Line—rather, it creates closed-in prisons of neighborhoods with only one means of entry and egress)

4. Israel is in the process of building train tracks straight through East Jerusalem (so that Jews from the settlements [aka colonies] can travel from their condo homes downtown to work and to stores--these tracks divide East Jerusalem into two sectors (talk about divide and conquer)

5. Settlements/Colonies can have as many as 32,000 Jews living in them—they look like housing developments everywhere in the US with condos that have balconies (the one difference is that here in East Jerusalem the condos look out onto P barrios/favelas rather than looking out onto golf courses)

6. P from the WB are not allowed into EJ or even to travel in cars with residents of EJ (this means that a resident of EJ cannot have his/her spouse in the car if s/he is not also from EJ)—if this order is disobeyed, the IDF can fine/imprison the driver, impound the car, etc.

7. P from EJ are considered residents, not citizens of Israel

Get the idea? Segregation, Racism, Apartheid, Bantustans at its finest

Cairo, Egypt

1. 20 million people live in Cairo--there are more cars than you can imagine (more than you have ever seen in NYC)—there are few traffic lights—honking horns and speeding around each other is the name of the game

2. There are few street names on streets--the one traffic light we did see shows a person running across the street rather than walking—it is truly a trip to cross streets

3. Cairo is filthy—the air pollution is terrible—there are lots of mosquitoes and flies all over the place

4. From what we can ascertain, there is little to no freedom of speech here (Egyptian college kids were beat up today for rallying for democracy in front of a lawyers “guild”)—the E government has forbidden E to travel into Gaza with any Code Pink group

5. There are uniformed and undercover cops everywhere!--They watch and listen to all we do and say--they have totally shut us down--they stopped us from putting flowers and notes to commemorate the victims of Cast Lead—they stopped us from going onto falukkas (boats) on the Nile to send commemorative candles down the Nile for the 1400 killed in Gaza—They sent large foreboding paddy wagons/armed-service carriers filled with police/military to corral us and to harass us

6. They cordon us off at every event we have—this feels confining and threatening, although it does appear that a number of the young soldiers may very well be in support of what we are doing—it seems that a number of them have been “hired” to avoid jail terms and are “carrying out orders”

Gaza Freedom March

1. It appears that the GFM leadership never established a firm and clearly laid out Plan B, other than having different groups do direct actions. Many of us believe we desperately need a unified and clear plan with a clear message.

2. Since we arrived in Cairo a few days ago, different groups (which represent different countries, women, students, interfaith, Code Pink, states, counties, etc.) are doing different actions; to many of us, this feels pretty scattered and unfocused.

3. Approximately 200 French set up an encampment at their Embassy and were immediately surrounded by the military police—they are allowing people to go out of the encampment one by one to go to a bathroom but it appears that once out they cannot return.

4. Other groups have spoken about speaking with their Embassies. It appears that the US Embassy has no interest in assisting us (big surprise).

5. Yesterday, the larger GFM group planned to encamp at the UN, but abandoned that idea later in the afternoon; 5 very courageous Es and one American Palestinian poet (the poet who performed at our Arabic luncheon) decided to remain overnight--they were arrested and then released.

6. Hedy Epstein, 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, is heading up a contingent of 30+ people (thus far) who are beginning a hunger strike (in conjunction with those from Viva Palestina who are on a hunger strike).

7. Today Netanyahu is meeting with Mubarek here in Cairo; there is discussion about whether to hold an action at the Presidential Palace.

8. There is also serious discussion about whether to join with the Interfaith Group, which is planning to begin a pilgrimage to Gaza (knowing full well that the police can and probably will shut this action down within only yards of taking their/our first steps). Already, people who attempted to get to Al Arish by cab, public bus, private bus (which the E govt. have forbidden to drive there) have been arrested, detained, held at their hotels, etc. Yesterday, two young people were taken out of their cab, had their passports confiscated by the police, and were forced to walk 4 hours back to Cairo.

