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January 12, 2010

We’re Sailing Again – Join Us

This spring, the Free Gaza Movement is sending at least six boats to Gaza to break Israel’s illegal blockade on 1.5 million Palestinians. This blockade constitutes an act of collective punishment, a crime prohibited under international humanitarian law. Gaza’s man-made and internationally perpetuated crisis is set to deepen as Egypt builds an Iron wall 30 meters deep and 20 meters high on the southern Rafah border, closing off the final route for Palestinians to get basic supplies.

The urgency of breaking the blockade grows by the day, as Palestinians living in this prison are denied their most basic rights.

Our mission will include two boats committed by a Turkish NGO plus a cargo ship purchased with donations from the Malaysian people. This ship will be loaded with cement, water filtration systems and paper – all essential reconstruction materials denied entry to Gaza by Israel.

Free Gaza’s missions were the first to challenge Israel’s hermetic closing of Gaza when we sailed two small boats into Gaza in August 2008. We did not ask permission of Israel or Egypt to travel to Gaza and sailed directly from international waters into the waters of Gaza. Since then, we have been the catalyst for a growing international movement of civilian advocates, including the Gaza Freedom March and Viva Palestina.

Of course we will face Israel’s illegal naval blockade. But we have broken through it before and we will do it again. We are writing to ask you to make sure the mission is funded and publicized.

We sailed four more successful missions to Gaza since August 2008, and we intend to come back this year with a small flotilla, so you still have time to get boats and come with us. We are calling on all NGOs, human rights organizations and communities around the world to join us. If you already have funding for boats, we can provide the logistical and technical advice on how get them ready to join the flotilla. If you want to help in other ways, we have listed five below.

1. Fundraise for this trip. Consider organizing a big or small fundraiser in your community. We already have people available to speak at your events. Friends returning from the Gaza Freedom March, or the Viva Palestina convoy can be especially helpful by turning report backs into fundraisers.
2. Get your community involved and turn this flotilla into a global effort. Our boats will carry building supplies and school supplies, both banned by Israeli authorities. Contribute by donating paper, ink or books for our Right to Read campaign: If you can donate reconstruction supplies, please contact us. Get your children and their schools involved by having them write letters to children in Gaza that we will carry on our boats and deliver.
3. Publicize the trip. Once we have announced the date, help us get the message out to the media and to your elected officials to assure the passengers and boats will sail safely.
4. Ask your Member of Parliament/Congress to come with us. We already have MPs from South America, South Africa, Malaysia, Turkey and Europe who are going. If you have contacts with other high profile people, please let us know.
5. Volunteer as land crew, media or support crew in your countries.

To help, organize a fundraiser, suggest passengers and offer support, please email us at, and we will follow up immediately. We have only two to three months to finish organizing, raise the additional funds, and to set sail.

Join us as we sail together to Gaza this spring!

Moufid Shehab and Egypt’s Gaza Hysteria

the blog of journalist Sarah Carr, has a very funny translation/commentary on Egyptian Minister of Parliamentary Affairs (and Gamal’s homme a tout faire) Moufid Shebab, who was the public face of the brouhaha over the Gaza convoys. There’s the usual — the “Qatari channel of discord,” the “engineering installations on our eastern borders” to refer to the wall, lamenting that Egyptian media is not patriotic enough, etc. My favorite bit, though, was about the Algerian conspiracy to make Egypt look bad:

The media lacked information and the truth as it talked about the French people [THERE WERE ANOTHER 41 NATIONALITIES REPRESENTED IN THE GAZA FREEDOM MARCH BUT I WILL CONVENIENTLY IGNORE THIS] who came to Egypt ostensibly for tourism but who in fact had other motives – going to Gaza [SHOCK HORROR. IS THERE A SPECIFIC VISA FOR ‘GOING TO GAZA’?]. There has been a plan to deceive, and all the media fell for it. Most of these French people were Algerian women carrying French nationality [THIS IS COMPLETE TWADDLE BUT INDULGE ME] who took advantage of the protests for Gaza [TWADDLE DUM TWADDLE DEE]. These Algerian women are carrying the message of the Algerian media from the heart of Cairo [T WORD, AGAIN]. They appealed to human emotion but there was a political aim behind their actions. We all remember what happening in Khartoum and the consequences after the match on November 18 [A LOVELY DISTRACTION FROM HOW CRAP THE GOVERNMENT IS]

