Delegation and Egyptian friends in front of bus and shipment going to Rafah Crossing.

In the first weeks of November 2023, an international delegation of activists, lawyers, and journalists traveled to Cairo. They were joined by this writer and Sara Flounders of Workers World Party. This delegation was initiated by the prominent Palestinian author Susan Abulhawa and Suzanne Adaley, the president of the National Lawyers Guild.  

The delegation’s purpose was to attempt to gain access to the Rafah border crossing and to do media work in Cairo demanding that the stopped convoys of humanitarian aid trucks from the world over be let into a besieged Gaza to offer some relief in the form of basic human necessities.

WWP was joined by members and contributors of the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, Black Agenda Report, Black Alliance for Peace, International Action Center, Veterans for Peace, the United National Antiwar Coalition, International Association of Democratic Lawyers and U.S. Peace Council.  Also, Palestine Writes, SanctionsKill Campaign, Free Julian Assange Committee, Association for Investment and Popular Action Committees, and the Philadelphia Palestine Coalition.  Reporters came from media outlets Real News Network, the Grayzone, RT News, Press TV, Diário do Centro do Mundo (Brazil), 

Due to Egypt’s status as a military dictatorship under the thumb of U.S. imperialism, and its Sinai border being de facto controlled by Israel and the U.S., this trip was rife with obstacles. 

International delegates were invited to accompany delegations from two Egyptian political parties, the Constitution Party and the Bread and Freedom Party, on buses, accompanying supply trucks across the Sinai desert to the Rafah border. The intention was to call attention to the miles-long stopped convoys of aid trucks blocked at the border to Gaza. However, all of us, with foreign passports, were suddenly denied access just before departure and given only tenuous reasons for denial.

A press statement and a message to the U.S. Embassy was attempted. The letter called on the U.S. to halt its culpability in this genocide and its rampant funding of Israel. But U.S. Embassy security and Egyptian police began harassing and threatening delegates before they neared the Embassy gates.  Ultimately nearly all delegates involved were detained by police for several hours. 

Despite these hurdles, the delegates did all they could to positively affect the people of Gaza. Through incredible crowdfunding orchestrated by Playgrounds for Palestine, the Philadelphia Palestine Coalition, and Samidoun NY/NJ, more than $21,000 was donated to the Egyptian Red Crescent, one of the sole humanitarian organizations allowed through the border crossing. 

Delegates also took part in packing supply boxes for Rafah at Red Crescent. Apart from food and water, this donation helped procure medical equipment, including incubators for premature babies, portable X-ray machines, and portable ultrasounds. 

This medical equipment is an especially important commodity, as at the time of the delegation’s presence in Egypt, Israel’s genocidal onslaught had destroyed 24 of Gaza’s 35 hospitals and caused the death of babies whose hookups to incubators were impacted by lack of fuel. 

Interview with Samidoun members 

While seeing off and wishing a safe voyage to the Egyptian Rafah delegation from the Constitution Party and the Bread and Freedom Party who were granted clearance to travel to Rafah, the delegation was able to oversee the send-off of one semi-truck filled with humanitarian aid from the ASH Foundation. At the aid truck, WWP interviewed three steadfast comrades from Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, about the situation in general. They had this to say:

Jacob: “Hello everybody, hello all the free people of the world, everybody who supports Palestine from the river to the sea, and supports resistance and the prisoners’ movement. I am Jacob from Samidoun, Netherlands. I am here to hopefully soon go into Rafah and document the situation there and to demand the opening of the border, not for the expulsion of Palestinian people from the border, but for the entering of vital aid that the Palestinian people of Gaza need in these times of hardship and genocide that we are witnessing right now.” 

Sezia: “My name is Sezia, I’m also with Samidoun New York, New Jersey. We’re on day 35 of this – I don’t even know what to call it. It’s not a war, it’s a genocide we’re seeing unfold before our eyes. We are in Cairo; we are an international delegation made up of folks from the U.S. and from Europe who have come to Cairo in an attempt to make it to the Rafah Crossing. There has been a call put out by both the Egyptian and Palestinian civil societies for anyone who can make it to come to Rafah, because the situation that is unfolding right in front of our eyes is getting more dire by the second. 

