To the Egyptian embassy we march, again

As demonstrators gathered across the Arab world on Friday for fresh protests against the Israeli offensive in Gaza, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Lebanon to rebuke Arab rulers for what they describe as complicity in the Israeli offensive. In Lebanon's capital Beirut, hundreds of protesters marched with more than 100 black coffins to the Egyptian embassy to demand Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak intervene to stop the violence.
Some of the 115 or so black coffins used in a mass rally in Beirut against the Israeli attacks on Gaza. R.R.

BEIRUT, January 3, 2008 (MENASSAT) -  On Friday as Israel continued its seventh day of air assaults on the Gaza Strip, hundreds of protesters descended on Beirut to voice their anger at what they described was Egypt's complicity in the attacks.

Thousands demonstrated across Lebanon in cities like Tripoli to the north and the southern port city of Tyre. In Sidon 40 kilometers south of Beirut, dozens of ambulances drove through the town in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

In Beirut, protesters marched some 5 kilometers from a shopping area in west Beirut to the Egyptian embassy waving Palestinian flags and wearing the highly symbolic black and white Palestinian keffiyeh (scarf).

Shouting "We are all Gaza," protesters also carried some 115 black coffins draped in black sheets bearing the same slogan. 

And while protesters were being beaten and detained by Egyptian police during a Gaza protest in Cairo on Friday, there was also a heavy security presence at the Beirut protest, both from the Lebanese army and the police, who cleared the streets for the demonstration.

An earlier protest at the Egyptian embassy in Beirut this week ended with clashes between the protesters and the riot police.

Anti-Mubarak slogans

Since the Israeli air assault began on December 27, the bulk of the Arab street rage at the situation is being leveled at Egypt and the regime of President Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt and Israel are the only two countries that share borders with the Gaza Strip. Egypt had been criticized for months now by right's organizations for keeping the southern Rafah border closed during the two year Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip.

In Lebanon on Friday at the Ain el-Helweh Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon, thousands of Palestinians took part in a Hamas-organized protest. Palestinians from across the political divide shouted, "Hosni Mubarak, just you wait. We are going to dig your grave."

While in Beirut yesterday, placards during at the march read, "Open the Rafah border," as protesters chanted, "The mighty Egyptian people must replace Mubarak with a donkey" and "What are the Egyptian people doing, Hosni Mubarak is CIA."

‘I want to see Palestine free’

As marchers made their way to the Egyptian embassy, a truck mounted with loud speakers led the demo, blasting revolutionary songs by the cultish Sheikh Imam, and Lebanese oud legend Marcel Khalifeh, as well as poems by the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.

And as demonstrations throughout the Arab world have shown, the Gaza solidarity protests have attracted people from across the social divide, and Lebanon was no exception.

Sporting a procession of wheelchairs at the front of the march on Friday, the Lebanese Association of the Disabled led old and young through the streets of Beirut.

Thuraya Zureiq, a 15-year-old high school student, went to the Beirut protest with her mother and two of her younger sisters. Yelling at the top of her lungs during the rally, she told MENASSAT, "All my life I've been for the Palestinian cause. I want to see Palestine free. My mother is Palestinian and was forced out of Jerusalem; I want to go back to our country and land."
Amira, a 31-year-old urban planner, who was also in attendance, said, “It is important that the Arab governments see the solidarity with Gaza. What we are witnessing now, we saw many times before, the protests should continue and expand to include the Qatari embassy, as well as the Palestinian Authority's embassy."

Arab-American complicity

When the demonstration arrived at the Egyptian embassy at around 4:30 pm, scores of black coffins were lined up on the ground, next to the barbwire fence separating protesters from the embassy building and the riot police. The barbwire fence itself was decorated with dozens of shoes - a cultural insult aimed at the Egyptian regime.

In perhaps the most dramatic moment of the march, an Egyptian citizen approached a phalanx of cameras assembled in anticipation of the protest, and in a public display of defiance, he took his Egyptian passport out and lit it on fire.

Samah Idriss, editor-in-chief of Al-Adab magazine, told  MENASSAT, "What's going on in Gaza now is a result of the Arab-American complicity, along with the Palestinian Authority, against a people that democratically elected it's leadership. This exposes the lie of western democracy, despite the political, and even religious tendencies of this (Hamas) leadership. This complicity tells us not to rely on the so called United Nations, but rather to hold it responsible, along with the other criminals involved."

Protests are expected to continue in Lebanon, including an on-going sit-in which is taking place in front of the UN headquarters in downtown Beirut.