Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
29 March - 4 April 2001
Issue No.527
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Current issue | Previous issue | Site map

Solidarity maintains steam

SIX MONTHS on, the Al-Aqsa Intifada is making fewer headlines, but solidarity action organised by the People's Committee for Solidarity with the Intifada does not appear to be running out of steam, reports Nadia Abou El-Magd.

A convoy of five buses carrying more than 300 Egyptian intellectuals and political figures, including two People's Assembly members, together with six trucks loaded with 150 tons of food and half a million pounds worth of medicine for the besieged Palestinians, arrived at Al-Arish on Friday.

Although the convoy left Cairo at 6.00am, it was held up by lengthy checkpoint delays and did not reach Al-Arish, 50 kilometres west of Rafah on the Egyptian-Israeli border, until 1.30pm.

"This time we arrived in an empty Al-Arish," Shahenda Meklad, a committee member and member of the politbureau of the leftist Tagammu Party, told Al-Ahram Weekly. "They [security forces] prevented us from meeting people there, and prevented them from meeting the convoy."

For two hours after their arrival, members of the convoy took to the street chanting anti-Israel and anti-America slogans and burning an Israeli flag. With raised banners they chanted: "Down with Sharon, the Nazi war criminal!" "Banning food is killing by starvation, and banning medicine is killing the injured!" and, "Together supporting the Intifada and defending Arab dignity!"

An earlier convoy, which set off for Rafah on the Egyptian-Israeli border last November with 150 PCS members and 90 tons of food and medicine, was stopped at Al-Arish for security reasons. "This time we accepted not going to Rafah and wanted to hand in the food and medicine to the Palestinian representatives at a popular rally in Al-Arish, but we were denied that," Farid Zahran, a committee member and one of the organizers, told the Weekly.

However, such obstacles do not discourage the PCS, which is already planning a third convoy. "In light of the media's diminishing interest in the Intifada, we have to emphasise the Egyptians' undiminished feelings and support," Zahran said.

The PCS has also taken another decision. It plans to stage a hunger strike in protest at Israel's refusal to let aid shipments enter Palestinian territory via Rafah. The strike, which is due to start today (29 March) is intended as a message to Israel, not to the Egyptian authorities. The strike will coincide with the Palestinians' annual Land Day on 31 March.

"We took this decision before going to Al-Arish last Friday. It is our last defence line, and an attempt to pressure Israel to open the border," Zahran told the Weekly.

"The strike will go on until a situation ... accepted by Palestinians is reached."

"The PCS has agreed from the very beginning that it (the situation) is a huge catastrophe, and that the screams of the martyrs can't be silenced with mere words, devoid of action," Shahenda Meklad, said.

"Sharon announced a starvation war against the Palestinians. If I can't be there throwing stones with them, the least I can do is share their hunger."

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