North Texans head to Middle East in hopes of joining Gaza Freedom March

By Anna M. Tinsley, Star-Telegram – 28 Dec 2009
www.star-telegram.com/279/story/1857304.html

Roqayah Chamseddine wants to help some of the Palestinians who have been suffering for years in the Middle East.

So the 20-year-old Texas Wesleyan University student packed her bags and left her Benbrook home on Christmas to fly to Cairo and make her way — with more than a thousand others — to walk Thursday in the Gaza Freedom March, even though there’s no guarantee that they’ll be able to get in.

“I’ll be with people from all over the world who want to show humanity and show Palestinians that we haven’t forgotten them,” said Chamseddine, a junior political science major. “The whole world is literally coming to see them.”

She and others want to draw attention to a border closure of the Gaza Strip that has been enforced since Hamas militants took control of the area in 2007.

Hamas refuses to recognize Israel and has been accused of carrying out hundreds of terrorist attacks.

The Palestinian supporters don’t know whether they will even be able to get close to Gaza for the march. Protesters bringing truckloads of food, water and medical supplies say access to the area is being blocked by Egyptian authorities, according to the Gaza Freedom March Web site.

“This is highly political,” said Walt Harrison, a 62-year-old Garland man who is part of the North Texas delegation and a member of the Dallas Peace Center. “I don’t know if we will get in, if all of us will, or none of us. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Authorities in Israel and Egypt have strictly enforced a blockade in and out of the Gaza Strip. It has left more than 1 million Palestinians in Gaza without adequate food, medical supplies or clean water.

“They are living in an open-air concentration camp,” said Desiree Fairooz, a former Arlington resident and member of the anti-war group Code Pink who is participating in the Gaza march. “They can’t get out to have babies, medical treatment. The things we consider ordinary, they can’t do.”

People from 43 countries decided to try to get into Gaza on Thursday to call attention to the plight of the Palestinians inside Gaza. Among them are peace activists, mothers, fathers and students, as well as Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker and Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters.

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