The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Email:,,Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK co-founder:,,Jodie Evans, national media coordinator, (310) 621-5635

50 International Delegates to Arrive in Gaza With Gift Baskets for Gazan Women

Vow to camp on border if blocked, demand its opening


A 50-member international delegation will attempt to
cross the Egyptian border into war-torn Gaza early next month, carrying
2,000 gift baskets to pay tribute to the incredibly resilient,
beleaguered Gazan women on International Women's Day, March 8.

Set to depart Cairo March 6, the impressive delegation -- which
includes acclaimed author Alice Walker, former state department
official Ann Wright, CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin and 47 others
from around the world -- expects Egyptian authorities will allow them
to cross into Gaza March 7. The delegation, organized by the U.S.
women's peace group CODEPINK and coming at the invitation of the Gaza
Gender Initiative of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), it the
first delegation of its size and kind to attempt to enter Gaza since
July 2007, when Israel imposed the blockade.

If Egyptian authorities deny the group's entrance, the group will camp
out at the border until they get in, said delegation organizer
Benjamin. Hundreds of aid workers, lawyers, and convoys carrying
humanitarian aid have been denied entrance by Egyptian authorities at
the Rafah border.

Once inside Gaza, the delegation will spend several days meeting with
Palestinian women's groups, delivering aid to relief groups and
witnessing the devastation from the 22-day Israeli invasion.

"We have not, as a planet, been seeking to change the world so that
this insanity cannot continue," said delegate Alice Walker, Pulitzer
Prize-winning novelist and poet. "Going to Gaza is our opportunity to
express solidarity with the people there, to demonstrate the concern we
feel each day for the suffering endured. To remind the people of Gaza
and ourselves that we belong to the same world. We can bring our
witness, one of life's strongest gifts."

The delegation will pay tribute to the women of Gaza on the United Nations' International Women's Day,
which calls on the world to focus on the needs and contributions of
women. CODEPINK felt inspired to dedicate the day to Gaza women just
two months following the devastating Israeli assault on the occupied
land that killed more than 1,300, including 437 children, and injured
more than 5,000.

On February 20, CODEPINK put out a call
to its members to help fund $10 gift baskets for the women of Gaza. In
two days, the group collected enough donations to take gift baskets to
2,000 women.

"We have been overwhelmed by response toward our initiative," Benjamin
said. "We thought we'd take 15 people on the delegation to Gaza and we
have 50. We thought we'd take 200 gift baskets, and we're taking 2,000!
American women feel tremendous compassion toward the women of Gaza and
are ready for a U.S. policy based on respect for the human rights of
all people in the region."

Benjamin and Wright returned from a trip to Gaza earlier this month
where they witnessed the terrible devastation (read Wright's piece on
her trip on Air America here.
They found Gazans anxious to have foreign delegations visit, witness
and learn about their plight and push for an end to the blockade.

"The Israeli attack came after 18 months of a crippling blockade that
had already left the Palestinian population hungry, sick, weak, and
suffering from a catastrophic situation," Wright said. "We must not
only provide massive humanitarian aid, but lift the blockade that is
keeping the people of Gaza under siege."

WHAT: 50 international delegates to camp out at Gaza border until allowed inside; plan to meet with women's groups, call for end to blockade
WHEN: March 6 to March 12, 2009
WHERE: March 6, leaving Cairo; March 7, Rafah, Egypt border crossing into Rafah, Gaza

For more information and interviews, please call Medea Benjamin,
CODEPINK co-founder, at 415-235-6517 or Jean Stevens, CODEPINK media
coordinator, at 508-769-2138.

CODEPINK is a women-led grassroots organization working to end U.S. wars and militarism, support peace and human rights initiatives, and redirect our tax dollars into healthcare, education, green jobs and other life-affirming programs.

(818) 275-7232