A LETTER FROM DOWN UNDER…… MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCES ON THE GAZA FREEDOM MARCH

Photo Credit: Rory Buck

Antony Loewenstein is a journalist living in Sydney, Australia. Aside from his journalism, he is also a humanitarian activist. He maintains a Blog which is one of the most informative ones on the Net, which is updated daily.

He was a participant in the Gaza Freedom March a few weeks ago and sent the following, describing his experiences there. It also gives a pretty accurate picture of the events that took place before and after….

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The one-year anniversary of Israel’s invasion of Gaza was commemorated around the world. The 12 months since the bombardment has not been kind for Israel, its image shattered. Life in Gaza remains dire.

From 27 December until early in the New Year, I attended the Gaza Freedom March (GFM) that attracted around 1400 people from 43 countries, in an attempt to travel from Cairo into Gaza and stand in solidarity with the people of Gaza and protest the siege on the Strip. Although the majority of us were refused entry into Gaza by Egyptian authorities, we spent a hugely inspiring and important week in Cairo raising the issue of Palestine to the world’s media and local press.

I went as a Jew, human being and journalist.

Before I left Australia, I wrote about the event for Britain’s New Statesman magazine and the news was featured in Sydney’s City Hub newspaper and Wentworth Courier and Ireland’s Londonderry paper.

The 10 days in Cairo were filled with protests, actions, press conferences and hunger strikes. Meeting citizens from South Africa, Ireland, Australia, America, Cameroon, France, Germany and a host of other countries made one realise that Palestine has become a truly globalised issue. Civil society is taking action as governments are failing to hold Israel to account. Spending time with 85-year-old Hedy Epstein, an anti-Zionist, Jewish, Holocaust survivor committed to Palestinian rights, indicated the depth of feeling over this issue.

A selection of global coverage is here, here, here and here.

The protests culminated in a massive protest in central Cairo on 31 December. Although we were met with vicious, government-backed thugs, we generated headlines that highlighted the plight of the Gazan people, the role of the US client state Egypt and our own Western officials remaining silent in the face of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

I was interviewed from Cairo for the Melbourne Age, Sydney Morning Herald, ABC Radio National Breakfast, ABC Radio AM and SBS Radio Australia.

I wrote about the event for the Sydney Morning Herald/Age, leading Egyptian opposition paper Al Masry Alyoum, Australian online magazines Crikey and New Matilda. My photos of the event are here.

The time in Cairo was chaotic, confused, frustrating, invigorating and moving. Not getting into Gaza was obviously disappointing (though I was there six months ago) but the GFM culminated in the release of the Cairo Declaration, a South African led document designed to continue the global campaign against Israeli behaviour in the occupied territories and a specific plan of action to move forward, including the wider application of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

The main theme of the GFM was the extraordinary energy in many countries now dedicated to raising the issue of equal human rights for all in the Middle East.

Best wishes,

Antony

PS. Nearly three years after I co-founded Independent Australian Jewish Voices, a handful of Zionists are still writing in the mainstream press that the initiative is somehow illegitimate.

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