People speak out – “Open Access to Gaza”

I have a meeting scheduled at the U.S. Embassy on Tuesday. Going to hand-deliver my petition and try to speak with Deputy Chief of Mission Goldberger about my request to travel across the Rafah border.

January 12, 2016

Deputy Chief of Mission Thomas Goldberger

Embassy of the United States of America

5 Tawfik Diab Street

Garden City, Cairo

Egypt

Dear DCM Goldberger,

I’m an American citizen, currently in Cairo, attempting to return to Gaza to teach.

As you know, the U.S. Embassy in past years provided a notarized release of liability and responsibility to Americans wishing to travel to Gaza. This year, your office has refused to assist me or even meet with me to discuss this matter.

Your experience on the Israel/Palestine desk at the U.S. State Department in DC as well as your years of service as Deputy Chief of Mission in Tel Aviv would certainly provide me with very valuable insights. Perhaps you could give me some guidance about how to get permission from Israel to cross the Erez Checkpoint into Gaza.

As of Monday, January 11, 2016, 972 people have signed a petition urging the U.S. Embassy not to block Americans from traveling to Gaza.  The comments are very informative about how Americans feel about the 10 year siege on Gaza.  A sample of the 291 comments are reprinted below. http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Americans-travel-gaza

“Freedom to travel is, or should be, a right of all Americans.”

“Dear Ambassador Beecroft and Deputy Chief Goldberger:

I am a Jewish American who is very concerned about the state of affairs in Gaza and the Middle East generally. While we can never abandon our commitment to the State of Israel, we need to adopt a more even handed policy that will truly promote peace and not just enable extreme elements in Israel if we want to stem the tide of violent Islamists. Citizens like Lora Lucero help to promote good will, inform the American public, and create pressure for a resolution of the Palestinian dispute, which has gone on for far, far too long. Please resume issuing waivers to American citizens like Ms. Lucero who wish to travel to Gaza.”

“Don’t prevent anybody form going in and out from Gaza. Stop the inhumane treatment of Gazans. They are pushing Gaza to more violence and bloodshed.”

“It’s so important to have an international presence in Gaza. Please provide documents for those Americans wanting to travel there.”

“I am appalled that Lora Lucero cannot travel to the Gaza strip BECAUSE, as I understand it, the US Embassy in Cairo refuses to grant the necessary documentation.”

“We as Americans want to be able to cross the borders, to bring aid, and let the world know what the Palestinian plight is about.”

“U.S. citizens should not be blocked by the U.S. OR Israel from traveling to the Palestinian Occupied Territories and Gaza. Our work and witness in extremely important to Palestinians living under occupation.”

“Please assist Lora Lucero and other Americans who want to in going to Gaza and showing that Americans can help those in need. If Americans are to be truly safe and true to our professed values, we need to help make the world a better place instead of approaching everything as a military issue.”

“In November 2012, I traveled to Gaza from Egypt, and I received the written waiver from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. Also, the Egyptian Press Office at that time provided press credentials to travel to Gaza, which I also received. It was so important that we (a delegation organised by Code Pink and Free Gaza) were able to witness and to share what we experienced. It is frightening to think that U.S. citizens will be denied the ability to show support and report on the situation in Gaza. The current U.S. policy is an outrage and only serves to further isolate the people of Gaza.”

“Stop supporting the blockade of Gaza Strip. Lora Lucero is a most peaceful person and she and others should be allowed entrance.”

“Palestine/Gaza is occupied territory and is being isolated by Israel. There is no valid excuse for this. Allowing teachers to help out is the least that can be done.”

“Whatever can be done to help support people in Gaza must be done – they are in an open air prison. The world needs witnesses and the US must change its , or the US will be considered a terrorist.”

“I’m ashamed of the US government’s discrimination against Palestinians and the activists who want to help those in need.”

“If an American University teacher teaches in Gaza, this is effective personal Peace work. The US Consulate in Cairo should do everything helping her to finish her job!”

“The consulate’s refusal to provide support to Lora Lucero’s decision to travel to work with the people of Gaza, who are suffering from bombs and other munitions supplied by the U.S. is an unacceptable infringement on her rights as an American and a shocking failure of our government to stand for freedom and compassion.”

“All Israelis should be banned from entering the USA until this illegal siege is ended!”

“Urge you to do all within your power to end Israeli boycott of Gaza — please.”

“Humane and productive policies should define our country. Isolating, blockading, and punishing the people of Gaza is neither. Act like an American and allow volunteers to help with the humanitarian crisis there. It’s truly the least we can do.”

