Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Middle East's Master Pimp

By Yvonne Ridley

(Left: Yvonne Ridley)

"December 27, 2009 "ICH" Cairo - December 26, 2009 -- The activities of the rent boys who parade up and down Al-Shawarby Street in Cairo provide a good metaphor for the relationship the Egyptian Government has with Israel and the US.

Both are quite shameless and ruthless; prepared to do whatever it takes to please ... in order to secure a fistful of dollars. But at least the man whores of Al Shawarby are honest about their trade as they eagerly hustle potential customers.

Yes, they are shameless but so is the Egyptian Government as it continues to enforce the brutal siege in Gaza for Israel's pleasure and America's dollars. The tears it sheds for the besieged people of Gaza are crocodilian.

And today the government stands before its people completely naked, without honour as the last fig leaf of decency floats despairingly to the ground.

I am making this rather crude analogy as I sit in my hotel room over-looking the River Nile. The view is breath-taking and just 50 yards away is the Egyptian Museum which reveals a rich history of a once great country.

The buildings around are decrepit, rundown like much of the country.

But I haven't sat down to give you a travel report. I am one of 1400 peace activists from across the world who is trapped in Cairo unable to move forward to take part in the Gaza Freedom March planned for New Year's Day. Most of us answered the rallying call of the US peace activist group Code Pink.

Meanwhile another shameful drama is unfolding just a few hundred miles away as life-long Palestinian supporter George Galloway sits trapped in the port of Aqaba as his latest Viva Palestina convoy has been stopped from moving forward. The British MP's convoy of 250 vehicles and hundreds more supporters has been prevented from leaving Jordan with its much needed aid.

Why? Because America and Israel have told Egypt not to let a single vehicle or peace activist pass through its country to the Rafah border and in to Gaza where an entire population is suffering beyond belief and, it seems, beyond humanitarian relief.

So why doesn't Egypt tell Washington and Tel Aviv to get stuffed? For exactly the same reason a rent boy will do as his master tells him ... hard cash.

Proof? Exactly two years ago under the Bush Administration, both houses of US Congress agreed to withhold 100 million dollars in financial assistance to Egypt following Israeli claims that Egyptian authorities were failing to prevent weapons smuggling to the Gaza Strip. Egypt receives nearly two billion dollars in US aid making it the second largest recipient of US largesse after Israel, which receives three billion dollars a year in military assistance.

And now the Middle East's most active rent boy has a new master pimp - Barack Obama - although his White House enforcers have made sure the same house rules apply. Now while the Egyptian Government might bend over backwards - or just bend over - the real enforcers will find Viva Palestina and the Gaza Freedom Marchers far less compliant.

We have traveled from more than 40 different countries to Cairo while others have driven thousands of miles to Aqaba to show our solidarity to the people of Gaza - we represent the largest gathering of international solidarity activists in the history of the Middle East.

Using the pretext of escalating tensions on the Gaza-Egypt border, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said that the Rafah border will be closed over the coming weeks. Our message to the politicians is crystal clear: "Let us enter Gaza and let the Gaza Freedom March proceed." Quite simply, you can not buy us. Integrity, freedom and our love for Gaza is not for sale at any price.

Egyptian Security goons have already used fear and intimidation on the management of the venues the Gaza Freedom Marchers have booked, as well as transport companies who contracted buses to carry us from Cairo to Gaza, with the result that these deals have been cancelled.

Egyptian Security even tried to pressurise the management of the Groppi coffee shop on Midan Talaat Harb to shut down while we were organising meetings. Despite warning us that more than six people can not gather in public places our meeting continued.

We will not bow to fear and intimidation but what we will do is increase the pressure on the Rent Boy Government and where injustice is the law resistance is our duty.

And as Malcolm X once said: "Power in defense of freedom is greater than power on behalf of tyranny and oppression." "

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