By Richard Hall

Daily Star staff

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

BEIRUT: A coalition of activists belonging to various Palestinian solidarity organizations are planning an international march in Gaza aimed at ending the blockade of the territory. The event will aim to bring thousands of demonstrators from around the world to march alongside Gazans as they breach the blockade imposed upon the population since the election of Hamas in 2006.

“This march draws inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi,” said a draft statement of purposes and principles written by the “Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza,” obtained by The Daily Star. “Those of us residing in the United States also draw inspiration from the civil rights movement,” it added.

The statement also outlines plans for the march, which will take place on January 1, 2010. “We will march the Long Mile across Erez checkpoint alongside the people of Gaza in a nonviolent demonstration that breaches the illegal blockade,” it said, adding that “We conceive this march as the first step in a protracted nonviolent campaign … If we bring thousands to Gaza and millions more around the world watch the march on the internet, we can end the siege without a drop of blood being shed.”

Professor Norman Finkelstein, a political analyst and author of several books on the Israel-Palestine conflict, is one of the organizers of the march. “We want to send over several thousand people from around the world to march alongside several hundred thousand Gazans,” he told The Daily Star.

Finkelstein hopes that large numbers of international activists and world leaders will attend the march, and as a result, prohibit a violent response from Israeli authorities. “If the likes of Jimmy Carter, Noam Chomsky, Bishop Tutu and Nelson Mandela are at the head of the march; if behind them are students holding high signs of the schools from which they hail – Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Oxford, Cambridge; if behind them are the ill and the lame, the young and the innocent of Gaza; if behind them are hundreds of thousands of others, unarmed and unafraid, wanting only to enforce the law; if around the world hundreds of thousands are watching the internet to see what happens – Israel can’t shoot,” he said.

“The first formal organizational meeting of the coalition is set for July 13,” said Finkelstein. “We hope then to create an umbrella steering committee. Right now the working group consists of individuals who belong to organizations that have been active on the Israel-Palestine conflict such as CodePink.”

Members of the coalition are now contacting Palestinian solidarity groups around the world in preparation for the march.



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