“I’ve been to Gaza — perhaps the most important travel of my life.”

“As an American Jew I find your blocking people from entering Gaza abhorrent. It is reminiscent of Hitler’s behavior toward Jews.”

“Our American passport says: the cause of freedom is not the cause of a race or a sect, it is the cause of humankind, the very birthright of humanity.”

“Lora Lucero and many other Americans are doing great humanitarian work by bearing witness to the reality of life in Gaza. Preventing them from travelling looks bad.”

“The U.S. Embassy in Cairo should at the very least meet with American citizens wishing to travel to Gaza, and resume the issuance of waivers to travel there.”

“Give people what they need to enter Gaza!”

“Ridiculous that I have to sign this (PETITION). Shame on you.”

“For how long are you planning to keep this inhuman practice?”

“These people have been collectively punished continuously for over a decade. Unbelievable.”

“It’s so sad that Egypt complies and buckles to Israeli pressure. Please allow those willing to dedicate their time helping humanity to enter Gaza. God bless.”

“By preventing people from going to Gaza, you’re showing the world that you condone all the hardships that the Gazans go through everyday of their lives. As long as some American citizens want to go for humanitarian purposes, I don’t think it’s wise to prevent them.”

“The U.S. Embassy in Cairo is totally neglecting their responsibility to an American citizen.”

“Do let people in to areas they wish to travel. It is their life and choice. If they do not intend any illegal activities toward other human beings, let them be.”

“It is good that persons with big Heart as Lora go to Gaza, it will help people in their “open jail”!

Sincerely,

Lora A. Lucero

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3 Comments

Filed under Egypt, Gaza, People, Politics, Uncategorized, US Policy

3 responses to “People speak out – “Open Access to Gaza”

  1. Update: 4:00 pm. I arrived at the US Embassy in Cairo on time for my appointment. Again, a low level functionary told me that the Embassy does not assist Americans who wish to travel to Gaza. The Embassy would not issue a written waiver (as it has in previous years). Without that waiver, the Egyptian gov’t will not let me cross Rafah checkpoint into Gaza.

    I told her I wanted to see Deputy Chief of Mission Goldberger to discuss my options because I know he has a lot of experience in Israel and in the State Dept in DC in the Israel-Palestine Section. She smiled and said Goldberger is a busy man and even consulate staff can’t get an appointment to see him so an American citizen certainly would not get an appointment.

    Then I showed her my petition and told her nearly 1000 people signed it because they don’t believe the US Embassy should obstruct citizens from entering Gaza. I gave her my letter in which I reprinted many of the 291 comments left on the petition. I told her that the US was not merely “not assisting” Americans who wish to travel to Gaza. Instead, the US Embassy is obstructing our travel.

    I asked again to see Goldberger. She said she didn’t even know if he’s in the country. Then I asked if there is someone in Goldberger’s office who might be knowledgeable about these matters. She said she didn’t know but said she would send my letter and petition “upstairs”. I said I would wait for a response.

    She told me there would be no response today. That’s when I raised my voice. I said I wasn’t leaving until I met with someone on staff knowledgeable about Gaza. I also showed her the book I want to give Goldberger “Gaza Unsilenced”. She said she didn’t think it was possible to accept gifts — against the rules. I said I would wait in the lobby for my meeting. She shook her head and said that was my choice but she would not be coming out to the lobby with any information.

    I sat in the lobby for the next 3+ hours, mostly alone. I guess they had no appointments scheduled in the afternoon. I sat and read “Gaza Unsilenced” and began to cry. No one saw me. No one heard me. I was all alone. The stories in that book are very emotional. I was convinced I would stay in the lobby all day and all night (or until I was forcefully ejected by security).

    A young Egyptian security guard came up to me about 3 hours later and asked me why I was there. I told him I was waiting to talk with someone about going to Gaza. He took my appointment paper and went into the office where I had met with the clerk earlier. A few minutes later he returned and said I could return tomorrow (Wednesday) between the hours of 9 AM and noon with my passport and this appointment paper with the new time scribbled on it.

    I don’t know if this was merely a diversionary tactic to remove me peacefully from the Embassy — with no intention of letting me back in tomorrow. Or if someone actually looked at my letter and petition and decided that they’d better find someone to talk with me because I have nearly 1000 people watching over my shoulder to see how the US Embassy responds.

    In any case, I’ll return first thing in the morning.

  2. I wish you god speed , bon voyage ,adios, safe journey and I hope your wishes are granted because what you can do for the Palestinians to further their cause for freedom and reinstatement of their land will be far greater than all the missiles that hamas can fire at Israel peaceful protest.

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