As the Gaza Freedom March finally makes the pages of the New York Times, Egypt has announced that they will allow 100 members of the march to enter Gaza. This is from the over 1,300 people in Cairo who have assembled to enter the besieged territory.
“It’s a partial victory,” said Medea Benjamin, an American activist and one of the demonstrations organisers. “It shows that mass pressure has an effect.”
They said the foreign ministry offered to let them choose 100 delegates who would be allowed into Gaza. They were due to leave Cairo for Gaza on Wednesday morning.
Activists have staged demonstrations and sit-ins around Cairo to push for entry to Gaza. Dozens of French activists camped out in front of their embassy in Cairo after being refused passage.
The offer, however, angered many of the activists. A French organiser rejected it as divisive and said the sit-in in front of the French embassy would continue.
“This just gives the Egyptian government a photo-up and the chance say we allowed people through,” said Bassem Omar, a Canadian protester. Activists left behind in Cairo said they planned further protests.
Egypt had said it barred the protesters because of the “sensitive situation” in Gaza. It has refused to permanently open the Rafah crossing since the militant Islamist group Hamas took over Gaza in 2007, prompting Israel’s blockade, but opens it for a few days every month.
Ali Abunimah weighs in on his blog:
It’s not enough and the pressure and protests should be kept up. The deciding factor for me is what the organizers in Gaza want, and they want this group to come to Gaza. I understand all the objections to accepting a small offer, but everything else is secondary. It is essential however that the protests continue and the demand that all Gaza Freedom Marchers be allowed to travel. However, getting 100 or 1300 into Gaza does not end the siege by itself. This is not about getting some or even all into Gaza, its building global support and pressure to end the siege of Gaza. Our demand must remain the same, and it must be pressed loudly and insistently: open the border, end the siege.