That is it for now. I hope this gives you a feel for what is transpiring here. Our sense is that Plan A to travel to Gaza ended before we even arrived here. Reasons for this may include: the E general fear of having this number of organized internationals intervening in the situation; the current discussion about an exchange of prisoners; the current E shutdown of many of the tunnels going into Gaza; the possible Israeli plan for another military action in Gaza; fear of terrorist attacks to commemorate the anniversary of Cast Lead; ……
Many want to post, but because everyone is using my username and password, we are taking turns.

We are busy today in planning new events. Don't have imaging software, so will have to load pictures when we get back. Must bring my laptop next time.

Everyone fine, and the computers are being counted and packaged for the trip to Gaza. We have eleven to send.


Monday, December 28, 2009

Dog tired and still in Cairo

We have arrived to a total clampdown on all travel out of Cairo towards Gaza. Lots of police, and intimidating tactics. They do not want us to demonstrate. But Code Pink will not be stopped and we have had two rallies. The one last night just grew and grew, with people from all over the world joining in. They stop every plan that is made, but we have learned to improvise. We were supposed to take boats on the Nile for a vigil, but the police stopped all boats. But the demonstration was one of the most moving I have been in for some time. People from around the world, different languages, all saying the same thing; break the siege of Gaza.

The French are not camped outside their embassy with thousands of troops surrounding them. We bought coffee and food and handed it to the people encamped there, about 250. Really and wonderful action. I doubt that it has been reported in the US.

Anyway, we are looking around for a place to put up our banner.

Free Gaza!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Permission withdrawn for entering Gaza

"At 8:30pm tonight, December 24, 2009, the Egyptian Foreign Minister said on Egyptian TV Channel 2, that neither the Gaza Freedom March nor persons accompanying the Viva Palestina convoy would be allowed to enter Gaza. The Foreign Minister’s comments confirmed statements made to Ann Wright and Tighe Barry of the Gaza Freedom March steering committee during their meeting this afternoon with the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director of the Office of Palestinian Affairs Hisham Seif-Eldin and officer Ahmed Azzam..."

I think everyone is committed to going, hoping that this news will be reversed again. Thanks to all who called or e-mailed your support. The Egyptian embassies and consulates were contacted by thousands, both here and in Europe.

On to Cairo!

Maria Latella's Blog Followers of Maurizio and Linda's Gaza Freedom March

Best to all of you who wished me well from Italy And TO My new friends:
Alessandro, Giuseppe, Maria,Chiara, Celeste, Gabri, Ornella,...Grazia' tu ormai sei un fratello (maggiore:)) insomma thanks a tutti e chiedo scusa se ho omesso qualcuno
You can follow us here, dear friends; we'll be posting more here and will keep you posted so we can work, united, on making a powerful difference and Graziano and Maria, you can help me with the article/story/letter you suggested: it will be a big help. GRAZIE

Ciao a tutti


Maurizio(Roamin Roman) e Linda

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

We are going in...


Gaza Freedom March requests Egyptian government reconsider its entry due to secure border situation

Government of Egypt changes policy to allow humanitarian group Viva Palestina to enter Gaza December 27, 2009

December 23, 2009

Gaza Freedom March congratulates the Government of Egypt on its change of policy to allow international missions into Gaza during December with the decision to allow the Viva Palestina convoy to go into Gaza on December 27, 2009.

Organizers of Gaza Freedom March were told on December 20, 2009 by Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials that no international missions would be allowed to enter Gaza during December, including the Gaza Freedom March, because of serious security conditions at the border.

Today, December 23, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson told Gaza Freedom March organizers said that the decision had been made to alter its policy because of the "humanitarian assistance" nature of Viva Palestina...


