It was September 19, 2002, and US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was scheduled to address the Senate Armed Services Committee about why it was necessary to invade a country that never attacked us: Iraq.
I was so concerned about the pending war that I flew to Washington DC from my home in San Francisco. It was the first congressional hearing I had ever witnessed. My heart was pounding as my colleague Diane Wilson and I pulled out banners that read "UN inspectors, not US war", and proceeded to ask Rumsfeld our own questions: how many innocent Iraqis would die, how many US soldiers, how many of our tax dollars would be poured into this war of choice, and how much money would Halliburton make from the war. We were hauled out of the room by the Capitol police.
It unfortunately has become a truism that when Egypt sneezes, Gaza catches a cold. Fearful of the "terrorist elements" automatically associated with Hamas, the governing party in Gaza, neighbouring Egypt is quick to shut what amounts to "prison gates" at the first sign of turmoil either inside or outside the densely populated strip. Israel keeps its own crossings into Gaza on permanent lock-down, with permitted traffic a bare trickle, while also prohibiting travel by air and sea.
The current unrest in Egypt is no exception. As the world sits on the edge of its seat, polarised in its debate about whether the ouster of Mohammed Morsi was really a coup and what will happen next, the 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza are paying the price.
U.S. and global media reported Thursday that an "angry heckler" disrupted U.S. President Barack Obama's speech on foreign policy and counterterrorism. That description, however, does not do justice to long-time peace and justice activist Medea Benjamin.
"This was like a dream come true," said a radiant Sossi Mohamed Sadek, a Tunisian second year engineering student who was one of the hundreds of local volunteers at the World Social Forum in Tunis. "To see our university overflowing with over 50,000 people from Africa, Europe, Latin America, the United States, the Middle East -- it was extraordinary. I came away with new ideas and new friends that will surely have a great impact on my life."
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Eman El-Hawi, a smart and perky 24-year-old business student from Gaza got teary when she told our delegation about what she witnessed during the eight days that Israel pounded Gaza. “I saw the babies being brought into the hospital, some dead, some wounded. I couldn’t believe Israel was doing this again, just like four years ago. But at least this time,” she said with pride, "we struck back."
Ramah Casers is an Egyptian mother and graphic designer who lives in Cairo. On Tuesday, November 27 she was standing at the entrance to Tahrir Square holding a simple, hand-written sign that read, "I am an Egyptian citizen and I will not let my country become a dictatorship once again."
She had come to the plaza with her young daughter, who was proudly helping to hold the sign. "I was in this same Tahrir Square during the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak but I haven't been back since then," Ramah told me. "I didn't think any of the mobilizations called during the last two years were that critical. But for this one, I had to be here. This is about the life or death of our revolution."