On 31 December, hundreds of peace activists from around the world plan to enter through the Egyptian border to join a Palestinian-led “Mile-long March for Freedom” in Gaza, in protest against the Israeli siege.
At the end of October, Peace News facilitated a weekend training session for people considering taking part in the Gaza Freedom March.
After watching a film about Rachel Corrie on the Friday night, participants were led through some training on Saturday by the excellent Seeds for Change collective, and then briefed in detail on Sunday by International Solidarity Movement activist Jenny Linnell, who returned from a year in Gaza in July.
The group had a chance to be briefed by, and to question, the European coordinator for the march, through an hour-long (free) Skype phone conference.
There are now a number of people from the training day intending to go on the march. Speakers will be available to speak to groups about their experience in the new year (see end of article).
Here are some remarks from participants: “I think it gave a very good overview of crucial aspects that should be considered before going to the march.”
“Good: Friendly, informative, useful, free, lots of practical advice; great combination of practical and theoretical; use of role play reinforced message.”
Among the things that could have been better: “Sometimes trainees take advantage of relaxed environment by insisting on doing things their way – perhaps trainers should have more control. However that would spoil the great atmosphere which the course is founded on.”
There will be a report back at the Peace News Winter gathering. To book a Gaza Freedom March speaker for your group, please contact: 0845 458 2564; email@example.com
For more info on the GFM:www.gazafreedommarch.org
Why I am going on the march
Alison Playford, 31, London. I am an actor and writer who often focuses on politically orientated or humanitarian film or theatre projects. I am happy to speak to people when I get back. I am going on the Gaza Freedom March to help draw attention to the humanitarian crisis being created in Gaza by the Israeli siege.
I hope to stand in solidarity with the people of Gaza as they march in protest and also to bring back knowledge and stories from Gaza to help raise awareness back home.
Ian Chamberlain, 25, Lancaster. I’m a part-time project co-ordinator for the National Coalition Building Institute. It works throughout the world within communities to eliminate discrimination. I’m working with the Polish community on a project called Pomocna Dlon (“Helping Hand”). I spend the rest of my time on green and peace activism. I’m very happy to speak to groups/orgs/media upon my return.
I’m going to Gaza because I feel called to do so. I don’t have all the answers to this terribly destructive conflict, but when I hear of the suffering my instinct tells me to stand alongside those people, to listen, to connect.
I think there is a real need for more people to witness and to share the stories of people in Palestine when we return to our home communities. That is my intention.
Naomi Foyle, 42, Brighton. I am a poet, teacher, Tarot Card reader and creative writing postdoctoral student. I am happy to speak with groups on my return. While I had not ever considered myself an activist as such, when the bombing of Gaza began I felt I had to respond in as many ways as possible.
In the last year I have written poems about the massacre, been on demonstrations, attended political meetings, signed petitions, written to my MP, and spoken to my grocers about where their avocados come from (not unfortunately, to any permanent effect, so now I travel a bit further to get a Greek variety from Taj, the Middle Eastern supermarket in Brighton!).
When I heard about the Gaza Freedom March I instantly knew I wanted to participate, for several reasons. First, to be part of an international action to break the siege, a monstrous denial of the Gazans’ basic human rights.
Second, to stand with the Gazans at the time of the first anniversary of the massacres.
Third, to meet Gazans and grow in personal awareness of their situation and the kind of support they need.
Fourth, to learn more about peaceful protest in general, including consensus decision making and effective non-violent direct action.
Fifth, to write about my experience on this unprecedented event, and thus deepen my own quest to creatively and compassionately respond to global violence and injustice.
Elle Osborne, Lewes. I’m a musician (I sing and play the fiddle and cello). I would be prepared to speak to groups on my return from the march.
In July 2008, I was almost killed in a car crash. As part of my recovery, in December 2008, I went on a 10-day silent meditation retreat (vipassana).
When I came home from the retreat, I was shocked to hear what had escalated in Gaza, whilst I had been in the relatively privileged environment of the retreat.
I started going to solidarity campaign meetings in January, and have been involved in the campaign to end the siege in occupied Palestine since then, hence my participation in the Gaza Freedom March. I intend to take a violin to Gaza with me, to leave with a local school / community group there. The march organisers have asked me to perform during our time in Gaza, which I will be very happy to do.
Peter Offord, Norwich. I trained as an art therapist (NHS) and tutor and am currently serving as a Norwich city councillor, Green Party. I’m prepared to speak to groups.
I am joining the Gaza Freedom March primarily to make contact with the people of Gaza and to form links and friendships that may be used for therapeutic or other useful work in the future.
As an art therapist, I intend to take in art materials but I am prepared to offer help in whatever way is needed.
This will also enable me to speak about Gaza and Palestine from first hand experience and to raise awareness more authentically about the situation there on my return.
Operation Cast Lead killed over 1300 people and left thousands wounded and traumatised; continuing and escalating the conflict will not resolve the Israeli/Palestinian dilemma.
I see the march as a practical, humanitarian and symbolic act in reaching through the siege to the people of Gaza by a representative group from the international community.