[Note: This is the latest segment in an ongoing series about Code Pink and its co-founder Jodie Evans. Click here to read earlier articles.]
“We hope the Egyptians get so annoyed they just want to get rid of us.” Jodie Evans, Cairo, December 29, 2009
Top President Barack Obama funder Jodie Evans and her terrorist sympathizing group Code Pink have provoked a violent crisis in Egypt over an attempt to deliver ‘humanitarian aid’ to Hamas-run Gaza to mark the one-year anniversary of Israel’s response to repeated provocations by Hamas terrorists. Evans was joined in Cairo by Obama pals Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dorhn, both former terrorists with the Weather Underground.
Jodie Evans appealed to Egypt’s First Lady Suzanne Mubarak for help after the Egyptian government refused to allow the nearly 1400 leftist activists from a reported forty-three nations gathered in Cairo to cross into Gaza through Egyptian border crossings to join the so-called Gaza Freedom March scheduled for December 31st in Gaza. 1400 was the number of Palestinians reported killed in Israel’s defensive operations in Gaza last December.
Jodie Evans blamed the Israeli government for Egypt’s refusal.
It’s obvious that the only reason for it is to make Israel happy. Israel is behind the refusal – what other excuse could there be?
After first accepting the government’s offer to allow 100 select activists and aid to cross that came through the intercession of Mrs. Mubarak, the activists rejected the offer and have engaged in protests that have brought a strong reaction from the government.
After much internal struggle, a group of about eighty activists crossed into Gaza on Wednesday. They met up with Palestinian activists at the Israeli border where they were addressed via the cellphone of an Israeli Knesset Member, Talab El-Sana, by Hamas ‘Prime Minister’ Ismail Haniyeh.
Haniyeh told the crowd, “We have managed to overcome the occupation plans and we will surely meet at the al-Aqsa Mosque and in Jerusalem, which will remain Arab and Islamic.”
As noted by the blog Mystical Politics, there was no mention by Haniyeh of Code Pink’s delivery of humanitarian aid or the plight of the people in Gaza.
A press release issued by “Gaza Freedom March” claimed the activists left behind in Cairo were being attacked by the Egyptian government.
Members of the Gaza Freedom March are being forcibly detained in hotels around town (Lotus, Liala) as well as violently forced into pens in Tahir Square by Egyptian police and additional security forces. Reports of police brutality are flooding a delegate legal hotline faster than the legal support team can answer the calls. The reports span from women being kicked, beaten to the ground and dragged into pens, at least one confirmed account of broken ribs, and many left bloody.
The press release went on to describe the activists’ purpose for being in Egypt.
The marchers had planned to enter Gaza through Egypt’s Rafah Crossing on Dec. 27, then to join with an estimated 50,000 Palestinian residents to march to Erez Crossing into Israel to peacefully demand an end to the siege. However, the government of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced just days before the hundreds of delegates began arriving in Cairo that the march would not be allowed to go forward. It cited ongoing tensions at the border. When marchers demonstrated against the decision, the government cracked down, often using heavily armed riot police to encircle and intimidate the nonviolent marchers.
Code Pink’s initial acceptance of Egypt’s offer exacerbated divisions among the leftists.
On first arriving we had a legal ban placed on us. Europeans have organised on a basis where we do not take any notice of the law. Codepink have used those activities to put pressure on the Egyptian authorities.
The French for instance – around 300 – mobilised on the basis of resistance. The Spanish tried to get to al Arish in different ways. Similar actions were taken by others. Some of the activities in Cairo have been extremely high risk – for instance at the Journalist’s Syndicate. It was like World War III: riot police everywhere. Meetings have been bust up. Proprietors threatened. Hotel arrests. People being followed everywhere and so on and so on. Whilst the Codepink people have simply put pressure on the authorities to get all the right permission to press on in a tiny group.
