Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Eye Witness Accounts – The Situation in Gaza

Representatives from the Gaza Freedom March 90-member delegation that Egypt approved for entry into Gaza gave a briefing on the situation in Gaza.

Here are highlights of this briefing:

The Journey to Gaza
During the journey from Cairo to Gaza Egyptian security surrounded the buses that carried the Gaza Freedom March delegation through Egypt to the gates of Gaza.

The Rafah Border Crossing
At the Rafah border crossing from Egypt to Gaza, Egyptian authorities appear to partner with Palestine Authority in the management of the border crossing. GFM delegates said they received horrible treatment from Egyptian authorities at the border.

The blockade, on-going occupation of Gaza, and the role of Israel, Egypt, USA
The GFM eyewitnesses who crossed the Egyptian border and traveled through Gaza confirm that Gaza is sealed by land, airspace, and sea. A small part of the delegation experienced artillery fire from the border into Gaza. Moreover, experiences of the GFM delegation leads them to conclude that Israel, Egypt, and the United States collaborate to maintain the blockade and siege.

Tour of Horror
The GFM delegation viewed the horror of the devastation in Gaza resulting from the Israeli invasion and attack on Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, December 2008 to January 2009 and the assaults that have continued since that time. The delegation visited hospitals, agencies, schools, humanitarian centers. Also they met with families still suffering from devastation and loss. Military action by Israel has had a terrible impact on the economy. People live in misery. Unemployment is skyrocketing. Because Israel refused to admit construction materials, a year after the bombing Gaza still lays in waste. One GFM delegate said, “There is no way to live through the siege.”

The GFM delegation learned about the incredible resilience of Gazans. Though the grip of the occupation and now the added blockade brings misery to the people of Gaza, their spirit is not crushed. Gazans rally together and care for one another. They are convinced that blockade and occupation will end, and until that time, they believe their spirit will prevail. Delegates also noted that hope filled signs of art, music, dance, and humor are evident and growing within the Gazan society.

Views on Hamas
Most of the GFM delegation was surrounded by Hamas security throughout their time in Gaza. Some ingenious GFM members were able to slip away from Hamas security and freely visited Gazans from north to south. All were shocked to see that Hamas did not allow women to participate in the Gaza Freedom March. Most of the GFM delegates are shocked by the Hamas repression; some conclude Gaza has become a police state under Hamas rule; one member of the delegation understands Hamas actions, saying “Hamas has to do what they do.”

Significance of the Tunnels
A GFM delegate said, “Every sip of soda, every bit of food, every piece of toilet paper used by the delegation had arrived to Gaza via the tunnels.” She noted with irony that imports to Gaza via the tunnels are labeled "illegal" by Israel, Egypt, and the United States governments.

Presence of the Rabbis
Four Jewish Rabbis who have committed their lives trying to apply justice in Gaza, joined the Gaza Freedom March delegation to Gaza. GFM delegated describe the presence of these Rabbis as pure gift. Their presence, words, and actions brought hope to Gaza; their love and solidarity were treasured by Gazans.

Support the Jewish Community that Stands for Freedom
Yusif urged the Gaza Freedom March to support the courageous Jewish people who stand for justice and work to end the occupation both in Israel and around the world.

Gazan Message: Take Responsibility and Do Something!
Gazans consistently related this message to the GFM delegation:
We very much like having you in Gaza, but at the same time we do ask this: Don’t only come and stand with us for a few hours. Please go home and do something about this unjust situation!

Upon returning home, Yusif Barakat, Kim Redigan, Dorothy Ritter, Isabella Rowan, Liz Walters, and Sheri Wander are committed to work tirelessly to end the siege on Gaza. We hope you will be able to join us in finding ways "to do something about this unjust situation."

MPT Peace Team to Gaza Freedom March with an Egyptian Friend

Special Notes:
  1. Significantly, Yusuf Barakat, a member of the MPT Team was among those allowed to enter Gaza. He is the first MPT member to be admitted to Gaza since Operation Cast Lead. While Yusif worked in Gaza, the rest of our team (Kim Redigan, Dorothy Ritter, Isabella Rowan, Liz Walters, and Sheri Wander) continued doing peace team work with the Gaza Freedom March.
  2. Ninety GFM members were approved by the Egyptian Government to go to Gaza. That is, 90 out of 1,360 international Gaza Freedom March participants. This was a source of concern and conflict within the Gaza Freedom March, among organizers, and in the wider community. Some believed that the Gaza Freedom March should not collaborate with Egypt's unjust decision; others believed it was very important to get some GFM representation into Gaza.


  1. THIS IS WONDERFUL INFORMATION!! Thanks for the professional reporting here....I'll be sure to pass it on. Wish more news agencies would pick this up.

  2. “Hamas has to do what they do.”
    Such as execute homosexuals and people they suspect of being "secretly Jewish." So sad you don't understand what really goes on. I am never going back to Gaza.