***image2***Two separate sets of protests last week by Palestine solidarity activists showed the strength of the grassroots movement against Israeli Occupation and Apartheid in Egypt.
On December 10, a solidarity march of 200 Egyptian and international activists set out from Cairo in five buses, intending to drive to the Gaza border to highlight the dramatic onslaught on the Palestinian people forced to live isolated from the rest of the world in the Gaza strip. The march was to symbolically break this isolation. The protest, which was organized by the Egyptian Popular Committee in Solidarity with the Palestinian Intifada, accompanied a convoy delivering relief assistance in the form of food and blankets to Rafah.
The timing of the international solidarity march, which included 35 Arab and European activists in addition to over 150 Egyptians, had been planned to coincide with International Human Rights Day on December 10. The march was organized in agreement with resolutions passed at a major anti-war conference held in Beirut in September 2004, which called for the launch of an international movement against Israeli Apartheid, a campaign of boycotts, sanctions, and divestments to isolate Apartheid Israel, and a worldwide mobilization against the Apartheid Wall (see https://www.focusweb.org/pdf/Beirut-Communique-en.pdf).
However, the activists never reached the border, as they were stopped by Egyptian State Security authorities at the entrance to the North Sinai governorate. While the food and blankets being carried by the convoy were allowed through to Rafah, the solidarity march was not allowed to continue. After an hour of negotiations with police, the protestors left the bus and began to march on foot along the desert road, chanting slogans such as âIntifada until Victoryâ and âViva Palestina.â They were soon surrounded by dozens of security forces, who prevented them from moving any further. According to eyewitness reports, one of the protestors, an elderly woman, suffered a heart attack in the ensuing confrontation. After a three hour standoff, the buses were forced to return to Cairo.
The Palestine solidarity march comes at a time when the Egyptian government is working, under pressure from the United States, to forge closer ties with Israel. Within a two-week period, the Egyptian government released a convicted Israeli spy and signed a major trade accord with Israel. The fact these steps came less than a month after the shooting of three Egyptian soldiers patrolling the border with Gaza by Israeli Occupation Forces was a source of particular outrage to Egyptians standing in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle.
The depth and persistence of the grassroots movement in solidarity with Palestine was revealed a few days after the stopping of the march to Gaza. On December 14, scores of Egyptians across the country protested against the new trade accord with Israel, condemning it as a form of colonialism.
In Cairo, an estimated 50 protestors gathered at the headquarters of the Journalistsâ Syndicate to voice their opposition to the agreement. Protestors included members of groups working for boycotts against Israeli Apartheid, as well as anti-globalization activists. Demonstrators denounced Israeli and American colonialism, chanted âEgyptian workers are not for sale,â and held up signs declaring âNo to QIZ,â referring to the qualified industrial zones (QIZs) that will be set up under the accord as joint ventures with Israel. Protests were also reported in the delta region of Mahala and Ismailiya, north-east of Cairo, involving mostly textile workers who will be directly affected by the QIZ.
These mobilizations have highlighted once again the awareness among activists in Egypt of the interconnectedness between the struggle against globalization and support for the Palestinian struggle against Israeli Occupation and Apartheid. The merging of these two struggles into comprehensive actions such as the two sets of protests last week strengthens and deepens the movement. Moreover, the existence of simultaneous protests across the country against the trade accord between Egypt and Israel indicates the depth of popular opposition to the Egyptian governmentâs steps towards further ânormalizingâ its relationship with Apartheid Israel.