In this way Algerian women came to Egypt with French passports and in their hearts they have taken a position against Egypt [EL TWADDALO, AGAIN. IF IT WAS TRUE, IT WOULD AGAIN BE A REMINDER THAT EGYPTIANS AND ALGERIANS REALLY DO HAVE MUCH IN COMMON].

Note that this diatribe also contains what’s now the standard justification for the wall:

1. Hamas’ coup is the reason for the closure of the crossings, including the Rafah Crossing.
2. Egypt is committed to not opening the border formally because of the absence of a legitimate authority and, in compliance with the 2005 treaty, in order to protect Palestinian unity and avoid giving Israel the pretext to shirk its obligations in the Strip in its capacity as an occupying power.
3. To stop Israeli ambitions and plans to divide Gaza from the rest of Palestine; Gaza – the West Bank – East Jerusalem.
4. The Rafah Crossing is for people and not goods.
5. Egypt is applying pressure for the other crossings into Gaza controlled by Israel to remain open. Egypt has nothing to do with these crossings and they are: Karem Abu Salem, Erez, Kesoufeem [sp.?], Sufa, Karni and Nahal Oz.
6. The flow of aid through the crossing has not halted and Egypt has facilitated in all ways possible the passage of aid caravans in conformity with the rules set by Egypt.
7. Every country in the world protects its sovereignty and ensures the security of its land in cooperation with its neighbours. No state accepts the infringement of its laws, and it punishes those who do infringe them.
8. The attack on Egypt is organised. Israel was not subject to a similar attack by Arab satellite channels and some politicians and opposition figures when it built its racist wall [AT LEAST NOT HERE IN LA LA LAND]. This places all of these people in the same basket with regional powers who have adopted the inflammatory message against Egypt [DOCTOR THE MONSTERS ARE COMING].

These Egyptian measures are aimed at protecting our interests and our citizens against danger. They are necessarily and most definitely against the interests of Israel, which wants to push Gazans into Sinai where they will become refugees like Palestinians dispersed in several Arab countries and then the story will be over forever [AS HAPPENED OF COURSE WHEN THE ‘TENS OF THOUSANDS’ OF GAZANS STORMED THE BORDER IN 2008].

Note that, following the Gaza Freedom March and Viva Palestina, not only has Egypt declared George Galloway persona non grata but it has also banned any future aid convoys for Gaza.

The labourer

Posted: 09 Jan 2010 11:47 PM PST

My review of Hamdi Abu Golayyel’s newly translated novel just came out in The Review.

A Dog with No Tail is his second book, after Thieves in Retirement, and it won the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature last year, given out by AUC Press (part of the award is to be translated and published by the press).

Abu Golayyel emigrated to Cairo from his Bedouin village in the early 80s, and worked in construction. This experience informs the book and inspired its original Arabic title, as I note:

Yet in the years spent lugging sacks of cement, smashing walls, pouring foundations and sleeping in empty buildings at night – building the residences of others without a home to call his own – Abu Golayyel found both material and metaphor. The novel’s resonant title in Arabic, Al Fa’il, is derived from the verb “to do”. It means “the doer”, “the actor” or, used as an adjective, “the efficacious, efficient”. In a grammatical sense, it means “the subject” – but in common parlance the world simply means “the labourer”. The English title is derived from a quip in the story, and works well enough. But the original Arabic title is particularly fitting for a book about the unstable edifice that is identity and the constant act of construction that is writing.

The novel was translated by our good old friend, and one-time member of the Arabist household, Robin Moger. Mr. Moger did an above-par job, his translation is a pleasure to read, and I expect we’ll see more from him soon.

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