Viva Palestina reportback
by Dolores Cox
Brooklyn, N.Y. – On July 29 the House of the Lord Church in Brooklyn hosted a standing-room-only report-back meeting led by several participants in the historic Viva Palestina U.S. convoy who returned July 17 and 18 from Gaza City in Palestine. The audience was majority Black.
The activists were part of a delegation of over 200 people from across the U.S. on a mission to deliver humanitarian aid to the besieged people of Gaza. It was organized by British Parliament member George Galloway.
New York City Councilperson Charles Barron and two of his staff members participated in the Gaza convoy. Barron spoke about the racial, religious and cultural diversity of the convoy, including youths who are hip-hop artists.
Convoy participants who spoke were representatives from New York Al-Awda – the Palestine Right to Return Coalition – The Indypendent newspaper, International Action Center, Existence Resistance and Malcolm X Grassroots Movement.
Barron – an African American who refers to himself as an elected revolutionary, not an elected politician – commented that he went to Gaza because “the struggle of the Palestinians is the struggle of all oppressed people of color in the U.S., Africa, Latin America and elsewhere; that we all share the same oppressor, the same enemy – vicious U.S. and European white supremacists; that the oppressor is determined to oppress by any means necessary.”
He stated that since the bombing and invasion of Gaza this past December and January – resulting in the deaths of close to 1,500 people – the aggression hasn’t ceased. Barron compared the children of Gaza to children in the U.S., saying, “They have no childhood.” Israel destroyed their schools, playgrounds, toys and homes. In addition, many children are dying of starvation, forced upon them by Israel’s siege and blockade. The 23-day bombing and invasion of Gaza has left them traumatized.
Cynthia McKinney: ‘Three strikes and you’re in’
Former U.S. Congressperson Cynthia McKinney was among the convoy participants. She had just recently returned to the U.S. after being kidnapped and jailed in Israel. She, along with other international activists of the Free Gaza Movement had their boat, the “Spirit of Humanity,” hijacked by Israel in international waters during their mission to deliver humanitarian aid to the people in Gaza. Their entire precious cargo of building supplies was confiscated.
There was no response from the U.S. government or any U.S. media coverage on the kidnapping of this former Congressperson, Barron added, just as there’s been a corporate news whiteout of the Viva Palestina convoy. Barron quoted the old baseball phrase “Three strikes and you’re out” in response to McKinney’s third attempt this year to enter Gaza with aid. In her case, Barron said, “Three strikes and you’re in.”
He said that for McKinney getting into Gaza was a personal victory after her previous attempts were thwarted by aggression of the Zionist Israeli navy. Both Barron and McKinney were the chief U.S. negotiators with Egyptian officials during the convoy.
Facing obstacles in Egypt, hope in Gaza
Convoy participants reported that they were thwarted and delayed every step of the way by Egyptian police and army personnel for several days. They were shadowed, spied on and forced to provide duplicates of written information they had already provided.
At the Suez Canal’s “Peace Bridge” on their way to Gaza, convoy participants were shouted at, threatened, given orders to turn back and given five minutes to do so. But they refused and stood their ground. They referred to the incident as a “show-down” and their “Battle of the Suez Canal” with the Egyptians that lasted for 12 hours.
In the end, they finally gained entry into Gaza City with two ambulances. But they were not allowed to take in the trucks they had purchased in Egypt for the Palestinians; the Egyptians kept them.
The convoy was greeted with jubilation when it entered Gaza. People had been anxiously awaiting the convoy for days and nights, including the international media. In Egypt and throughout the Arab world the Palestinian issue is a hot topic. At times Gazans feared the worse because of the days of delay.
Convoy participants were impressed and moved by the resilience, passion and conviction of the people of Gaza who, they say, have refused to die, despite U.S.-Israeli genocidal attempts.
What they brought with them to Gaza, convoy participants said, was not only desperately needed aid – but love, compassion, hope and solidarity. And the love they received back from the people was overwhelming.
A video was shown during the meeting that illustrated the stark reality of the destruction in Gaza. The convoy’s minibuses displayed Palestinian and U.S. flags.
African Americans carried the red, black and green African Liberation flag – red for blood shed, black for the people, green for the land – it was explained. Palestinians were visibly touched by this support. Barron said, “Iraq has been occupied since 2003; Palestine has been occupied for 60 years.”
One section of the video labeled “Brave little girls” showed children speaking about their experiences. The children asked the same perennial questions that millions of Black children in the U.S. and throughout the African Diaspora ask who’ve been targeted by white supremacists: “Why do they hate us so much? What did we ever do to them?”
Questions from the audience centered on what are the next steps. Barron stated that convoy activists will be taking their report-back all over New York City.
Convoy participants stated Israel’s war is against the Palestinian people, not just against Hamas; that Israel is an illegal, brutal state; that the Palestinian fight for the right to return to their land is related to the fight of Hurricane Katrina survivors’ right to return to New Orleans.
Convoy members summed up their report by stating that it was “Mission Accomplished.” They succeeded, and hope there will be more delegations to Gaza. The report-back ended with shouts of “Free Palestine!” The struggle continues!
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© 2009 Workers World. This story was originally published Aug. 8, 2009, by Workers World, 55 W. 17th St., New York NY 10011, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.workers.org, at http://www.workers.org/2009/world/gaza_0813/.