During ‘Operation Pillar Cloud’ Israel’s most recent bombardment of the besieged Gaza Strip, I was invited to attend a delegation to Gaza, led by students from the American University of Cairo (AUC). The delegation was organized by the student union – which is made up of elected representatives of the students on campus. The students decided on their own, and of course without any support by the university administration – to collect donations and take a convoy of 90 students, and medical and humanitarian supplies to Gaza, during this most recent massacre. The day the convoy was planned to leave, the ‘cease-fire’ was announced and the massive bombing campaign, halted; at least temporarily.
What should have been at most a 4-5 hour trip from Cairo to the Rafah border, took us 36 hours – mainly due to many stops by the Egyptian authorities for “our security”, which many students suspected were politically motivated. After four hours of waiting at an Egyptian checkpoint(!) before reaching the Salem bridge, for four hours – students decided to block the only artery of traffic leading to the Sinai, for at least 20 minutes, until we were permitted to move. We were forced to stop several more times, and provided a police escort – that was given ‘direct orders’ to take us directly to the Swiss Club-the Sinai’s premier resort-effectively derailing the trip, which was planned to turn back immediately after dropping off supplies at the hospital. However, though the students were all overwhelmed by midterms, papers and work, they did not hesitate to put their education on short hold, in order to successfully complete their mission, and show of solidarity.
Finally, what should have been our sheer joy at entering Gaza, was instantly destroyed with the news we heard immediately upon arrival that, as usual (and as is always the case with who began this massacre) – Israel broke the ceasefire-and killed two Palestinian brothers in a zionist airstrike, just a few hours prior. Upon arrival we went directly to the house of the martyr’s family in Khan Younis, who warmly received our delegation. As can be imagined, the family was struck with utter grief at the loss of this 25 year old man who was recently married, with a beautiful 5 month old boy, who will, like so many other Palestinian babies – grow up fatherless.
Exponentially compounding this severe and tragic injustice is the knowledge that no one outside those intimately tuned into this ‘conflict’ will ever have heard his story – nor about how Israel broke the ceasefire – and is yet another example of ‘collateral damage’, disregarded by history- in “Israel’s” ongoing war of attrition.
Unable to hold back a river of tears, as what often happens when I try desperately and futilely to console Palestinians, or communicate in words – a fraction of my pain and condolences for their loss, I find myself completely at a loss. Then what also often follows is they end up staring directly into my eyes and as if instinctively begin to comfort me, telling me not to be upset! They say ‘humdullila’/ praise God, ‘la ila il Allah’/ There is no god but God, and so on – revealing the source of their unending strength, and ability to project an ounce of normalcy in the face of such overwhelming inequality and ongoing, tragic injustice.
That night, we stayed overnight at a school that was completely leveled by zionist airstrikes in the previous 2008-09 massacre. The school was recently rebuilt into an orphanage for Palestinian children whose parents were most likely wiped out in one of the countless zionist operations which at best, the media reports as a ‘mistake’ or more likely – simply ignores. Regardless of my continuous efforts, in vain, to stay strong – the beautiful and brave women and children at the school, only compounded my lack of self-restraint over repeatedly, as they watched and comforted me with their hugs, and knowing eyes.
The next day we went to a site of another airstrike, where once stood the house of the Dalou family (who have absolutely no ties with ‘militants’) in Gaza city, which was taken out in an instant last Sunday, along with the lives of 13 family members including four precious babies, their parents, aunts and other relatives.
I watched as the students, looked on in horror and utter disbelief, while half in a daze – as they sifted through the rubble and pulled out and carried around household items, such as a prayer rug, a tea kettle and a school book, with hand written arithmetic problems worked out, all charred and covered in ashes. And for our last stop in the short trip, we went to Shifa hospital, where all of the killed and injured were taken – and dropped off over 60K(LE) of mostly medical, and other humanitarian supplies.
What must be made absolutely clear and unambiguously understood, is that all of us that are outspoken critics of Hamas’ leadership – went immediately silent, with the ONLY option being the full and complete support for their brave and heroic resistance. This outcome is in direct contradiction to the stated zionist goal of “neutralizing” the resistance. The same is generally true of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which showed complete diplomatic support with Hamas – and as a result Egyptian revolutionaries were disappointed to see, how this immeasurably strengthened and consolidated Morsi’s position and power, as well.
Another important point to note, is that this was the first major Israeli operation conducted following the Egyptian revolution. Watching as students stared powerlessly at the images, and reflecting on the recent delegation of amazing activists from the #Egypt4Gaza caravan, that earlier in the week – instantly mobilized another convoy during the peak of these attacks, I could not help but feel an overwhelming sense – that Palestinians in Gaza would never again be alone during another zionist attack – and/or without Egyptians responding with full support, and likewise by providing a physical presence alongside their brothers and sisters.
It was truly amazing, and I was struck with overwhelming feelings to witness the personal ties and relations that were made, and bonds that were forged between Palestinians and Egyptians. Like I often say, the biggest shock for me over the past year and a half of living in Egypt, was to learn how very little the two peoples know about each other – much less relations they have – politically, socially and culturally. This is unacceptable, as we are not only our natural allies – that have been kept separated and made to fear each other due to a purposeful campaign of lies and propaganda – but we are also, quite literally ONE people, and in many cases (especially near the Rafah border) share citizenship and families, that are split on both sides of the zionist imposed border.
In a strong show of support and rejection of these imposed divisions and borders, Egyptians repeatedly chanted at each stop and during the entire trip – “ya fulusteeni ya fulusteen, demmek demi, wa deenek deeni”/ Oh Palestinian, Oh Palestinian – your blood is my blood, your religion is my religion”, “Gaza, Gaza, the symbol of dignity” (Ramz el Ezza), “Morsi, Morsi tell Haneya never to leave the rifle” and “Millions of martyrs, going to Gaza.”. And as more than one of the student organizers stated clearly – “an attack on Gaza is an attack on the Egyptian people.
It should be clear to everyone by now that governments provide no hope for peace or positive change, and in fact often purposefully advance the people’s dis-unity, misinformation and infighting – and if any positive change will come in the future, the only hope is with the people. These developments clearly indicate the next level in Egypt and Palestine relations, and in a time of gloomy outlooks and despair in the region – are a hopeful sign of what’s to come..as there is absolutely no limit to what is possible–when the people unite.
One love, one God, one people, one struggle. Solidarity and much love to all to those that understand that the struggle for Palestinian liberation, is the same struggle for freeing Egypt from zionist control, and those struggling for justice everywhere.
Please check back for pictures, videos and more delegation updates soon!
Thank you to all that have generously offered to donate. Following is a link to a list of medical supplies that are still desperately needed. I am still in Gaza and am planning to stay for at least the next few days. Please contact me at: email@example.com, and let me know asap if you can help by providing aid, or helping facilitate getting items here: