So…I took a bit of a hiatus from my blog these last two days…my bad. I have been seeing a bit of Cairo while we’re here…a luxury we can afford in part because we got good news pretty quickly: With the intervention of the crack CODEPINK “core” team (Medea Benjamin, Ann Wright and Tighe Barry), all three of our smaller, “spin-off” delegations (the students, the Canadians and the New Yorkers) finally crossed into Gaza. And as a result of that hard work, our own delegation now has a smooth way in… Gaza here we come!
Unfortunately, however, the news has not been quite as good for some of the other groups. The 23 members of the Hope Convoy who were finally allowed into Gaza tried to hide among their numbers the three British medics who had been hunger striking at the border. However, the Egyptians apparently wanted to make an example of them and quickly “smoked” them out and sent them packing. So, as much as I am thankful for the courtesy the government ultimately showed CODEPINK, I cannot forget their lack of heart for the doctors trying to bring better cardiac care to the people of Gaza – or their closure of the border most days against ordinary Palestinians.
These days of sightseeing – including a boat ride on the Nile and a tour of the pyramids (awesome, until I was literally kidnapped by an aggressive camel man) – were an ideal transition into the intensity of the days to come. We have a truly rich, diverse group – people who will be fun to get to know in the coming days…
There are a few who have earned the right to be called “prominent…”:
Norm Finkelstein -- a professor, scholar and the author of five books on the Middle East, including Beyond Chutzpah, and The Holocaust Industry and the forthcoming book A Farewell to Israel: The coming break-up of American Zionism.
Monia Mazigh -- author of the book "Hope and Despair: My Struggle to Free My Husband Maher Arar." (Arar was born in Syria and came to Canada with his family at the age of 17. He became a Canadian citizen in 1991. On Sept. 26, 2002, while in transit in New York’s JFK airport when returning home from vacation, Arar was detained by U.S. officials and interrogated about alleged links to al-Qaeda. Twelve days later, he was chained, shackled and flown to Syria where he was held in a tiny “grave-like” cell for 10 months. He was beaten, tortured and forced to make a false confession. During his imprisonment, Monia campaigned relentlessly on his behalf until he was returned to Canada in October 2003. On Sept. 18, 2006, a Canadian commissioner of inquiry cleared Arar of all terrorism allegations. But did the United States do anything to make amends. Of course not. But he has gone on to fight back and grow stronger, with Monia’s help.
Ann Wright -- a retired U.S. Army Colonel and U.S. diplomat who resigned from the State Department in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq war.
André from Portugal -- a recently graduated internist.
But what I admire even more about these CODEPINK delegations are the “extraordinary ordinary” people. Here are a few:
Catherine from California – a recruiter for a Fortune 500 company.
Barbara from California -- a retired RN and lay midwife, who runs a global contest for youth called, "What About Peace?" to encourage young people to think about peace.
Jewel from New Orleans -- a journalist and director of communications at a museum of African American art. Her coming books include “Haiti Chose Me” and “People Lived Here,” about post-Katrina New Orleans.
Carolyn from Maine -- an adjunct English instructor, adult education teacher, and print and radio journalist.
Rose from Tennessee -- a psychiatric nurse specializing in adolescents and a radio talk show host.
Abdul Aziz from New Orleans -- a photojournalist and director of communications for the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana.
Pandwe (also) from New Orleans -- an author, filmmaker and advocate for urban public school students. She will soon be the principal of a K-8 New Orleans Recovery School.
Barbara of Brooklyn -- an attorney who represents injured workers and disabled individuals.
Omar of La Jolla, CA – a native of Lebanon and served in the Lebanese military for five years. After moving to the United States, he is championing the plight of the Islamic communities in the U.S.
Keith of Glasgow, Scotland -- a lecturer on the faculty of Education in the University of Glasgow. He is chair of the Scottish Committee for the Universities of Palestine and has taught human rights in Sarajevo.
Kit of Washington State -- a massage therapist, firefighter/EMT, organic farmer and school board member (yes, all at one time).
Rich of Juneau, Alaska -- a civil engineer with the Coast Guard (and not a fan of Sarah Palin!).
Doug from Eureka, CA -- a music DJ, former Peace Corps volunteer in the Centeral African Republic and massage therapist. He once taught English and managed a corporate libary in Saudi Arabia.
Jeanie from Clearwater, FL -- an employee for a roofing company by day and a crisis/suicide hotline volunteerby night.
Tomorrow -- we all pile in the bus together and head to Al Arish!
*Note -- I wanted to download photos to go along with this, but my equipment isn't working!