The Gaza Freedom March has not made it to Gaza. Some might say this is a failure. But Gaza is in the hearts and other lessons will be learned here.
There is no question that Egypt faces intense pressure from other powers and forces, including Israel and the European Union. To a lesser extent, Canada whose government is now seen as an international climate change pariah, plays an apologist role for crimes against humanity while deserting, even aiding and abetting, the removal of the rights of Canadians while abroad. As always, the grand player here is the United States, always lurking in the background or appearing in the forefront when needed. The large truck of "human rights abuser for profit" Haliburton parked in the desert west of Cairo two days ago is a fitting symbol of profit, power, and crimes against people and their lands.
All of these forces, plus prisoner exchanges, and other hidden factors, place intense pressure on this government to do the right thing. Freedom marchers understand they are guests in a country of rich history and a vibrant and welcoming people. But geopolitical, cultural, economic and systemic forces combine to provide unpleasant and lethal outcomes.
A Gaza freedom marcher was just thrown against a wall and punched in the face outside our hotel a few hours ago. A second woman was punched in the face today at a demonstration at UNESCO. Nothing unusual for a Palestinian, who faces far worse, but a revealing look at the desperate and shallow forces that like to think they own the planet and everything is a market playground. Yet, Cairo right now is alive with new spaces of hope, defiance, and vision. People from all over the world have joined together in a determined pilgrimage to support the blockaded people of Gaza.
This is the humanity of a determined people who refuse no longer to be victims in this sport of repression we have come to know all too well in varying degrees depending on who or where you are. This is a system and a way of being that strangles our creativity and freedom every day. Everywhere people rise to say no more will we be silent accomplices to an order that auctions our dignity to power and patriarchy. New voices are shouting worldwide that we choose not to absorb, internalize, or amplify this game of oppression delivered to us by those that pretend to speak in our name and are provided their pulpit by a compliant media.
They are the same ones that tell us lies about ourselves, that we can do nothing, that private for profit is better than that which is held and shared in common, or that we are all can be winners in this sport where almost everyone loses. Whether in Palestine or around the world the masters are losing their grip. That is why women are punched in the face calling for peace and people are refused entrance to Gaza trying to bear witness and stand with those who have faced the worst humanity – if it can be called that – has to offer. These systems that function around us are not humane and so the script is already written and the actors fall into place. We are trained to accept compliantly our destruction at varying speeds, in one form or another, as we struggle to eat, have shelter, and even to live. How beautiful that new scripts are being written outside, inside and around the old ones.
In these times people are standing for Palestine, Oaxaca, the Philippines, Colombia and other places and names we do not know. But we know the spirits of the dead and suffering rage and demand of us all something new. We remember over and over with increasing ferocity those sacrificed to the altar of the markets.
Everywhere, they spread war and chemicals in our name that are produced in northern factories and thrust on the vulnerable, whether on traditional lands of small farmers in the global south or as poisonous white phosphorus released liberally across neighborhoods in the name of peace and democracy. Profits soar and tiny men sip champagne in their palaces. But the servants are getting restless and we are listening and learning.
Let Palestine awaken us all to what our world has become and why these wars and the destruction of life for profit and power must cease. With every step taken and every breath drawn this is a world worth reclaiming.
We are them, they are us. We will not forget. And we will learn to shed the skin of compliance every day. We are done saying yes. That is what Gaza teaches us should we choose to listen.
Dave Bleakney is a national union representative for the Canadian Union of Postal Workers currently writing from Cairo. The opinions expressed here are his own.