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A Day in Gaza with Viva Palestina

A day in Gaza

July 20, 2009

The Viva Palestina delegation of solidarity activists from the U.S. was allowed to enter Gaza on July 15 with truckloads of desperately needed humanitarian supplies--but under the condition that the convoy leave again within 24 hours.

The delegation, led by British Member of Parliament and antiwar activist George Galloway, met one bureaucratic obstacle after another from Egyptian authorities. After negotiating an agreement with the government, the convoy finally left for the Rafah border crossing after several days, and with some of its supplies barred from getting through.
A number of SocialistWorker.org contributors were part of the Viva Palestina delegation. Here, we publish a diary of the 24 hours in Gaza by Tom Arabia, Ream Kidane, Brian Lenzo, Khury Peterson-Smith and Eric Ruder. The second part of the diary will be published in the coming days.
THE WHOLE world expects callous disregard for Palestinian life from Israel. But as one of the world's largest and most powerful Arab countries, Egypt is supposed to be sympathetic to the people of Palestine.

For years now, however, the deference of the Egyptian regime to the U.S. and Israeli blockade of Gaza has been essential in keeping the residents of Gaza under lock and key. If Egypt simply allowed people and goods to flow through its border with Gaza, the siege would be over.

But the Egyptian government is susceptible--if barely--to public pressure because of the sympathies of its own citizens and the rest of the Middle East with the Palestinians. After days of delays and stonewalling, Egyptian officials finally allowed our Viva Palestina convoy to pass into Gaza at the Rafah border crossing.

But only grudgingly. We were barred from taking with us 47 trucks, vans and cars purchased at the request of hospitals and other social service organizations in Gaza. And instead of staying for the three days in Gaza that we had planned, Egypt limited us to a mere 24 hours. Those who didn't leave with the rest of the convoy within the 24-hour period were threatened with being stuck in Gaza--like its residents--until the next general border opening, which could be weeks or months in the future. But we did have 24 hours, and we made the most of them.

July 15, 4 p.m.

From Brian: As our bus waited outside the gates of the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, a crowd began to gather around our bus. Around 50 people were camped out on the side of the road, some holding their infant children. We hung our Palestinian flags out the windows and chanted, "Long Live Palestine!"

As people shouted at us, mostly in Arabic, we learned a bit about their purpose at this crossing. One woman holding her baby boy and surrounded by two other children shouted, "I have been here for 13 days, please let me in with you." Another man held his American passport, bags in hand, begging us to let him on the bus.
The rest of the article at