The French who have had it very rough have not even had a visit from the Codepink. They have been demonised as though they were the extremists, disrupting things for everyone. I have spent a lot of time with the French and they are simply determined to expose the Egyptian role in this whole business.
What is going on right now is meetings, lots of wind and blaming the Codepink for a lot of the duplicity and betrayal. They have had hell of a job to get enough people to go with them and the Egyptians have exploited their compliance something terrible. So now the media here is full of this story about the moderate, reasonable Americans who are working in complete harmony with the Egyptians whilst the rest of us are extremist anarchists who disobey law as a matter of routine.
Musician Roger Waters issued a video statement urging Barack Obama to intervene:
So I hope Barack Obama will respond to this, and I hope he makes a statement about it. And I hope he will come out and support this march. And I hope he will come out and say, “Listen, this siege of this country is illegal, and we must support–we must support the law. We must support the rights that human beings have under the law.”
Speaking from Cairo, Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada, spoke with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now December 30th about the pressure activists are putting on their home nations’ embassies in Cairo
[J]ust a short while ago, I came from the encampment at the French embassy, where hundreds of French citizens and others are still camped out on the sidewalk in front of the French embassy, absolutely surrounded by phalanxes of riot police in Cairo.
Yesterday we were at the US embassy for many hours, surrounded by police. But I think really the responsibility in that situation has to lie with the US embassy and the United States, which absolutely stonewalled and was unresponsive to the demands of its citizens to speak to their representatives. And when we finally did get a meeting, it really became very clear, from the US representative that we met, the senior political officer at the US embassy in Cairo, Greg Legrefo, that the United States was not going to do anything to support our effort to break the siege, that the policies of the United States remain unchanged.
And Mr. Legrefo did confirm in that meeting that the United States Army Corps of Engineers is providing technical assistance to Egypt to build an underground barrier along the border with Gaza to prevent the digging of tunnels, which have become the last lifeline for people of Gaza in circumventing the siege.
Author Philip Weiss wrote of witnessing Ayers and Dohrn getting caught up in the debate over whether to accept Egypt’s offer for a small number of activists entry to Gaza.
The people staying on the buses leaned out the doors to say that the Gazans wanted them to come so as to to join their march to the Israeli border on the 31st. But they wavered. Indeed, you saw some of the most resolute activists on the planet–Bernardine Dohrn, the law professor and former member of the Weather Underground; Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada; and Donna Mulhearn, an Australian woman who was a human shield during the beginning of he Iraq war, board the bus and get it off it, and then board it again and get off it, and on and on.
…Abunimah, who had been roughed up by security at the American Embassy yesterday, told me it was the hardest decision he’d ever had to make. It was an individual decision, he had no clarity on it, and no one could tell you what to do, and he respected the decisions of all parties. Mulhearn said that going to Iraq in 2003 had been easy compared to this; for that choice was in the face of physical danger and she would take that any day, this was in the face of moral doubt. As for the Egyptian statement that only hooligans were staying behind in Cairo, she said it was a lie, she would say so on her blog, and the people who were against anyone going on that basis were giving the Egyptian security state power. Dohrn said that the principle of “All or none” was a miserable one for activist politics. You always took what you could get and kept fighting for more. A European man in a red keffiyeh screamed at her that she was serving the fascisti. Her partner Bill Ayers gently confronted him and asked him why he was so out of control. Between getting on and off the bus, Dohrn, who wore a flower in her hair, said that she didn’t like the absolutist certainty of the people on the other side of the police barricades, and having been in the Weather Underground, she knew something about absolutist feeling.
In the end Dohrn and Abunimah got off the bus. Mulhearn stayed on, I heard. A big reason for them was a call that Abunimah had with leaders of civil society in Gaza, who said, if this is going to hurt the movement, don’t come. We will march without you. (The message, from Haidar Eid and Omar Barghouti, says, “After a lot of hesitation and deliberation, we are writing to call on you to reject the ‘deal’ reached with the Egyptian authorities. This deal is bad for us and, we deeply feel, terrible for the solidarity movement.”)
