Jan 14, 2010
Brooklyn For Peace sponsored a report back from the recent Gaza Freedom March which brought some 1400 people from around the world to Cairo at the beginning of this year. Their intention was to enter Gaza through Egypt, thereby expressing their solidarity and to draw the world's attention to the continuing Israeli siege of Gaza. That blockade, implemented by Israel in 2007, has resulted in the most dire conditions for the Palestinian population who are suffering joblessness, malnutrition, poverty and extreme deprivation. Israel, which launched a widely-condemned war a year ago, has continued its hostility by intensifying the blockade and sealing off the besieged country, restricting supplies, food and medicine and preventing access, in and out. Palestinians have, in effect, become prisoners in their own land.
Some 60 Brooklyn residents came to the Brooklyn Friends Meeting House in downtown Brooklyn to hear from some of the marchers who recently returned. Besides Brooklyn For Peace, the meeting was also sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace and the Peace and Social Action Committee of the Brooklyn Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). Of the 1400 internationals, twelve people from Brooklyn marched in Cairo and two of those were Brooklyn For Peace members. The meeting was organized by BFP's Israel/Palestine Committee which has led the way in the borough of forthrightly raising the question of justice and freedom for Palestine along with security and peace for all people both Israeli and Palestinians. That can be achieved, they say, by negotiating an end to the circle of violence perpetuated, first and foremost, by Israeli policies of occupation and expansion.
A large crowd packed into the Brooklyn Friends Meeting House in downtown Brooklyn to hear the Freedom Marchers report-back.
Naomi Allen, of Brooklyn For Peace's Israel Palestine Committee, welcomes people to the event.
First to speak was Ted Auerbach, a member of Brooklyn For Peace. He presented a slide show and narrated photos showing the event in Cairo including protest demonstrations, a hunger strike by several dozen of the marchers and the unprovoked violence unleashed by the Egyptian authorities against the marchers. He said that one impressive aspect of the march was the tremendous support shown by average Egyptian citizens as they passed the marchers in the streets of Cairo. He was also impressed by the militancy of the various national delegations but particularly the spirit shown by the French and the South African delegations.
Ted Auerbach, who marched in Cairo, gave a report and slide show.
Ted narrated a slide show with pictures from Cairo. The connivance of the Egyptian government and police prevented the marches from entering Gaza.
Another speaker, David Letwin, summarized the Cairo Declaration, a statement of principles written by the marchers that chart some goals in the months and years ahead, including boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) of Israeli products and companies. This is increasingly raised by international activists as necessary to expose the nature of Israeli occupation and oppression of the Palestinians. Analogous to the international struggle against the South African apartheid regime, BDS was a potent tool that raised awareness throughout the world of the necessity to finally end the evil apartheid regime in South Africa.
David Letwin reported on the Cairo Declaration, a document that summarized the demands of the Gaza Freedom Marchers.
Finally, well-known activist and founder of the International Solidarity Movement, Adam Shapiro, appealed to the assembly to carry on exposing the tragedy of Israel's siege of Gaza to let the world know the truth of what is happening there, the result of the blockade that has led to dire conditions among the civilian population of the besieged country.
Adam Shapiro urged the assembly to carry on the struggle in order to keep alive the issue of Israel's starvation siege of Gaza.
A lively question and answer period followed the speakers. Some cautioned on the need to avoid sectarian jargon and demands and to pursue a broad approach to Mid East problems. Without that approach, it was pointed out, U.S. progressives will be unable to move large sections of the American people, let alone the Jewish community, to demand new, more even-handed policies from our government that can put the peace process back on track to finally end the occupation and win a just peace.