Thousands Demonstrate Worldwide Against the Siege of Gaza

28 January 2008

In London, New York, Rome, San Francisco, as well as dozens of smaller towns in the United States and Europe, people demonstrated this weekend in solidarity with the 1.5 million residents of Gaza who have been imprisoned and under siege from the Israel. One of the largest was a demonstration at Gaza itself. Hundreds of Israeli citizens, Palestinian and Jewish, joined in a convoy to the Erez checkpoint, the entrance to the Gaza Strip that has been sealed completely for several months. They came carrying Palestinian flags and truckloads of food, insisting on giving aid to the people of Gaza. On the other side of the checkpoint, out of sight yet heard via telephone, were Gazans gathered in Beit Hanoun.

Gaza has been strangled by the Israeli government with increasing severity over the past several months. Aid organizations estimate that between 75-80% of Gaza residents are reliant on foreign food aid, yet that has been almost completely blocked for several months. The Israeli government has also been ‘experimenting’ with various forms of collective punishment in what they claim is an attempt to halt rocket fire into Israeli towns. They have intermittently cut electricity, missiled sewage-treatment plants, and cut off critical medical and food supplies. When Palestinian leaders failed to negotiate any relief for the people of Gaza during their many fruitless meetings with Israeli leaders, Hamas members took on the responsibility of relieving some of the suffering of Gazans. Last week, after reportedly several days of preparation, members of Hamas set off several explosions in the wall on the Rafah/Egypt border. Over 2 days, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were able to access much needed supplies inside Egypt, before returning to their homes in Gaza. At first, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak announced that he would not take any action to close the breach as long as the people of Gaza were starving. Under immense pressure from the United States and Israel, however, he caved and made a half-hearted effort to close the hole in the wall by using riot police. Palestinians quickly used a bulldozer to open another section, and the crossing remains open to this day. This weekend’s demonstrations, combined with the daring acts of Hamas fighters, shed much-needed light on the desperate situation Palestinians in Gaza now face.