Dohrn sent a report from Cairo that was posted at the blog of fellow former SDS member Fred Klonsky.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009; 11:30 am
It has been a tumultuous 15 hours. Two buses, carrying 100 people from the GFM and loads of humanitarian supplies just departed from Cairo for Gaza. This was a victory and a concession. The decisions and the manner in which this opportunity was framed and promoted by various actors fractured the GFM participants in familiar and unlikely, real and sectarian ways – all documented by media cameras and hundreds of Egyptian security forces. Ali Abunimah, Bernardine Dohrn, Veterans for Peace organizers, and Israeli journalist Amira Hess were among the 100 people on the list to go, who arrived at 6:30 this morning, on the corner of Ramsis by the 6thOctober Bridge at the Al Gona Bridge, to depart for Gaza.
Tuesday morning, delegates from several countries went to their embassies in Cairo to plead for help getting to Gaza. Most were met with predictable bureaucratic intransigence. The French, however, staged an extraordinary encampment in front of their embassy and their ambassador and his wife came out and spent time speaking with them individually and in small groups. That action continues today. Bill and I went to the American Embassy at 10 am and asked to see the Ambassador. We were ushered into a holding pen a block away from the embassy building where we joined 35 people already there, surrounded by Egyptian soldiers. Over the next 4 hours, another dozen Americans arrived, and those of us who asked to leave, were denied. Meanwhile, Medea Benjamin, Kit Kiteredge, and Ali Abunimah were meeting with an embassy official and stressing that we intended to go to Gaza on a non-violent, humanitarian mission, and requesting their assistance. Further, they asked that the embassy officials release the US citizens who were now clearly being detained outside.
Ali emerged first, to tell us that their discussion achieved nothing, and they were now requesting that we be free to go. This process took another hour. Ali refused to enter the holding cage, and spoke to us from outside. At one point, out of nowhere, military personnel grabbed Ali, and Medea – who was standing a few feet away – sprang to action, shouting “No! No!”, grabbing Ali’s arm and pulling him down to the ground with her. As soon as they were prone, the security backed off. It was an impressive display of non-violent direct action and solidarity in-the-moment, performed with speed, force and clarity.
In late afternoon, a huge demonstration took place outside the Syndicate of Journalists, a traditional site of political mobilizations in downtown Cairo. The GFM was a force, and joined by large numbers of Egyptian citizens chanting in solidarity with Palestine and in opposition to the visit that day by Netanyahu. This action got widespread coverage throughout the Arab world.
Late last night, it was announced at the nightly team leaders’ meeting that our three days of actions across Cairo, the international pressure around the world, and consistent efforts by Code Pink leadership to meet with high level Egyptian officials – including a meeting yesterday at the offices of Suzanne Mubarak – resulted in an agreement with the Egyptian government that two buses could leave for the Rafah crossing into Gaza early Wednesday. The names of the 100, however, had to be submitted to Egyptian officials by Tuesday evening. This resulted in a (necessarily) rushed process, without the opportunity for full debate, discussion, and input about criteria for selection, or about the strategic goals of sending a smaller, incomplete team of people to enter Gaza and participate in the New Year’s freedom march with the people there. By mid-evening, whole delegations (South Africa, New York) announced that they would not participate. In part, they critiqued the process of decision-making; in part, they took the position, “all of us or none.”(more here.)
Hamas, Code Pink, Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, Jodie Evans and Barack Obama. Quite a witches brew. And Huffington Post and Politico wonder why Americans doubt Obama’s committment to win the war on terror.
Oh, and speaking of witches, Code Pink’s Wiccan co-founder took time off from her ‘dirt worship’ and made a rare visit to the front lines with he Code Pink partners to help Hamas from Cairo. You can read her reports which feature her Baby-Boomer angst and her disdain for protest chanting and fasting here.
-Video of activists changing minds about being on government sanctioned bus to Gaza: