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Gaza Protest in Washington D.C. Print E-mail
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By Helen Fenimore
Exclusive for Al Waref

 On a cold, January afternoon long into the evening, more than 500 people came to meet in front of the Israeli embassy voicing their frustration at the governments of Israel, the United States, Egypt, and others for their tacit approval of strikes against Hamas,
the ruling and democratically elected governing body in the Gaza Strip, and for the disproportionate use of force, as well as other egregious violations of human rights... Signs with slogans such as “Israel: Guilty of War Crimes” and “‘Never Again’ Includes Palestinians” provided some insight into the varying opinions on the ongoing situation in the Occupied Territories. Police barricaded the area surrounding the Israeli embassy, and the procession moved down to the street to the Egyptian embassy. In homage of an Iraqi journalist who showed his dismay towards President Bush, some protesters threw their shoes at the embassy. This move had great symbolism because of the deep cultural, political, and social connotations in Middle Eastern culture of showing the sole of your shoe at a person; implying that they are beneath the ground you walk on. The Egyptian embassy officials knew the “beef” that the protesters and Palestinian communities around the world have with Mubarak and other Egyptian government officials.

Chants rang through the air, some were rather catchy and alluded to struggles against capital punishment, others attempted to link world leaders to Hitler. Though I support the end of such immense bloodshed and a seemingly endless cycle of retaliation, escalation, and drawdown; the actions of some protestors compromised the legitimacy of the struggle against Israeli and Palestinian antagonism and violence. Other than the accents of Muslim flavour throughout the protest, such as, the shahadah recited as a chant, and a public isha prayer performed on the International Drive oblique, just right of the Egyptian Embassy; the protest was strictly political. This protest shows that others outside the Jewish and Arab communities in the DC area and United States show deep and abiding interest in stopping the violence in the territories.

But, I am disheartened to hear that the IDF has sent in soldiers to resolve this conflict with a ground offensive, because guerrilla warfare against the fourth most powerful army in the world will lead to a continued escalation of violence.

The Egyptian Paradox

As an Egyptian American, I took part in this protest to support the end of the unbelievably heavy-handed, savage, and unrelenting pillage of the Gaza Strip by Israeli Defence Forces. The group of thousands of protestors met in front of the Israeli Embassy, then walked across the street and down a block to the Egyptian Embassy. When I saw shoes flying, the ultimate sign of disrespect throughout the Middle East, and heard remarks made against the actions taken by President Mubarak of Egypt, I felt a tug on my heart. I love Egypt, and the country is the place of many memories, which are upsetting, hurtful, and depressing, but also joyous, and euphoric.
Egypt is facing a dilemma now as the war in Gaza continues. Like all nations, Egypt has problems. Poverty, food insecurity, and immigration are just a few on a long list, but, most importantly, the nation is just a shell of its former self: the political, economic, and social leader among Arab nations. The handling of the current crisis in Gaza is just a glance at the current state of affairs in the region, the duplicitous nature of relations with the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, corruption, rampant nepotism, negligence of duty to the citizenry of their respective nations, and the practicing of collective punishment. Don’t misinterpret my words, and extrapolate that I deny that Israelis are suffering in this current conflict, because both sides are suffering.

I am only noting the tacit approval that the Egyptian and other Arab governments are giving to the actions of Israel with their silence regarding the issue of the bombardment of the Gaza Strip. Though Hamas is an Islamic governing structure, it is one of the few democratically elected regimes in the region, and should be embraced throughout the region. Unfortunately for the people of Gaza, Egyptian government officials fear Islamist elements that are subverted within their society, and are brutally snuffed out at any sign of rupturing. It is incredibly disingenuous of the Egyptian government to speak about leadership in political matters when the president has served since 1981.
Fear dictates the political lives of many Egyptians inside and outside of the nation, because of the incredible consequences that can be levelled against members of an activist’s family. As an Egyptian American that has lived in either the US or Egypt, more time in the former, I applaud the attempts of Palestinian communities worldwide to organize a state while under oppressive conditions. This model is activism (collecting funds, non-violent protests, elections, etc.) is something that should be copied by Egyptians, and other Arab communities throughout the world.
Israeli officials, and soldiers alike, state that the Palestinians “chose” Hamas. Perhaps, they should have a tolerable dictator like many Arab nations have, and see how much better off the Palestinians are.

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3.26 Copyright (C) 2008 / Copyright (C) 2007 Alain Georgette / Copyright (C) 2006 Frantisek Hliva. All rights reserved."