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Local activists prepare for ‘Gaza Freedom March’

Some of the more than three dozen Bay Area residents who are headed to Gaza for a New Year’s Eve peace march will gather tonight in San Francisco to make banners and flags.

The Gaza Freedom March is being organized by the International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza, with San Francisco activist Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK and Global Exchange on the organizing committee. The Bay Area contingent will fly to Cairo later this month, joining a 1,000-person delegation from 42 nations to enter Gaza for the march near the closed Erez checkpoint on the border with Israel; as many as 50,000 Palestinians are expected to attend.

The local contingent includes activists, UC-Berkeley and UC-Davis students, artists and at least one internationally known celebrity: Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker of Berkeley.

Local “solidarity actions” mirroring the march are planned in other cities around the world. In San Francisco, there’ll be a memorial vigil at 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 27 in Union Square for Palestinians killed in an Israeli military operation in Gaza last year, and organizers have obtained a permit for a march across the Golden Gate Bridge at noon on New Year’s Eve.

“The world needs to know that the situation in Palestine is not morally acceptable nor legal under international law,” march participant and recent Cal Poly grad Marina Barakatt of San Francisco said in a news release. “Human rights abuses, land expropriation, targeted assassinations, house demolitions, and increasing repression are part of the price Palestinians pay, framed as a just, nationalist fight.”

But San Francisco Voice for Israel activist Michael Harris said “(T)he sad thing about this is that the groups promoting this event are really not interested in peace between a Jewish state of Israel and an Arab state of Palestine. They are supporting the Hamas regime, which vows to destroy not only Israel but targets all Jews worldwide.”

“By continuing to promote an extremist agenda, and by supporting a regime that is not only anti-Semitic but also is homophobic and misogynistic, these groups are actually perpetuating Palestinian suffering,” he said. “Time and energy that could have been spent in building a Palestinian future has instead been devoted to trying to destory Israel’s future.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.