Tuesday, December 22, 2009


in the ruins
of this catholic womb
signs of labor
as the hours pass
trying to remember
to breathe
no past, no future
only this moment

hands clenched
intense pain
torrential sweat


hold on
bear down

insignificant reprieve

da capo

hold on
bear down

determined to end
the pain

one last push


Need Your Help

"Gaza Freedom March
UPDATE   December 21, 2009

We are determined to break the siege.
We all will continue to do whatever we can to make it happen.

Using the pretext of escalating tensions on the Gaza-Egypt border, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry informed us yesterday that the Rafah border will be closed over the coming weeks, into January. We responded that there is always tension at the border because of the siege, that we do not feel threatened, and that if there are any risks, they are risks we are willing to take. We also said that it was too late for over 1,300 delegates coming from over 42 countries to change their plans now.  We both agreed to continue our exchanges..."

Please help by contacting the NYC Egyptian Embassy at:
Telephone: 1+212-759-7120


The US Egyptian Embassy in DC at:
Telephone: 1+202-895-5400 and ask for Omar Youssef

* * Sample text * *

I am writing/calling to express my full support for the December 31, 2009 Gaza Freedom March. I urge the Egyptian government to allow the 1,300 international delegates to enter the Gaza Strip through Egypt.

The aim of the march is to call on Israel to lift the siege. The delegates will also take in badly needed medical aid, as well as school supplies and winter jackets for the children of Gaza.

Please, let this historic March proceed.

Thank you,

Felice Gelman

Monday, December 21, 2009

Freeing the Palestinian People

With so many points of view about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, it is hard for the average American to know where to start. And the knowledge some people have already acquired from religious fundamentalist teaching, be it Christian, Jewish, or Muslim is often based on mythology rather than fact.

Perhaps the best place to begin is on the ground in the West Bank and Gaza. In both occupied territories, Palestinian people are among the poorest and most destitute in the world, often without adequate food, potable water, and even the most basic of housing.

Added to this, at least in the occupied West Bank, is the ever present violence directed at Palestinians by Jewish fundamentalist who have built armed fortresses on hundreds of hilltops. These Jewish zealots have one goal in mind, to clear the land of all Palestinians by shootings, beatings, and destroying what is left of Palestinian agriculture. The Israeli Defense Force's massive presence with its check points, military incursions, huge walls and heavy surveillance insures that there can be no Palestinian retaliation to these attacks. In fact, Palestinians homes are routinely bulldozed to make way for more Jewish families, usually paid for by the Israeli government ($75,000 per household). There are now a half million Jewish occupiers in the West Bank protected by tens of thousands of Israeli soldiers.

"I’ve been very deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded me so much of what happened to use black people in South Africa. I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at the checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about..."    
- Archbishop Desmond Tutu 

Life for the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza is by most measures even worse. Cut off from the outside world by an Israeli air, sea, and land blockade, their standard of living rivals the worst of the world's great slums. Without dependable sources of food or water, a whole generation of Palestinian children is growing up physically stunted. Moreover, the repeated military attacks on Gaza have left the entire population traumatized. There is simply no way to escape the fighter planes and missile gunships when Israeli invasions occur. 

"The Israelis have orchestrated acute misery and poverty in the Palestinian territories over the past two decades in an effort to subdue and ethnically cleanse the captive population. They have reduced Palestinians, many of whom now live on less than $2 a day, to a subsistence level."
- Chris Hedges

Efforts to "punish, humiliate, and terrorize" an entire population are, of course, war crimes, as defined most recently by the Goldstone Report. The Israeli government and its Zionist allies in the US have no moral or legal defense when it comes to how Israel treats Palestinians in the occupied territories. All that remains is obfuscation.

The Goldstone report on the Gaza invasion, however, is a good example of how effective the Zionist lobby in this country have been in hiding Israeli war crimes from the general public. Richard Goldstone, a Jewish South African, served as chief prosecutor of the the UN Criminal Tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda. In 2009, he led a UN Human Rights Council investigation of international and humanitarian law violations associated with the most recent Israeli invasion of Gaza. In his own words, his life's work pursuing war criminals "stems from the lessons of the Holocaust."

As soon as his report came out, The NY Times characterized it as critical of both Hamas and Israel. No mention was made of the fact that Goldstone directed most of his condemnation towards Israeli "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity." In every broadcast, NPR referred to the Goldstone Report as being "critical of both sides." And the mainstream media followed suit, insuring that most Americans never learned about the actual nature of Goldstone's charges against Israel. 

But that wasn't enough for Israel or its Zionist lobby in the United States. Soon there was massive pressure exerted on the House of Representatives to condemn the Goldstone findings. The NY Times didn't print the House debate or the final vote, 344 to 36 in favor of a non-binding resolution that among other things found the Goldstone Report "Irredeemably biased." John Hall, a local representative who had run for election as an antiwar progressive, was one of the co-sponsors. 

The House of Representative resolution got very little coverage anywhere in the US, probably because it stated as fact something that the US media had tried to hide: the Goldstone report identified Israel as the major perpetrator of war crimes.

When the United Nations General Assembly later approved a resolution endorsing the Goldstone Report, the US media had to change it's spin. The NY Times refused to print anything about the two day debate during which 45 nations strongly criticized Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity. When our newspaper of record finally did report on the UN General Assembly vote, It gave one sentence to the Palestinian Ambassador, three paragraphs to the Israeli Ambassador, and two paragraphs to the official US position condemning the UN action.

While Israel's brutal and racist treatment of the Palestinians is obvious to most of the rest of the world, it is in our country that the Zionist lobby has had its greatest success. The mainstream media and most members of Congress remain dedicated to hiding the sordid truth about occupied Palestine from the American people.

Perhaps that is why 14 local residents of the Mid Hudson Valley are traveling to Gaza this December to be part of the Gaza Freedom March. The group is part of the Middle East Crisis Response , an organization in Dutchess and Ulster Counties dedicated to ending Israeli and US war crimes. The local marchers will join over a thousand international participants in breaking the siege of Gaza by crossing the Egyptian boarder on December 29. Their progress can be followed at

Like many grassroots movements for social justice and human rights in our country's history, the campaign to end Israeli apartheid will reach the nation's media and halls of Congress last. And it won't be easy fighting the influence of the Zionist lobby, the weapons makers, and the advocates of US empire. But the truth has a way of spreading despite all obstacles. And the only question that remains is when the Palestine people will at long last be free.

-Fred Nagel, from Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter:

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Letter to Kingston Freeman

This letter is to wish the 6 local citizens who join 1400 others in a visit to the Gaza Strip during its current travail which is reducing its inhabitants to convenient war numbers. .  May these dedicated neighbors of ours get there,  be safe from the ravages of hatred and its attendant bullets.

There have always been members of our sorry species, in the darkest of times,  who felt kinship with others and who honored the best in humanity. People like Ms. Rachel Corie run over by an Israeli tractor as she protested the home demolishment of Palestinians,  people like Sophie Scholl and her brother who were guilotined by the Nazis for disseminating information about the proposed destruction of the Jews.

May our devoted friends achieve something in regard to the concealed horrors and cruelty, the starvation and suffering of Gaza's people..

In solidarity,
Roberta Gould

We r still on the Tarmac. At jfk. Oh my stuck in nyc

We are off!! See u all in cairo. Much love

Times Square

Friday, December 18, 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

In struggle and anticipation

It's dark and rainy here in Geauga County Ohio. Next week at this time I will be in Amman Jordan with Nic, Helaine and Jesse. So I spent this afternoon gathering my music and found some old recordings from the first Greenpeace concert in 1970. My brother John posted a link and I thought I would give Amchitka, as the concert is known, a listen.

I was 19 years old and a student at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. I'd transferred from Wisconsin after a year of strikes, National Guard deployments onto the campus, tear gas, and learning, for the first time, about imperialism.

Soon after arriving at Antioch I learned about Zionism. Twelve of us sat crowded in the living room of a small damp house where the campus radicals lived. For three hours a professor, who was also a professed revolutionary, lectured about how Israel had come into being. He explained how it was a political doctrine created in the late 1800's.
I do not remember moving from my seat. Hearing about the terror upon which Israel was established...the stolen land...the Stern Gang...the role of the big powers...I was forever changed.

I listened well and went on to speak at teach-ins and demos in support of the struggle of the Palestinian people. In 1973 I moved to kent, Ohio and with a group of students who were part of the Attica brigade formed a student group called "Jewish Americans in Support of Palestine." Our preferred method of organizing was to go door to door in the dorms. Some people wanted to hear our rap, many others wanted to cause serious bodily harm! But we were young and undaunted and
very commited to the truth and very good at running down hallways!

My ex-husband and I hosted anti-Zionist seders at my apartment for a few years. I look back and and can remember every detail of the first meal when 24 Palestinian and Iranian students showed up (and no one else)and got their first look at gefilte fish. We ended up ordering pizza and talking long into the night, getting to know each other and finding common dreams and struggling over questions for which there were no simple answers.

Those were days when everything and anything seemed possible and though my memory is vague I think we simply assumed that by the time of this letter the Palestinians would have returned home.

So, this trip, this journey, this Gaza Freedom March is a matter of my heart and of not letting go of an old promise made over lousy pizza in 1970, in a room full of people who were great friends who had just met, to stand up and speak out until Palestine was free.

The music of those times has stood the test of time and, I hope, so have I. I am honored to be traveling to the Gaza Freedom March and to be going with all of you, new friends, great friends, though we still have not yet met.Can't wait to get there.

In struggle and anticipation,

Saturday, December 12, 2009

My thanks to a very generous contributor

I want to publicly thank George Saltzman for his very generous gift to the Gaza Freedom March. His words are inspiring too. Here is the e-mail he sent.



Oaxaca, Mexico, Friday 11 December 2009
Dear Fred,
It was good talking Wednesday evening and learning that you will be a member of the MECR delegation traveling to Egypt and (hopefully) Gaza later this month. And to hear that the thirteen from MECR will be part of over a thousand Americans making up the total delegation. I hope a great deal of information about the desperate situation of the Gazans is widely publicized as a result.

 As for naming me, as I said, I would prefer not to be anonymous. The reason is that I think the example of someone without very much wealth going beyond so-called "charitable contributions" might inspire other privileged people to consider giving up their material advantage (or at least a good part of it) in order to really participate in closing the great gap that separates us, the world's privileged, from its overwhelming majority of pillaged. Although my donation may be large compared to the others, it is less than the money each of the thousand-odd delegates is spending to make the trip and be a participant. My point is simply that we who collectively have legal control over much of the world's disposable wealth ought to consider whether, for example, an expensive trip we contemplate making is justified in terms of the social good it provides. I think that this huge delegation to Palestine meets that criterion, and of course I want you all to be very successful as political activists.

All the best, George

See You in Cairo

Dear All,
See you in Cairo! With high hopes for extensive media coverage and the beginning of a new peace initiative.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

International Participation in December 31 Gaza Freedom March Tops 1,000 As Registration Closes

by Medea Benjamin

Over 1,000 delegates from 42 countries have signed up to participate in the December 31 Gaza Freedom March that will mark the one-year anniversary of the Israeli invasion and call for an end to the siege that has brought 1.5 million people to the edge of disaster.

Organizers cut off registration on November 30 to give the Egyptian officials enough time to clear the group for entry into Gaza, but also because the numbers were becoming unwieldy. "No one has ever taken a group this size into Gaza," said coordinator Ann Wright, whose skills as a retired U.S. army colonel are coming in handy organizing the logistics for such a massive group.
Since the registration closed on November 30, organizers have been besieged every day with people begging to be added to the list. "I have to turn down 15-20 people every day," said Emily Siegel. "It has been an insane few weeks, with emails pouring in from people all over the world who want to join. I feel terrible turning them away but we started out thinking we would take 300 people and now we have over 1,000."

