Fair Policy, Fair Discussion

June 7, 2010

Leaders Around the World Focus their Attention on Israel

Several days after Israeli commandos raided an aid ship headed for Gaza, heads of state around the world are focusing their attention towards investigating the events of May 31 and working towards ending the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been very vocal in condemning Israeli actions after the death of several Turkish citizens, has made a statement calling for the formation of an international investigation. According to Erdogan, the acceptance of such an investigation would be the only way to better Israeli-Turkish relations. He went on to say that if Israel refused an international investigation that, “it means that they are hiding some facts.” In addition, Prime Minister Erdogan has been reported to be considering a trip to Gaza aboard a Turkish Naval vessel. While this has caused some in Israel to threaten violence at another attempt to breach the blockade, the official tone is much more moderate and IDF leaders have made statements essentially telling their colleagues to calm down. (more…)

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June 1, 2010

The Gaza Flotilla

The international community is in a furor after yesterday’s events on the Gaza flotilla that left at least 9 activists dead by the hands of the IDF.  Major protests were sparked around the world, from Paris to Istanbul, against the actions of Israel.  Strong condemnation was elicited from the UN, though the U.S. had it watered down a bit, Turkish PM Erdogan, who called the raid a “massacre,” the EU, and many other nations.  It is clear that most of the world is united such condemnation of Israel, and the state is facing further isolation than ever before.

It is difficult to fathom what went wrong on this humanitarian mission, and the UN has called for an impartial inquiry into the raid.  Naturally, there are two differing narratives.  The Free Gaza flotilla left Cyprus with the intention of trying to open up three year blockade on Gaza by delivering  10,000 tons of aid.  Israel intercepted the flotilla 40 miles away from the Gaza coast, though its formal blockade of Gaza only extends 25 miles off the coast.  When the flotilla said its destination was Gaza and would not stop, Israeli forces proceeded to board the ships.  Under the UN Charter on the Law of the Sea, a vessel can only be boarded in international waters if it is suspected to be transporting weapons or weapons of mass destruction.  Seaborne special forces, which are trained for combat and not crowd control, proceeded to board. (more…)

December 29, 2009

Gaza-Egypt-U.S. update

Filed under: Discourse in America,Egypt,Gaza,Washington's diplomacy — Helena Cobban @ 10:21 pm

I’m sorry we haven’t had much time to blog here about the latest developments in Egypt, where the faction in the government that seems ready to go along with the Israeli-U.S. siege of Gaza seems, for now, to have the upper hand.

The Egyptian government is thus currently imposing a major (and very expensive) rerouting on the large Viva Palestina (Lifeline) convoy that had driven down from Europe via Turkey, Syria, and Jordan. It has also been almost completely blocking the 1,400 international activists who have gathered in Cairo for the Gaza Freedom March, from making the 6-hour trek to the Rafah crossing, and thence to Gaza.

I say “almost” completely blocking the GFM marchers, because just a couple of hours ago, Robert Naiman reported that the Egyptian government has agreed to let 100 of the 1,400 GFM participants go to Gaza tomorrow (Wednesday). That was after several GFM participants, including Hedy Epstein, an 85-year-old  Holocaust survivor and resident of St. Louis, Missouri, went on a hunger strike in central Cairo to protest the blocking of the GFM’s procession.

The GFM people also originally planned to march from Gaza, along with scores of thousands of nonviolent Palestinian marchers, in a peaceful, anti-siege march scheduled for December 31, from Gaza up to the main Erez checkpoint with Israel.

(more…)

November 11, 2009

Preparing for Gaza

Filed under: Egypt — Carlton Cobb @ 9:29 pm

I am in Cairo preparing for the delegation’s arrival here from Tel Aviv on Thursday night. Our plan is to leave for Gaza on Friday (the 13th!) morning, spend Saturday in Gaza and return later in the day. That gives us all day Sunday for appointments in Cairo, before we leave for Washington, DC early on Monday morning.

In order to enter Gaza from Egypt, we had to request permission several weeks ago from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry to pass through Rafah, the only crossing point between Egypt and Gaza. Al-hamdulillah, they granted us permission! Now we are frantically trying to set up appointments.

This is my first time in Cairo, so I’m comparing what I see with how people told me it is. The tour company booked us in a nice hotel in Garden City, an affluent section that abuts the Nile and is full of mammoth hotels full of Westerners, swimming pools, casinos, neon lights, and fireworks. While most of the city is as noisy, crowded, and dirty as people say Cairo can be, Garden City seems like Las Vegas on the Nile — still noisy and crowded, but less dirty.

One obvious source of Cairo’s problems is the ridiculously large number of cars. The resultant pollution hangs in the air and turns the buildings brown and black. This part of the city, at least, was not designed to accommodate pedestrians — sidewalks end abruptly, there are no traffic lights, no stop signs, no crosswalks. I paid 25 Egyptian pounds (about $5) to take a taxi three blocks today just so that I wouldn’t get run over. I wonder how much of the problem is due to generous government fuel subsidies, which bring the price of gasoline down to $1.20 per gallon.

Here are two pictures of the view of the Nile from my balcony:

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