Home from Gaza…next stop El Salvador

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terrorists?

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I temporarily removed this last post about my leaving Gaza, in order to ease access to my previous post about the Gaza War Cemetery, for some possible visitors who were related to the people buried there.  

December 14th Update-

Since I left Gaza on Sept 19th, their situation has gotten much worse due to the dual blockade of Israel and Egypt (with US and Canadian support).  Medicines and food are running out, dialysis machines are shutting down and electricity is now only on at the most 3 hours a day.  Imagine your city with shut down hospitals, ambulances, fire trucks, schools, sewer and water plants, refrigeration etc etc, because of an occupier’s collective punishment.  What would you do to save your family, friends and community from such suffering and illegal oppression?  

I will hopefully be leaving for El Salvador in January to be an official observer in their presidential election on Feb 2nd.  I wasn’t planning to do this, as 4 months in Gaza knocked the wind out of me a bit, but it’s a crucial election for the FMLN.  I have observed three previous elections, so I know the routine and what cheating to watch out for, so I’ll hopefully be of some use.  

If any of you are interested in being an election observer, visit the website of CIS in El Salvador, as they operate an excellent observer program for foreigners.  They want long term and short term volunteers.  Your solidarity will be greatly appreciated.  

Here is my original, slightly updated, blog post from about September 24th 2013-

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Home from Gaza-

Just a very quick rough note to let anyone listening know, that I returned home to Victoria last Friday afternoon (Sept 19th).  When I’m in a better frame of mind I’ll see about writing a bit more about my final experiences.

I had already been turned away at the Rafah crossing on Sept 8th, along with a bus full of Palestinians, some of whom had already been turned away 4 times or more.  It was a bus full of sick folks trying to get critical treatment in Egypt or abroad, students trying to get to scholarships in distant countries, business people trying to get back to their now failing companies abroad and others in similar crucial situations, all just trying to temporarily leave Gaza.   When we were turned away, after waiting for 5 hours, there was not a word of protest or complaint, just a dignified and orderly return to the bus and Gaza.  The Palestinians constantly asked why I was crossing into Egypt with them, instead of going through the Israeli crossing at Erez and just fly from Tel Aviv, like all the other foreigners.  I just had to say “Mavi Marmara” and they all understood my situation.

When I did get through to Egypt, it entailed the usual humiliating treatment by Egyptian authorities.  Being herded like cattle, pushed, shoved and yelled at.   Hours of waiting in an over crowded filthy customs hall.  Passports are returned, by being flung across the room at you.  At one point, a soldier intently looked at my passport and then at me, and then handed it back, to the wrong person. But everyone just patiently and quietly waited for the Egyptian “yay or nay”.

When our bus was finally permitted to enter Egypt, there was a bizarre scramble of kids and babies around the bus.  It turned out that the Egyptians only allow seated passengers to enter, so the whole bus collectively cooperated in tucking little kids next to small adults and extra babies onto stranger’s laps, so everyone had a seat.  When only one or two buses a day get through, every bit of room for an extra passenger was crucial.

A well educated young Palestinian women, Malaka Mohammed, who heading to a prestigious scholarship in Europe, for her own safety, asked to travel in our private “foreigner” taxi from Rafah to Cairo.  She was safer, but even so, she was constantly insulted by soldiers, police and plain clothes thugs, at the 7 or so check point stops we had to get through.  For 7 hours she quietly endured outrageous sexual come ons, insults, ethnic put downs and having her suitcase repeatedly emptied out onto the ground by uniformed goons, who used all the authority an M-16 could give them.  To be a Palestinian in Egypt, is now seemingly against the law.  After I got home, I read that Malaka received a hero’s welcome in England, with a plaque mounted in her honour.  After spending over 4 months in Gaza, I think one of the most important things I did, happened in my last minutes there, by simply offering her a ride. 

Being white and male, I received better treatment then Malaka, but being Canadian may now offer little added protection, as John Greyson and Tarek Loubani will testify to from their Cairo prison cell.  I have no doubt that Mr. Harper, and his pro-Israel Canadian government, are happy to see them stay in prison due to their pro-Palestinian beliefs.  Stateless Canadians, due to their political beliefs.

Needless to say, I have no photographs for you of the burned out check points, scorched military buildings, rows of Egyptian howitzers, tanks, Apache helicopter gunships and APCs and dozens of fortified gun emplacements across the Sinai.  Arriving at the Cairo airport after curfew was not the end of the ordeal.  I had to sneak into the lobby, past a guard at the entrance, by going through the airport’s exit doors. Then, just to get into the check-in area, I had to forge a bogus plane ticket to get past yet another security check point.  Once in there, a sympathetic airline clerk, upon hearing of my Gaza trip, reactivated my overdue, cancelled plane ticket at no charge.  Then I just had to run hard to catch the 4 am flight home, all the while thinking of John and Tarek sitting in an Egyptian prison cell.

When I left Gaza, the situation was getting even more desperate, then the “standard” horrendous situation I had been witnessing for the last 4 months.  Little or no gas, diesel, propane, food, electricity, medicines, work or hope.  This new cooperative double blockade, from Israel and Egypt, means that the only available border Gaza has, the Mediterranean Sea, is even more important then ever.  We need to support any ship, coming or going to Gaza, and break this illegal and immoral blockade, before more people needlessly suffer and die.  If Gazans are offered no hope or assistance, and Israel continues to blatantly break the Nov. 2012 ceasefire agreement, then the Palestinians may strike out in desperation and anger with their rockets.

And then the Western media will ask “why are the Palestinians angry?”

Kevin

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