Al-Ahram Weekly Online
5 - 11 July 2001
Issue No.541
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Current issue | Previous issue | Site map

'A message to Sharon' -- from Egypt

The Egyptian People's Committee for Solidarity with the Palestinian Intifada (EPCSPI) has organised its fifth, and so far most successful, aid convoy to Palestinians suffering the consequences of Israeli brutality and blockade, reports Khaled Dawoud

At the Nile Delta village of Sinba El-Maqam, near the town of Meet Ghamr in Daqahliya province, members of the Egyptian People's Committee for Solidarity with the Palestinian Intifada (EPCSPI) faced an unprecedented situation while collecting food and medicine for their fifth aid convoy. Adel El-Meshad, a computer engineer and a leading EPCSPI member, said, "We were stunned to see a number of women coming towards us, carrying 400 ducks and saying that this was the village's donation to the Palestinians."

This generous gift was very moving, El-Meshed said. "The poor peasant women of the village did not have any money to donate to our campaign."

"Of course, we did not know what to do, or how we were going to feed and take care of all these ducks until the day of our next aid convoy. So we asked them to kindly allow us to sell them and buy other basic food to give the Palestinians. We sold them for LE12,000," El-Meshad said.

Last Friday, the latest of five convoys of food and medical aid sent by the EPCSPI to the Palestinian territories, departed from Cairo for El- Arish in Sinai.

The gesture at Sinba El-Maqam was not the only situation which confirmed to EPCSPI members the strong support the nearly 10-month-old Palestinian Al-Aqsa Intifada continues to have among ordinary Egyptians. At Cairo's El-Wayli district, EPCSPI members organised a street exhibition of Intifada pictures. "Police did not allow us to hold a public rally. Nevertheless, very simple people came to donate anything they could. One woman came with a bottle of cooking oil, and a man brought us two kilograms of sugar and some rice and so on. In only four hours, we had two trucks loaded with food," Farid Zahran, a member of the EPCSPI organising committee, said.

With these demonstrations of support for Palestinians, Zahran said the committee managed to organise its most successful convoy since starting the campaign shortly after the Intifada broke out in late September. Nearly 800 people -- men and women with various professions and political affiliations -- headed to El-Arish aboard 18 buses to express solidarity with the Palestinians and deliver more than 600 tons of aid, loaded on 48 trucks, to a representative of the Palestinian Authority.

The donations, worth LE1 million, will later be handed to an umbrella organisation made up of more than 100 Palestinian non-governmental groups and headed by Haydar Abdel-Shafi, a leading Palestinian figure and former head of the Palestinian delegation at the Madrid peace talks.

Accompanying the convoy, which included medicines worth LE500,000, were 14 buses carrying activists from Cairo, while four more came from the provinces of Suez and Daqahliya. The Bar Association, the Doctors' Syndicate and the Pharmacists' Syndicate took part in organising the convoy.

Police allowed EPCSPI members no further than the city of El-Arish. Demonstrations along the Egyptian-Israeli border, where hundreds of Palestinians have been stranded for weeks since the near closure of the Rafah crossing point, are banned by security authorities.

"Security bodies were more cooperative with us than with previous convoys," El-Meshad told Al- Ahram Weekly. "After top-level contacts with Interior Minister Habib El-Adli personally we were allowed to hold a rally at a hall in El-Arish."

When the previous convoy was organised by the EPCSPI three months ago, police prevented accompanying activists from reaching El-Arish itself. "Although things were better, police still prevented us from reaching El-Arish until the Friday noon prayers were over, mainly to avoid the possibility of a demonstration following the prayers," El-Meshad said. When the EPCSPI organised its first convoy in November, almost 10,000 people took part in a demonstration in solidarity with Palestinians following the arrival of EPCSPI members at the town.

The delay in reaching El-Arish was not all bad news for those aboard the buses. When they stopped at the village of Arab Soliman, near El- Arish, many of its inhabitants rushed to their homes, bringing back whatever they could offer.

As soon as passengers disembarked from the 18 buses, they gathered in front of the El-Arish Cultural Palace and staged a heated demonstration, chanting slogans against Israel and the United States and calling upon all Arab countries to sever their ties with Israel. EPCSPI members from Suez, whose inhabitants have a long tradition of making large dummies which they burn at an annual festival to mark the end of British occupation, brought with them a large effigy of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Some of the women demonstrators were seen beating up the effigy with their fists and shoes before it was set on fire, along with the Israeli and US flags.

"The majority of the people we met said they did not know what to do to support the Intifada," Adel Waseeli, another member of the solidarity committee, said. "The government, with its ongoing effort for a resumption of peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel, is not definite about wanting a revival of the protests and the strong emotions we saw when the Intifada began.

"Opposition parties, meanwhile, are only good at issuing statements of support, but are hardly doing anything practical to support the uprising," Waseeli added.

Friday's convoy was the culmination of a week of solidarity rallies with Palestinians organised by several professional syndicates. A week ago, the Doctors' Syndicate held a special celebration to bid farewell to a group of doctors heading for Gaza to help treat victims of Israeli bullets. Last Thursday, representatives of all opposition groups, including the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and the Communist Party, took part in a rally at the Bar Association.

"We chose this week for solidarity for many reasons," Zahran said. "It marked the beginning of the 10th month of the Intifada, the anniversary of Israel's illegal annexation of occupied East Jerusalem and 100 days in office for the criminal Sharon without his being able to fulfill his threat to suppress the Intifada. The message to Sharon is that all Egyptians support Palestinians and will not let him proceed with his terror campaign against them."

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