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The biggest prison camp in the world

The deportation of Respect MP George Galloway from Egypt today is only the latest in a series of anti-Palestinian actions by the country’s president, Hosni Mubarak which have helped Israel enforce a blockade of Gaza.

Mubarak’s despotic regime is as hostile to the Hamas administration in Gaza as the Israelis are. Some opposition figures in Egypt even go so far as to claim that Mubarak gave the Israelis the green light to launch their murderous attack on Gaza at the end of 2008, which claimed 1,500 lives and led to accusations of war crimes. Foreign minister Tzipi Livni was in Cairo shortly before the air strikes and ground invasion were launched and opposition MPs say Mubarak gave his blessing to the assault.

Galloway was in Egypt as part of an international delegation of the Gaza Freedom March. This originally planned to arrive in Gaza on 29 December 2009 to join a march against the Israeli blockade together with residents of Gaza two days later. Most of its delegates remained in Cairo, having been blocked from going to the Rafah border by the Egyptian government, and instead marched against the Egyptian blockade on Gaza.

An aid convoy bringing medical and other supplies was also held up and the Egyptian authorities attacked people trying to cross into Gaza. Earlier this week, Gazans threw stones at Egyptian soldiers in protest at the delay and one was killed. The convoy finally made it into Gaza yesterday.

The 1.5 million people of Gaza have lacked vital medicine and food supplies for over a year following the Israeli assault. Tunnels used to smuggle supplies in from Egypt have been sealed up by the Mubarak regime. Just before Christmas, international aid groups in a report condemned world governments for betraying the people of Gaza by doing nothing to lift the blockade.

Gaza has become the largest prison camp in the world, not that you would know that from the conspiracy of silence from London to Washington, where the concern is to break Hamas whatever the cost to the Palestinian people. It’s just as well that rapper/poet/playwright Lowkey’s track Long Live Palestine is doing so well in alerting people to what’s happening.

Almost 1,500 delegates from 43 countries converged on Cairo in December believing they had permission to go through the Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing into Gaza. But under pressure from the Israelis the border was closed on December 29. The very same day Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu and Mubarak held talks in Cairo. It was a cosy affair. Netanyahu said he was "very encouraged" by the meeting, while Cairo said it had been "very positive". Earlier that week, the Israelis announced a new programme of settlement building in the West Bank.

A series of protests by delegates were broken up by the authorities although the Syndicate of Journalists invited the marchers to join their members at their trade union headquarters for a rally. Delegates also convened an ad hoc convention to ratify the "Cairo Declaration". An international working committee drafted a document setting out a plan of action for boycott, divestment and sanctions against the Israeli regime.

Meanwhile, the Egyptians are constructing a steel wall deep into the earth at the Rafah border, making it even harder to get in or out of Gaza.

Paul Feldman
Communications editor
8 January 2010

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