Ahead of May 15 Nakba commemorations, massive crowds assembled in Cairo’s Tahrir (Liberation) Square in solidarity. They displayed banners, proclaiming, “The People want the Rafah Crossing opened,” and “Palestine is a Arab state.”
They also waved Palestinian flags, chanting “Solidarity with the Palestinian Intifada” and “National Unity” ahead of a planned weekend march to Gaza. More on that below.
Domestic issues were also addressed, including ending recent sectarian violence and concerns about popular unaddressed issues under military junta rule. After Friday prayers, Sheikh Safwat Hegazy addressed the crowd, saying:
“(Appointed prime minister) Essam Sharaf: this is not your government. This is the revolution’s government. You should kick out the six former (NDP ruling party) ministers from the cabinet. We won’t accept (deputy prime minister) Yehia El-Gamal who’s part of the former regime….”
In response, crowds chanted, “Down, down Yehia El-Gamal.” One participant, identified only as Mohammad, spoke for others, saying:
“Sharaf’s government is taking the same path as the former government. They have the same double standards, secrecy and authoritarian policy-making in internal (and) external affairs.”
Though Egypt’s spring hasn’t bloomed, its spirit pervades Tahrir, suggesting perhaps renewed uprisings ahead. For now, however, Egyptians head for Gaza in solidarity with Palestinian liberation, a goal millions around the world support, as well as a Third Intifada to achieve it.
Surprisingly, however, despite MENA region (Middle East/North Africa) Morocco to Oman to Syria uprisings, Palestinians haven’t yet reacted, except for regular small-scale demonstrations far short of large masses throughout Egypt and neighboring countries, posing challenges for ruling authorities.
Yet nowhere is regional abuse more extreme, including occupation, isolation, land theft, mass arrests, torture, targeted assassinations, daily terror, and at times war, causing thousands of casualties and widespread destruction.
Perhaps Egypt’s solidarity march will inspire what hasn’t yet occurred, under the slogan, “Cairo’s liberation will not be complete without the liberation of Al-Quds (Jerusalem).”
According to Justice and Freedom Youth Movement’s Ahmed Doma:
“We are organizing this event as part of the Arab Internet call for a third Palestinian Intifada, and as part of what has been termed ‘the Arab mass march.’ ”
Facebook was used, urging that regional Arabs march en masse to Egyptian, Lebanese, Syrian, and Jordanian/Israeli borders, demanding what Palestinians have long sought, including liberation, ending occupation, the right of return, and East Jerusalem as its capital.
Participating Egyptians also want:
— Rafah’s border crossing permanently open, permitting free movement of people and goods;
— halting Egypt’s sale of gas to Israel;
— ending all “humiliating agreements with the Zionist state;” and
— immediate release of all Palestinians in Egyptian prisons.
On May 14 at noon Cairo time, marchers headed for Gaza, expecting to arrive that evening ahead of planned May 15 Nakba day rallies. At the same time, protesters demonstrated in front of Israel’s Giza embassy and its ambassador’s Maadi residence.
We are All Resistance member Arwa said “other convoys heading to Palestine are moving from Alexandria, Suez, Damietta and North Sinai. People will also join convoys from Gharbiya, Beni Suef, Assiut, Qena and Sohag” in a mass show of solidarity.
Cairo participating groups include:
— the National Front for Justice and Democracy;
— Cairo University’s Supporters of the Palestinian Revolution;
— the Justice and Freedom Youth Movement,
— We are All the Resistance Movement;
— Helwan University’s Resistance Movement;
— Ultras Ahlawy Ahly football club supporters;
— Zamalek club White Knights;
— Activists for Palestine;
— the Palestinian Women’s Coalition;
— the April 6 Movement;
— the Nasserist Party; and
— various independent activists.
In Tel Aviv, Israel’s Zochrot organization also shows support, defying the imposed ban on Nakba commemorations by posting a sign in German saying “we remember.” Other Israelis joined them in solidarity.
On its web site (zochrot.org), it:
“seeks to raise public awareness of the Palestinian Nakba, especially among Jews in Israel, who bear a special responsibility to remember and amend the legacy of 1948.”
Palestinians were victimized, losing “their entire world. But Jews in Israel also pay a price for their conquest,” living with the criminal legacy Palestinians and global supporters won’t forget. Zochrot’s goal is “recognition for injustice and new paths toward change and repair,” including the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland, saying:
“Return is fundamental to resolving the conflict and implementation of return need not cause injustice to Jewish people….in Israel.” It doesn’t mean expelling them. In fact, “the very opposite: The mutual existence of Palestinians and Jews in the country,” co-existing together peacefully. Return can thus free two societies from the destructive occupier/occupied relationship, ending a longstanding intolerable blight.
As a result, Zochrot will participate in March of Return activities, its site saying its members will visit Miska village, destroyed and ethnically cleaned by Israelis in 1948. They’ll then join the March of Return in al-Damun and al-Ruways villages, also demolished in 1948.
Ahead of May 15 demonstrations, Haaretz writers Anshel Pfeffer, Jack Khoury and Nir Hasson headlined, “Israeli – Palestinian tensions rise in Jerusalem, West Bank as Nabka Day nears,” explaining that:
Clashes erupted between IDF soldiers and Palestinians throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem Friday morning, including in Silwan, Isawiya and the Old City. Israeli police arrested 11 protesters. IDF soldiers used rubber bullets, tear gas, and heavy-handed thuggishness, assaulting nonviolent demonstrators.
Several injuries were reported, including an American and 17-year old Milad Said Ayyash, shot in the head Friday at close range with a high-velocity tear gas cannister and killed. At his Saturday funeral, two Palestinians were wounded. Others were arrested.
Further, Haaretz said “(t)ens of thousands of Palestinian refugees will converge in Maroun al-Ras, a village in southern Lebanon that was a major point of fighting between the IDF and Hezbollah during the 2006 Lebanon War. A parallel demonstration will also be held on the Israeli side of the Lebanon border in Avivim….where demonstrations will be staged concurrently with” a planned Maroun al-Ras rally.
The International Middle East Media Center also reported on May 13 IDF – Palestinian clashes, including:
— Israelis blocking roads, impeding weekly Bil’in anti-wall protesters from traveling to established sites;
— arresting 34 West Bank/East Jerusalem protesters; and
— wounding 22 Palestinians in Nabi Saleh near Ramallah, including photo-journalist Hilmi Tamimi.
Moreover, Italian and Malaysian activists arrived in Gaza, including friends of slain activist/journalist Vittorio Arrigoni. They’ll join growing numbers of others in solidarity for Palestinian liberation and justice.
However, according to Press TV on May 14, Egyptian authorities blocked access to Sinai, preventing activists from reaching Rafah. Also, buses to transport other supporters didn’t arrive. Nonetheless, “a convoy left Cairo’s Liberation square on Saturday,” hoping to show Palestinian solidarity on the Gaza/Rafah border.
A Final Comment
On May 12, a Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) report said Israeli soldiers and settlers killed 7,342 Palestinians from September 29, 2000 (start of the second Intifada) through December 31, 2010.
PCBS also said Israeli security forces “kidnapped” nearly 750,000 Palestinians since June 1967, including 12,000 women and many children, targeted for wanting freedom in their own land.
Occupation harshness continues daily throughout the West Bank, East Jerusalem and besieged Gaza. On May 15, regional solidarity will converge in Gaza, along Egyptian, Lebanese, Jordanian, and Syrian border areas, and perhaps other locations worldwide, commemorating Nakba day for what Palestinians have long sought – liberation on their own land in their own country. Long overdue, it can’t come a moment too soon.