The international delegates hope to join some 50,000 Palestinians inside Gaza, including students, teachers, health workers, women's groups, farmers and fishermen. The march will start in a neighborhood in northern Gaza in which nearly every building was devastated during Israel's attack and continue for three miles to the Erez border with Israel. At the same time, Israeli and Palestinian activists will be marching toward the Erez crossing from the Israeli side. Upon reaching the border, participants on both sides will release balloons, fly kites and wave flags to demonstrate their solidarity with one another.

Marking the one-year anniversary of the December 2008 Israeli invasion that left over 1,400 dead, this initiative is designed to draw worldwide attention to the ongoing siege that continues to imprison the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza. But with the borders still closed, there is no guarantee that the internationals will be allowed in. Gaza is bordered by Israel and Egypt. Both governments have sealed their borders, but sometimes the Egyptians will make exceptions. That's why Tighe Barry, a Hollywood prop man who has become the "fixer" for the international delegation, has traveled to the region six times in as many months to prepare for this march. "We've told the delegates that there are no guarantees we'll get into Gaza, but we are certainly doing everything humanly possible to convince the Egyptians to let us in," said Barry from Cairo, where he has been spending his days negotiating with officials in the Foreign Ministry, in addition to running around arranging hotels, food and buses for 1,000 people.

The diversity of the international delegation is impressive, with people coming from Austria to Yemen, from Belgium to Bangladesh to Brazil. Some 100 students have signed up, as have seniors in their seventies and eighties. The marchers include judges, doctors and physicists; businesspeople and union reps. Faith-based members include imams, rabbis and priests. Affinity groups have formed of artists, women, military veterans, diplomats, lawyers and health workers. A muralist from California, Kathleen Crocetti, will build a mosaic memorial to all who died during the invasion. Julia Hurley, a student from New York, has raised thousands of dollars for school supplies that Israel has banned.

Nora Hassanaien, a British student at the University of Warwick, has family in Gaza whom she has not been allowed to visit because of the closed borders. "Watching the atrocities on television last year and not being able to do anything was devastating," she recalled. "It will mean a lot to me to be part of a peaceful march, with people all over the world uniting in solidarity."

Hilary Minch is an Irish development worker. "This will be a remarkably poignant time to visit Gaza. It will be filled with sadness, given what the people of Gaza have endured and lost and continue to suffer. I want to stand beside them and show my solidarity. This is the least I can do."
Medea Benjamin ( is cofounder of Global Exchange ( and CODEPINK: Women for Peace (

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Yahoo e-group and this blog

You should be getting your invite soon for the e-group. There are a couple of addresses to know:

Post message:

The e-group will have a homepage:

If you choose to have a Yahoo username and password, you can use this page to read all new e-mails and search past ones. That would be handy in an Internet cafe in Egypt or Gaza. Of course, you can also access these e-mail messages from your web based server (like If you just want to get and send e-mails to the e-group, you don't have to join Yahoo or remember a Yahoo username and password. Most people use web based e-mail, but make sure you know the username and password for your existing account.

Not to complicate things, but we also have this blog:

The e-group can only be read by people going on the trip. The blog is for people following our trip from back home, and can be read by the entire Internet. It is mostly for a joint record that can be read even after we get back. I will invite everyone going on the trip as co-authors. Join if you want to make public comments or upload pictures for those back home. I will ask Jack Smith to send the blog out to his huge list. Posting on it will take a username and password.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Nice talking to everyone tonight.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

All travelers invited

I have invited all those traveling to Gaza to post their thoughts, plans and pictures on this blog for other residents of the Hudson Valley to see. With any luck, we will be able to continue posting while in Egypt and Gaza.