I was just out on the road with my class, shooting video and photos of the Gaza Freedom March. It was a very energizing event from my perspective, and that of the class members, but I’m afraid somewhat of a disappointment for the marchers and organizers. The exception to that, I would guess, is the amount of press coverage, which I think was quite good, considering the # of microphones set up where speeches were made, and the huge crunch of TV, video & photo camera people that formed a half circle around the speakers.
Among the speakers was a rabbi from New York City, with three or four other rabbis at his side. He talked about the need to end the siege and the occupation, among other things.
As you may have heard, only 100 internationals were allowed to pass through Egypt and enter . This, of course, was a source of enormous frustration for the other 1270 or so machers who were left behind in Cairo.
I believe the choices in who was allowed in were based on getting at least one from each country represented. When we first arrived on the scene, outside Beit Hannoun, which is north of Gaza City, there was probably less than 1000 Palestinians present. Far lower than the previously anticipated 50,000. Based on what I heard, this was due to a number of factors. First, three Palestinians were killed near the Erez border last week when Israeli troops opened fire on them. The Israelis believed they were planting mines; the Palestinians said they were collecting scrap metal. Additionally, from what I’ve heard, Hamas got in the middle of things once the 100 internationals arrived, and there may have been internal safety concerns as well. One of the youth organizers here at AFSC-Gaza was wounded early this year when Hamas troops opened fire on a Palestinian unity march he was leading.
At any rate, when the freedom marchers started their march into the free zone, most of the Palestinians left. Also, the Palestinians who worked for the media were not allowed to follow along at first, but after awhile, someone must have convinced Hamas troops to let the join the marchers who had stopped 100 meters away on the other side of the zone. Some of the marchers sat down, a few more speeches were made, a couple of songs were sung (including “We Shall Overcome“, AKA “We Shall End the Siege”), and then the marchers turned back and got back on their bus. It is unclear, I think to them as well as the rest of us, whether that’s the end of it or not.
I’ll update when/if there is anything more here. I will say again, the press turnout seemed good. (Three of my students were interviewed by a Venezuelan TV station!) Hopefully the press coverage is just as good in Egypt for the rest of the marchers. I’d be interested to hear from people about coverage in the USA. I wouldn’t expect much from mainstream media, but if any network does cover it, and cover it fairly, I’d be interested to know.
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Peace, Salaam, Shalom, (another song they were singing as they marched)