By Fiona Edwards, Student Officer Palestine Solidarity Campaign
The announcement that Egypt will end its complicity with Israel’s siege on Gaza is extremely good news for the Palestinians and all those who support peace, justice, equality and human rights across the world.
The significance of Egypt’s new foreign policy and orientation toward supporting basic Palestinian human rights must not be underestimated.
Israel’s brutal siege on Gaza has denied the Palestinians their basic human rights for 5 years.
The blockade, illegal under international law, cuts the Palestinians trapped in Gaza off from the outside world and severely limits basic supplies from entering such as food, safe water and medicine - making life intolerable for the 1.5 million people living there.
The Palestinians right to education has been particularly hard hit by the siege. Basic educational equipment including books, paper, computers, stationary and desks are all in limited supply and Israel routinely cuts off Gaza’s electricity supply for several hours every day.
The siege has also prevented serious reconstruction of Gaza’s educational infrastructure from taking place since Israel’s war on Gaza: cement to rebuild homes, schools, hospitals and universities reduced to rubble during Operation Cast Lead has not been allowed to cross the border into Gaza.
Consequently the situation in Gaza has been defined as a “humanitarian crisis” by leading international human rights and humanitarian organisations including Human Rights Watch, UNRWA, Amnesty International and the World Health Organisation.
Khaled Al-Mudallal is the Student Officer for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and is from Gaza is very optimistic about the new developments, which could lead to the siege on Gaza ending altogether.
He said: ”Egypt's decision to open the crossing is the first step to lift the siege completely on Gaza, this will bring hope to many Gazans’ who haven't been able to return to Gaza due to the harsh Israeli siege for more than 4 years. I hope that Egyptian people stand side to side with their Palestinian people in order to break the siege on Gaza and let the Palestinians enjoy their democratic choice in their forthcoming elections.”
With the Egyptian revolution’s move to end its complicity with the siege there is now the opportunity to end the human suffering and start to rebuild all that was destroyed during Israel’s war on Gaza over 2 years ago.
The new Palestinian unity between Fatah and Hamas is another hugely significant and positive development in the Palestinian struggle for freedom. Egypt played a crucial role in facilitating the discussions for the unity agreement – in contrast to the role that the former Mubarak regime played of actively sabotaging Palestinian unity - yet another achievement of the young revolution.
Get active with the international movement to free Gaza
The revolutionary changes sweeping the Middle East have already transformed the prospects for Palestinian liberation. Now more than ever international pressure for Israel to end the siege on Gaza must be strengthened – and we all have a part to play.
Sending convoys of aid to break the blockade has proved a very effective way of focusing the world’s attention on the Palestinians in Gaza and the inhumane siege that Israel has kept them under for the last 5 years.
One year ago, in May 2010, hundreds of peace campaigners and human rights activists joined together in an international effort to break the siege by sea to deliver aid. Israel launched a deadly military assault on the peaceful mission and killed nine civilians in international waters.
The international response to Israel’s massacre on the Mavi Marmara was unprecedented: governments across the world condemned Israel’s violence and also called for an end to the siege – including the British government. Awareness about Israel’s collective punishment of the people in Gaza massively increased as a result.
The next ‘Gaza flotilla’ sets off this June - with hundreds taking part from across the world including human rights activists, peace campaigns and European Union parliamentarians – on a mission to deliver school materials, medical equipment and construction equipment to the Gaza strip. This is a mission students need to get fully behind – sign up to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign weekly update to find out how. It is also not too late to apply to join the flotilla itself – check out www.britain2gaza.com for more info.
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign also has a ‘End the Siege on Gaza’ petition which calls on the British government to ensure it actively ensures that the blockade is lifted – sign it today.
This weekend there are a number of important actions in support of the Palestinians - get involved and spread the word!
End the Siege on Gaza – Free Palestine Protest
Saturday 14th May, 12noon, Downing Street
Called by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War Coalition, British Muslim Initiative, CND, Palestinian Forum in Britain
Solidarity with Palestine – From Nakba to Intifada public meeting
Friday 13th May, 6.30pm-9pm, University of London Union
Organised by the Equality Movement
Speakers include Lowkey, George Galloway, Karma Nabulsi (former PLO representative), Yael Kahn (anti-Zionist Israeli activist), Sarah Colborne (eye witness from the Mavi Mamara) and Jody McIntyre
Demonstration in solidarity with Palestine outside the Israeli Embassy
Sunday 15th May, 12noon
Organised by the Equality Movement