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Historic International Support: Gaza Freedom March
Hundreds of activists from more than 40 countries staged demonstrations and sit-ins in Cairo to protest the Egyptian government’s refusal to allow them to cross the border into Gaza. Our own Michael Ratner and his family are among the 1,300 solidarity marchers in the Gaza Freedom March. Among the marchers were 300 from the United States, 80 from New York State and 250 marchers from France. Last week organizers said an offer by Egyptian authorities to allow only 100 members of the group into Gaza was not enough. The Egyptian embassy has stalled the marchers and some were detained by police as crowds outside the embassies grew.
Abdeen Jabara / Dorothy Zellner:
This has truly been one of the truly great, historic, international mobilizations of people in solidarity.
Thousands upon thousands over the course of months have been working in over 42 countries around the globe.They go to Cairo, Egypt as a transit point to go to Gaza.This effort has heightened the consciousness about the siege on Gaza and exposed the United States, Israel and the Egyptian government to promote the division of the middle east for their own selfish reasons.There is the Gaza Freedom March, then there is Viva Palestina, which is a convoy of trucks loaded with humanitarian aid that actually made it into Gaza several months ago.
Viva Palestina is led by George Galloway, former British parliament member; they are stuck in Jordan.
The Egyptians initially said the trucks can go through but the people can’t. This is a massive international effort to prevent the Palestinians from getting the help that they need.
The French have been lying down in the streets in front of the French Embassy for 3 days already.
The Gaza Freedom March had been working with the Egyptians for months and it was only until the organizers got to Cairo that the Egyptians changed their decision.
They said we didn’t come here to create any difficulty for the government, we came here to stand in solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza.
The Egyptian government then allowed 100 people to come through to Gaza, and to give them the names in 2 hours. A divide and rule approach, more conflict against the marchers.
Congress voted to make Egypt the second largest aid recipient in the world: $1.7 billion annually.
Congress tried to take $100 million away from Egypt because of the “smuggling tunnels to Gaza.” Egypt got the message. Egypt is not a democracy, Mubarak has been in power since 1981. It’s essentially a police state; they have more people in their intelligence and police than they have in the Army.
Egypt is planning to put in (with the help of the US Army Corps of Engineers) metal barriers, 50 feet into the ground to prevent tunneling to Gaza. Sixty percent of the Gaza is dependent upon that tunnel trade.
This is the largest civilian population of the world that is completely trapped. If you ever go to Gaza, this could be the Riviera of the Mediterenean. This could be an unbelievable place if they would let them live like human beings.
Guests – Abdeen Jabara and Dorothy Zellner give a broader scope on the Gaza Freedom March and the significance of the demonstrations. Abdeen Jabara is a civil rights lawyer and former president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. Dorothy Zellner is a civil rights activist with Jews Say No who has organized groups opposing Israeli violence in the Occupied Territories.
Victor Toro: Chilean Socialist Faces US Deportation After 25 Years
Ex-political prisoner and human rights organizer Victor Toro joins us in the studio. Victor is a Bronx community organizer and he was a former leader in the resistance to Chile’s military dictatorship during the 1970s. In July of 2007 Victor was arrested in an immigration sweep by border officials aboard an Amtrak train in Rochester, New York. He was charged for being in the country illegally and has been out on bail since. Before coming to the United States in 1984, Toro helped found and lead the MIR, or Revolutionary Left Movement. The group opposed the US-sponsored coup against the military dictatorship led by Augusto Pinochet. The Department of Homeland Security and US Immigration are seeking to deport Toro. The prosecution has filed a 46 page court brief containing information on the MIR, claiming the group attacked government buildings. Meanwhile, a deportation hearing for Victor Toro was adjourned until Jan. 11, 2010. Victor joins us in the studio with his translator Gonzalo Venegas.
- I was arrested by Pinochet’s regime, April 20th, 1974. I was incarcerated for 3 years in different concentration camps in which I was tortured. I was expelled from Chile, and given a document stating never to return. I was expelled to Sweden, and then Cuba.
- When I was forced to leave Chile, I was officially declared dead by the Pinochet regime.
- I ended up in Mexico, where I was given transitional asylum; however my safety was at risk in Mexico, because agents of Pinochet were trying to murder me. I left Mexico in 1984, fleeing persecution of Pinochet’s agents.
- Well, in the South Bronx, I continued doing work, an extension of the work I had done in Chile in my earlier years. Working in the community and with unions.
- I’ve worked with undocumented people and immigrants in the United States. In California in 2007, I was engaging in the advocacy work for immigrant rights. On a train back to New York, I was caught in an immigration raid, with bomb-sniffing dogs.
- Initially, I was facing the same case as any undocumented worker in the US. Recently the case took a political turn where the government has presented documents against me.
- I went from undocumented worker to becoming a terrorist because of my affiliations and work that I did in Chile in the 1970s.
- I was the leader of the organization MIR, that was building a socialist left movement. MIR resisted Pinochet’s oppressive tactics. MIR was branded a terrorist organization by the US.
- If you look at Chile’s current president of the senate, and house of representatives, the Navy, it’s all lead by former members of Pinochet’s political party.
- Demand asylum for Victor Toro – Friday, January 8, 2010 – SEIU 1199 / Martin Luther King Auditorium. 310 West 43rd Street / between 8th and 9th Avenues.
- Monday January 11, 2010 – Court date 9 AM / Rally afterward at NOON at 26 Federal Plaza, NY.
Guest – Victor Toro, a Chilean activist in the Bronx who fought against the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. Toro is one of tens of thousands of immigrants who are racially profiled and targeted for deportation unjustly and unfairly.