We’ve moved from the Old to the New Testament—from “Let my people go” to “Left Behind!” Woke up this morning sure my choice to stay was the right one, but deeply regretting it anyway. Lisa, who was also offered a seat, and I were talking ourselves into good political reasons to justify why we could have gone, when she got a call. Code Pink and the Steering Committee of the Gaza Freedom March had just issued a statement saying that they’d made a mistake, and that they were no longer supporting the busses going. The busses were loading a few blocks away, we were told the scene was chaotic and Lisa rushed down there to do damage control while I stayed to do the morning briefing
By all accounts, the scene was a madhouse. People were weeping on the busses, others were crying “Shame! Shame!” at those who boarded. Some were getting off the bus, then back on, then off again. Father Louis Vitale, the starwart priest from San Francisco who has been arrested hundreds of times doing civil disobedience actions, got on, got off, got on again, and finally got off for good. Lisa helped chill the situation out, and people ended by holding hands and remembering that we are in this for the same goals.
The Gazan coordinators, who originally said, ‘Come!” were now saying “Don’t come—it’s too divisive. Stay together. Several delegations has pulled their representatives out. And I guess the crowning blow for Code Pink was when the Foreign Office released a statement that was not only counter to their agreement but an outright lie—that the hundred on the busses were the only ‘good’’ and truly peaceful demonstrators and that the Foreign Office had selected them. In the end, one bus went.
And then everyone pulled together and went on with the work. By the end of the morning meeting, new people were facilitating and work groups were formed. The hotels were buzzing with the energy of activists organizing an action.
I spent the day doing trainings. For the first one we crammed into the downstairs hall of the Lotus Hotel, tipping the attendant and eventually negotiating with the manager to let us stay just a little longer When we went around the circle, saying our names and where we are from, we had people from all over the world: Jordan, Bulgaria, Holland, Scotland, the U.S., Australia, Canada. For the second training we met out at the Mogamma, the big plaza on Tahir Square, with security guards thick around us and curious local people watching.
With all the work and chaos and stress, I found myself almost losing sight of Gaza. But the situation there is dire, and about to become lethal. The steel wall the Israelis plan to construct with financing from Obama’s administration will cut off the tunnels from Egypt. While the Israelis claim the tunnels are used to smuggle weapons—and that’s undoubtedly true—they are primarily a lifeline for food and the goods that Gazans need and cannot obtain because of the siege. If they are closed, people will be reduced from hunger into starvation, from poverty into abject misery.
Meanwhile other people hammered out a plan for tomorrow I don’t know if it’s a good plan or not. It has some risky aspects. If it works I may not have access to the internet to write for awhile On the other hand, the police could blockade us into our hotels and I’d have time to write a novel.
Wish us luck, safety, and success! More when I can…