Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign -- Media Release
Tue 29th December 2009
Holocaust survivor starts hunger strike to protest blockade of Gaza
An 85 year-old Holocaust survivor began a hunger strike in Cairo yesterday in an attempt to pressure Egyptian authorities to stop cooperating with Israel’s blockade of Gaza.
Hedy Epstein is part of an international group that was set to enter Gaza at its Egyptian border, but authorities there have stopped them from leaving Cairo. Once inside Gaza, the 1300 activists from 43 countries had arranged to join with Palestinians in a protest march to Gaza’s Erez border with Israel, where they were to demand the crossing point be opened and the three-year blockade lifted.
Epstein’s parents managed to help her escape to England at the age of 14, but they themselves perished in Auschwitz in 1942. In the aftermath of the war, she worked as a research analyst at the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi doctors who had performed medical experiments on concentration camp inmates.
Epstein remained outside a UN building in Cairo throughout the day, accompanied by other hunger strikers, and hundreds more who had intended to take part in what organisers called the “Gaza Freedom March”.
Protests were also staged at the French Embassy where hundreds of French activists called on their embassy to pressure Egyptian authorities to allow them to make the journey to the Gazan border at El Arish.
Angus MacLean of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC), which has 12 delegates in the Egyptian capital, is pictured alongside Hedy Epstein. “She is a remarkable woman who campaigns for Palestine because she is determined to ensure other people don’t suffer as she did”, he said.
SPSC chair, Mick Napier explained “on the anniversary of Israel’s massacre of 1400 Palestinians in Gaza last year, the Egyptian dictatorship continues to collude with Israel’s criminal siege of Gaza.
“We have a responsibility to the 1.5 million Gazans now in their fourth year under this crippling blockade. The longer they prevent us from getting to Gaza, the more the protests will escalate here in Cairo.”
Notes for editors:
1. The Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign started in autumn 2000 in response to the Palestinian second uprising against Israeli occupation (Intifada). The SPSC has branches and groups of supporters in several Scottish cities and universities, as well as individual members across Scotland and elsewhere.
For further information, contact:
SPSC Secretary: Sofiah MacLeod: 0131 620 0052; 07931200361
2. SPSC has sent a delegation of 12 members to the march.
Blogs with participants’ details and photos can be found here:
Interviews with participants can be arranged on request.
3. Hedy Epstein (née Wachenheimer, 15 August, 1924-) is an American political activist known for her support of the Palestinian cause and anti-Zionism through the International Solidarity Movement and for her background as a refugee from Nazi Germany. Born in the Black Forest, she immigrated to the United States in 1948, and she currently resides in St. Louis, Missouri.
4. The Gaza Freedom March
The Gaza Freedom March has been organised by the International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza, an umbrella group of individuals and organizations that share the goal of bringing an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Members and/or endorsers include groups such as CODEPINK: Women for Peace, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, and Medical Aid for Palestine. Individual endorsers include author Alice Walker, Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire and Dr. Patch Adams, Howard Zinn, Gore Vidal, Arun Gandhi, Naomi Klein.
For a complete list, visit here.
How likely is the march to be successful in achieving its objectives, since so many other demonstrations, etc. have not had an impact?
No one event or activity will end the siege of the Gaza Strip or the Israeli occupation overall. However, we believe we are at a critical juncture in global public opinion, with citizens and governments becoming increasingly critical of Israeli policies. The tipping point, when Israel is forced to open the borders and allow self-determination for the Palestinians, is within reach. Thus, we are designing the march and its accompanying activities to have maximum impact on decision makers in the United States, Egypt, Israel and countries around the world by: a) generating media coverage, b) educating participants so they can spread the word in their home communities and c) pressuring the countries that are enabling the collective punishment of the citizens of the Gaza Strip.
For more information on the Gaza Freedom March, visit: www.gazafreedommarch.com
The Press Room can be found here: www.gazafreedommarch.com/article.php?id=5025
A Press Pack can be downloaded here: www.gazafreedommarch.com/downloads/PRESS%20PACK.pdf