h/t and thanks to William Bowles at Creative-i
By Haitham Sabbah
Dec 29th, 2009
In a press conference conducted earlier this evening, the Egyptian foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit announced some threats, warnings, surprises as well as some good news. The press conference that aired on Egyptian official TV a few hours ago was boiling with Aboul Gheit’s very firm and angry answers to the journalists’ questions who did not spare him a topic. They asked about the peace process, Hamas, Rafah tunnels and the Iron Wall besides the questions about the Gaza Freedom March and Viva Palestina.
To my surprise, it seems that the mainstream media are so far ignoring this press conference and no one has published any of the surprises or the good news which he carried for the Gaza Freedom March and the surprise he had for Viva Palestina. Not even those directly concerned, the activists themselves. Instead, searching the mainstream media today you will only get news about Egypt’s arrest of activists in Cairo, the activist hunger strike, Viva Palestina’s redirection to Syria, and so on.
Therefore, to be fair with Egypt and Egyptians, I’ll try to translate the important parts of the press conference.
To start with the good news, Aboul Gheit announced that the Egyptians approved a limited number of Gaza Freedom March members to pass through and reach Gaza, Palestine, in the coming few days. He said (translated from Arabic here):
. . . On the demonstrations held by activists from 42 countries and their appeal to President Mubarak to allow them to cross into Gaza Strip, Aboul Gheit said, “This issue has been on the Egyptian state agenda for several months, there is a non-governmental organisation that heads six non-governmental organisations below it with 200 other organisations, and there are groups of activists, idealists and those of different directions. We have asked them early on, so as to heed their wishes, to provide us the details of their names and passports, and to tell us to what extent they wish to go. Some did, and others decided not to respond because they reject the right of the Egyptian state to use its territory to allow or not allow. They said, “we’ll impose on the people of Egypt to accept that we only have the right to impose conditions for those who want to enter our state. You can not (pointing to the journalists) get a visa for Italy or France just because you defend them, or some of you at least. So Egypt has decided that this is matter that needs to be looked at carefully, and then we identified that some of them want to reach the Egyptian Rafah to exercise unlawful acts which deal with the Egyptian construction (referring to the Iron Wall), which means demonstration against Egypt, and some tried to hold contacts in Egypt which we do not accept, and intervened in a clash with the Egyptian state, so Egypt decided not to allow either of these groups to move deep into Sinai, however, as a result of the appeal, the Egyptian state has decided as per instructions from Mr. President to consider allowing a limited number of representatives of groups that we feel are genuine groups, and stands with the Palestinian people, such as ours do with them, in order to express advocacy of the Palestinian people and will allow them to enter in the next few days.”
Aboul Gheit added, “Those thousands of people trying to conspire against Egypt, all that we will do is to let them in our streets, seeking to provoke the Egyptians, but the Egyptians are wiser, especially after we saw that all these demonstrations have been limited to those foreigners who tried to invoke the Egyptian security, who had not provoked, stressing that these will be in the hospitality of this magnificent sun, until the end of their desire to stay and they leave.”
. . .
That was the good news. At least partly.
As for the bad news, or should I say surprise, Aboul Gheit explained in detail the claims of Viva Palestina’s block to enter Egypt as they planned and provided copies of a letter that was delivered to the Viva Palestina convoy which clearly states Egyptian approval of their entry, but through Al-Arish port, as they did before, twice. The surprising part was the dates of these letters. The first one dates back to Nov 10th, 2009 and another reminder from Dec 10th, 2009 (copies below as available from source).
I think this is a very embarrassing day for activists around the world. At least for those who follow and support both, Gaza Freedom March and Viva Palestina.
Both of them either lack coordination and transparency, or have intentions for uncalled propaganda against Egypt which all activists and Palestinians are better off without.
Gaza Freedom March seems not in control of who joins and who is not supposed to, especially since it is clear that many of them did not comply with the Egyptian request of providing the details they requested ahead of time.
Egypt, like any other country in the world, has the right to approve or deny the entry of anyone to their land. However, it allowed anyone to arrive into Cairo and welcomed them like any other visitors. At the same time, in situation like borders with Palestine and Israel, no one can blame Egypt for being extra careful in accepting or denying who will travel into Sinai and who will not.
On the other hand, Viva Palestina never mentioned anything about Egyptian pre-approval to pass through Al-Arish. At least not to the mass followers, supporters and activists, if at all we assume that the convoy organizers coordinate well enough and know well ahead what is their approved route. Instead, after they reached Aqaba they issued appeal after appeal and calls for support, even went as far as asking Turkey to help. The Turkish official who went and met with Egyptians must be embarrassed after he discovered what Viva Palestina hid and did not tell him (or anyone else) about the Egyptian letters.
I think this is a lesson for the activists to learn from. Viva Palestina and Gaza Freedom March made a mess and they involved everyone in it. It is embarrassing to act in such a way.
The only thing that must be remembered so as to forgive them this blunder is the genuine reason they are claiming to be working for, which is helping Gazans. Otherwise, Gaza Freedom March and Viva Palestina lost their credibility because of their lack of transparency and misleading messages which reach to creating propaganda against Egypt and Egyptians.
Only apologizing to Egypt in a public press conference can make one forgive these fatal mistakes which made Egypt sound as THE enemy deflecting our sight from the real enemy and the real reason behind all this atrocities that Gazans and Palestinians live in, ISRAEL.
[Copies of the letters: Palestine Think Tank]
Haitham Sabbah is an uprooted Palestinian blogger. He is the webmaster and editor of Palestine Blogs, also webmaster and co-editor of Palestine Think Tank. His personal blog is Sabbah’s Blog: http://sabbah.biz/
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License, 2009 Palestine Think Tank