“The first convoy of Egyptian communities from Cairo just left this morning to travel to Rafah. Unfortunately, we were denied permission to go today, but we are hopeful that, in the coming days, we will be able to travel and make it to Rafah where we hope to put international pressure to keep the crossing open, so that as much aid as can possibly be let in, be let in, and also for folks to be getting medical attention. We are seeing videos of the situation on the ground, where there’s no fuel, there’s no electricity, hospitals cannot give people the care that they need during a time when bombs are being dropped continuously, and the Israeli government and its imperial supporters are not letting up. 

“So, we are hopeful to go there and not only demand that the crossing be open for aid but it continues to stay open to ensure that we do not let a genocide take place and we are not complicit and implicated in the actions of our governments who are doing this in the name of the free people of the world.” 

George: “I’m from Samidoun New York, New Jersey. It’s also critical to point out that there are hundreds of millions of dollars of medical aid being stopped at the Rafah border crossing, that has been sitting there for almost 35 days, and more aid to come. We were just here in Cairo helping an aid truck get packed up which was just sent off to the Rafah border crossing. 

“There’s a very good chance that that truck will not be able to make it into Gaza to the people who need it because the Israeli occupation and the American and European imperialists have complete control over the border crossing – because the Arab reactionary regimes have given up a lot of their power in the name of capitalism and making profits. So, it’s critical to also point out that it’s not that there is no aid. Aid is just not being allowed to enter Gaza; not being allowed to help the people that need it.”

Sezia: “I wanted to point out the hypocrisy – that the same countries that are funding, building, and sending weapons to the state of Israel are the same countries that are throwing money at the situation. They think they can just throw aid after dropping bombs on Gaza and the people of Palestine. This hypocrisy is not okay, and that’s why we’ve gathered here in Cairo – because we want to uplift.  This is the time to mobilize.  This is the time to do everything in your power, to get creative. 

“We are seeing that our oppressors are not at all creative. This is the same playbook that we’ve seen used time and time again. What is happening in Gaza is not a fantasy; we have seen the United States of America and their settler-colonial project over the Indigenous people of the United States. We have seen this already. 

“But we are seeing resistance.  We are seeing people – who have been, for the last 75+ years, oppressed, subjugated, tormented, constantly violated day in and day out – remain steadfast in their commitment to their people, to their land, to their spirits, and we are moved and inspired by that. All of us need to hone into that energy, that creative power, and to build right now, to think creatively about actions that you could be doing, targets that you could be targeting, people that need to be called out.  Let’s do it.” 

George: “From the river to the sea. Palestine will be free.”  

Keep building solidarity with Palestine

It is telling that a delegation with such a simple request of the world – the clearance for vital human necessities to be let into a genocide zone– would run into so many stopgaps, chokeholds, and barriers. We saw on the ground the potency of the U.S.-instigated and -funded regime change in Egypt.

We saw how easy it was for the United States to turn us away from what should be our own embassy, by force of law, so that it can continue giving over $9 million a day to Israel’s project of expansion and ethnic cleansing. Now President Joe Biden wants to send $14 billion more.

Calls for a cease-fire, a primary demand by many broad forces in the movement, should never be seen as a substitute for a long-term solution to 75 years of Israeli occupation.

In the words of fellow delegate Paul Larudee, writing for Dissident Voice, “Palestinian factions have little stomach for returning to the status quo ante, which means little more than confinement to destitute concentration camps or ‘reservations.’”  (tinyurl.com/yc36pw5m

Armed resistance for the liberation of an oppressed people is always justified. It is more conducive to call for a permanent Israeli cease-fire, to demand that Israel immediately stop its barrage, lay down all its arms, surrender its occupied land and dismantle its settler-colonial, apartheid ethno-state once and for all. Any expectation for the Palestinian people to stop fighting until this end is achieved is pure fantasy outside the bounds of ethics and morality. 

While this delegation did not achieve all that it set out to do, that had always been an expected outcome. We knew that we would hit obstacles.  But the spirit of the delegation, the notion that the international community should throw themselves at the border and assert that aid be allowed through, lives on. We call for all efforts – delegations, human shield press conferences, Boats to Gaza and all possible creative actions – to open aid to Gaza. 

We call for everyone to use their connections and their privileges in any way possible to make demands for immediate aid and an end to the bombing – and to build solidarity with the Palestinian people in their long struggle for a free Palestine.

 

 

 

Danny O'Brien

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