Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Day 3: Netanyahu's Visit

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, was also in Egypt today. In his three hour meeting with Mubarak, Netanyahu claimed that he is interested in restarting the "peace" negotiations with Palestinians. But it is clear from his actions--and the actions of the entire Israeli government--that their idea of peace is very different than ours. We can't be duped into supporting a peace that doesn't respect Palestinians' rights.

We just came back from a locally organized protest against Netanyahu's visit. Hundreds of international and Egyptian activists gathered with signs calling for Israel to end the brutal siege of Gaza and for Egypt to stop cooperating with Israeli policy. The crowd had great energy and were carrying inspiring signs in Arabic, English, French and Greek. (View photos of signs and protesters)

This morning we joined 33 other US participants in the march on an attempted visit to our embassy. Though Egypt is the one who technically controls the Rafah border we know that our government has the a lot of sway since Egypt is the second largest recipient of US foreign aid. Our French friends who are camped outside their embassy on the other side of Cairo were also told by one of the embassy representatives that Israel is the one that told Israel to pull the permit for our entry into Gaza. Egypt is just a puppet in this theater show.

We set out at 9:30am and walked over to the neighborhood where the US Embassy is located. Immediately Egyptian police, at the behest of our Embassy, began herding us into a small area and a line of police prevented us from continuing our walk to the embassy. Two protesters broke through the line of police and refused to move. Eventually they negotiated for three representatives from the group to go in and met with a political secretary who we understand is third in line at the Embassy. They made demands for the Embassy and US State Department to facilitate our entry into Gaza since we are going at the request of local Gazan organizations to participate in a nonviolent demonstration. This march is exactly the kind of initiative Obama claimed to want to see in his Cairo speech last June. (View photos of us outside the embassy)

We are still trying everything to get entry into Gaza and have just heard that 100 people will be allowed in for 24 hours. Everyone is still discussing who will go in and we are also trying other ways to put pressure and briefly break the siege of Gaza.

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