I have no doubt that the Gaza Freedom March was - and will continue to be - important in ways we will never know, part of the communal chain-reaction that will help a people achieve independence and self-determination.
In 2004, while waiting for our applications to Canada to be approved, I spent the summer working with a get-out-the-vote campaign to elect John Kerry. I didn't do this because I loved John Kerry, and in fact had a very difficult time deciding whether or not to vote for him. (I ultimately did vote Democrat that year, the only time in the decade I would do so.) But at that time, I felt strongly that progressives and liberals and ordinary non-wingnut folks needed to make a huge showing at the polls, to try to override the fraud and theft we knew was coming. I felt certain that the election would be stolen. But I also felt I had to be part of the resistance, and this seemed the likeliest route at the time.
Anyway, I was inviting everyone I knew to join voter registration drives and work phone banks. I invited a work acquaintance who I knew was progressive. He said, "Will I see results? I only like to participate in actions where I see tangible results."
I told him "results" were not always easy to measure, that activism was cumulative, that change is created through many paths, often invisible to the activists themselves. He scoffed at me, and ended the conversation.
In some ways, I've been trying to answer him ever since.
The 1,362 people from the Gaza Freedom March are just returning home, full of stories about a wild week in Cairo, in the Egyptian border towns of Al Arish and Rafah, in Gaza for those who got inside, and in the West Bank and Erez crossing for those who went to Israel. And people like you, all around the world, people, held solidarity actions that focused world attention on the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza.
It was a rough week for many--battling Egyptian police on the streets, getting rebuffed by our own embassies, joining the hunger strike, debating the Egyptian offer of allowing only 100 people into Gaza. Through it all, however, we can be proud of our many accomplishments:
By focusing worldwide attention on the siege, we lifted the spirits of the isolated people of Gaza. "For us, a population of 1.6 million being imprisoned and starved, the gratitude we express to you, the Gaza freedom marchers, is immense. Thank you all from the depth of our hearts!" - Mohammed Omer, Gaza
We put the spotlight on the negative role Egypt is playing in maintaining the siege and we put pressure on the highest levels of the Egyptian government. "Your presence in Egypt was like an earthquake," said Suzanne, an Egyptian student. "You did more good politically by protesting in Egypt than you could have ever done in Gaza." Check out the hundreds of press hits on the march from dailies around the world!
We forced the Egyptian government to make a concession by letting 100 delegates into Gaza. That delegation took in tens of thousands of dollars in humanitarian aid, allowed Palestinians to see long-lost family members, recorded stories they will disseminate broadly, and put up a stunning mosaic memorial, created by muralist Kathleen Crocetti, in a central location in Gaza City in the name of the international community.
View the photos of the Women's Contingent in action and the whole Gaza Freedom March and solidarity actions from photographers around the world!
We signed on to a lawsuit against the Egyptian government for building a wall to block off the tunnels that have become the commercial lifeline for the people in Gaza.
We reinvigorated our own determination to keep struggling to lift the siege! A new international network formed that can coordinate future work and, initiated by the South African delegation, the Gaza Freedom March committee and various members drafted the Cairo Declaration that outlines a program for moving forward. View and sign on to the Declaration here.
There's a reason I keep these quotes on the sidebar of this blog. The words inspire me every day.
You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing, there will be no result.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.