MWA Director Aishah Schwartz Among 86 Delegates Standing in Solidarity with Palestinian's of Gaza in March for Freedom Dec. 31
Part 1 of a Series
CAIRO, EGYPT (Jan. 1, 2010) – Joining 86 delegates, representing 16 nations (including Algeria, Australia, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Palestine, Poland, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, USA, UK and Venezuela), in solidarity with hundreds from the Gaza community, Muslimah Writers Alliance (MWA) director, Aishah Schwartz, led a heart-felt chorus of "Free Gaza Now!" the afternoon of December 31, 2009 as participants in the Gaza Freedom March, marking the first anniversary of the Israeli led illegal massacre in Gaza that left 1,419 dead (including 326 children and 111 women), made their way along a course that would lead them to the Erez border crossing separating the Palestinian territory from Israel.
Although jubilant with enthusiasm, sparked by the warmth and hospitality offered by the Palestinian people in welcoming their guests, the delegation's departure from Cairo on the morning of Dec. 29, was marked by nothing short of a miniature civil war outside the windows of the two buses that would deliver them to Gaza.
The stage was set on the evening of Dec. 28 when organizers announced they had accepted an agreement apparently brokered through meetings with Suzanne Mubarak, chairperson of the Egyptian Red Cross and wife of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, granting permission for 100 of the roughly 1,400 original delegates, to cross the border at Rafah.
Who Would Go?
From a downtown Cairo hotel, organizers sat with laptops and coordinated spread sheets containing names and contact information with just two hours to organize a delegation – minus more than 1,300 – a daunting task to say the least.
Standing outside a take-away restaurant around 10PM on Dec. 28, Ms. Schwartz answered an incoming call from Gaza Freedom March organizer, and ultimate hero, Tighe Barry. "Congratulations! I heard you rocked the media!" Barry exclaimed, referring to an article appearing earlier that day in a leading Cairo news journal, Alwafd.
The article, published after a Dec. 27 meeting with Alwafd Editor-in-Chief Said Abd El Khalek, provided Ms. Schwartz with an opportunity to prevail upon President Mubarak to grant the then 1,400-strong delegation, permission to pass from the Rafah border crossing into Gaza.
Barry's enthusiastic tone, delivering the question, "Would you like to go to Gaza?!" left Ms. Schwartz standing motionless in the middle of a busy sidewalk. But it didn't take her long to answer, "Yes! Yes!"
All Aboard! Or Not…
In a blog post made from the driver's seat of the first bus lined up in front of a downtown Cairo sidewalk, Ms. Schwartz wrote from a mini laptop, "This is it everyone! The Egyptian government has granted permission for 100 delegates to cross the border at Rafah and proceed onward to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people in their commemorative March for Freedom, and I am one of 100 that's quickly dwindling down as protesters outside the bus chant "All or none!" "All or none!"
Adding fuel to the fire, announcements were delivered by protesting delegates boarding the bus to declare that the GFM executive committee had reversed itself overnight taking the decision to NOT accept Mrs. Mubarak's "crumbs" and to proclaim, "We called Gaza and the Palestinian's don't want you there!"
United We Stand
"I came independently, three hours after deciding the day before that it wasn't too late. Every step of my journey has been facilitated and I am not about to get off this bus," Schwartz stated adamantly to the delegate sitting beside her, Margrethe Salvesen of Norway.
With a burst of determination sparked by Schwartz's words, Salvensen rose from her seat and marched to the steps of the bus shouting back at the intensifying crowd gathered on the sidewalks in front of her, "There are no voices in Gaza! This is not a war!"
"If you are a believer, trust God," Schwartz stated to a woman moving to step off the bus. "You are here for a reason. Don't get off this bus," she implored.
Outside the bus the chanting continued with, "We stand divided!" "We stand divided!" – words that ultimately blemished the trip from beginning to end (more as the series progresses).
"You don't live in Gaza! You don't live in Gaza!" Salvesen echoed.
"Trip of a lifetime? I suspect so," Schwartz wrote.
The two buses rolled out of Cairo, final destination Gaza, four hours after the initially appointed start time; minus a few delegates, but carrying those determined to not disappoint the hopeful Palestinians on the other side of the border – instinctively certain that the Palestinian people did, indeed, want them there.
MWA Director Aishah Schwartz Featured in Gaza Freedom March Follow-Up Article - Alwafd News Journal (Page 4) – Dec. 31, 2009 (ARABIC)
MWA Director Joins Delegates in Appeal to President Mubarak on Behalf of Gaza Freedom March at Offices of Cairo's Alwafd News Journal – Dec. 29, 2009 (ARABIC)
Quarantined U.S. Citizen Gaza Freedom March Advocates Released – Dec. 29, 2009
Copyright © 2010 Aishah Schwartz
Permission is granted to circulate among private individuals and groups, to post on Internet sites and to publish in full text and subject title in not-for-profit publications. Contact author for all other rights, which are reserved.