The journey to Gaza begins
Iraq war veteran and ANSWER Coalition representative Michael Prysner reports on the Viva Palestina delegation’s journey to challenge the Israeli blockade of Gaza and deliver humanitarian supplies.
In the past several months, the ANSWER Coalition has organized several rallies, marches and demonstrations in support of the Palestinian struggle, and raised funds for humanitarian supplies for Gaza and to send representatives to Gaza as part of a humanitarian delegation.
This powerful image was a visual reminder of the hundreds of people in Gaza who have endured amputations and crippling injuries from U.S. munitions fired by Israel during the recent December-January massacre. The cruel Israeli blockade prevents even wheelchairs from entering Gaza.
At the Cairo airport, the Egyptian security forces were overwhelmed by the number of Viva Palestina t-shirts amassed outside. With local press trying to cover the event, the Egyptian police tried to shut down the spectacle and shuffle everyone onto busses. Everyone stood strong, ignoring the Egyptian authorities and giving the media ample time to get images and conduct interviews.
The people in Egypt have expressed their support and gratitude for what we are doing here. Since our arrival, our solidarity trip has been covered by many media outlets, including Al Jazeera, Press TV, and several of the largest Egyptian television stations. I have been interviewed several times on behalf of ANSWER.
A very large press conference was held at the Egyptian Journalists Union, where a banner hangs outside protesting the working conditions imposed by the Egyptian government. It was attended by more than a dozen media outlets.
I spoke on behalf of the ANSWER Coalition, reporting on the growing movement in the United States—a movement that will fight until the Israeli siege ends and there is real justice for every Palestinian. One Egyptian newspaper journalist hugged me and said, "You are always welcome in Egypt."
This morning, half of our delegation left to begin the drive to the first city where we'll stop on our way to Gaza. We have purchased 47 brand new vehicles that we will leave in Gaza. Vehicles in Gaza are just as vital as medical aid to meet the need for public transportation, ambulances and more. Many of the vehicles break down and are no longer functional. The vehicles we have purchased will serve the people of Gaza for years to come.
The energy and morale in the group are very high. There are nearly 200 people here who will deliver aid to Gaza, provide medical care, and return home to tell their stories about the realities on the ground. Cynthia McKinney is due to join us after spending just one night in the U.S. following her return from an Israeli prison.
We are setting out for Gaza to break the siege—to disobey the criminal blockade that forbids toys for children and materials to rebuild the homes, schools and hospitals that have been reduced to rubble. We are going in the largest delegation from the United States to ever head to Palestine. Not only are we making history on this trip, but we are defining a new period by setting the stage for a renewed struggle for the liberation of Palestine from colonial rule. Every day the movement to free Palestine grows. Every day we are closer to victory.
Michael Prysner joined the U.S. Army when he was 17 years old, hoping that he would get a college education and, in his own words, "believing that the U.S. government stood for freedom, justice and equality." Prysner was later deployed as part of the initial invasion of Iraq.
Of his experience, Michael wrote: "I spent 12 months in Iraq, doing everything from prisoner interrogations, to ground surveillance missions, to home raids. It was my firsthad experiences in Iraq that radicalized me. I soon realized that my purpose in Iraq was to be the oppressor, and to clear the way for U.S. corporations with no regard for human life.
"I separated from the Army in 2005. I understood that illegal conquering of Iraq was for profit, carried out by a system that serves a tiny class of superrich whose endless drive for wealth is at the expense of working people in the United States and abroad.
"I still had the same drive to fight for freedom, justice and equality as I did when I joined, and I understood that fighting for those things meant fighting against the U.S. government, not on behalf of it."
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