Tag Archives: Viva Palestina

Unusual mechanical failures delay, but fail to scuttle, Gaza Freedom Flotilla

First the MV Rachel Corrie suffered a breakdown shortly after leaving port. Then the Challenger I lost its steering mechanism and another Greek ship has to return to port. Though derided by Israeli critics as “tin buckets,” the ships had been certified sea-worthy before the convoy set sail. Suspicions about system failures can wait until proper investigations. Cyprus denied the Challenger permission to harbor for repairs, so its passengers were transshipped to the Mavi Marmara, and the convoy delayed its rendezvous. The revised timing will deny the Israeli navy a chance to attack during the night. The relief ships will not be approaching the contested waters off Gaza until after daybreak.

As it did during earlier relief convoy efforts, Cyprus responded to pressure from Israel and refused to allow convoy ships to assemble at its ports. This time the Greek Authority of Cyprus enforced a ban against the Freedom Flotilla vessels from entering its waters. WitnessForGaza has a video of a Cypriot helicopter keeping the Challenger I at bay, even though it was becoming increasingly disabled and need to reach a safe harbor.

What can you do to protect the convoy?

Subject: Call For Action As The Flotilla Faces Serious Threats From Israel

“People are very aware that the Israeli authorities and indeed others are playing all sorts of mind games, with threats alternating with so called offers, which would include surrendering the aid into Israeli hands, something which the participants of the flotilla find entirely unacceptable”

Speaking from the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, Kevin Ovenden from Viva Palestina outlined some of the concerns and realities currently been faced by over 750 people on board the 9 ships sailing towards Gaza.

The last of the ships departed from Turkey at midnight last night, and they are all currently in International waters in the Mediterranean Sea. Their journey is faced with incredible danger, given the threats that have been issued by the Israeli Government. They have stated that they will stop this Flotilla at all costs, even by force if necessary. Their safety is in grave danger, and the time has come for the international community to stand up for their safety and well being.

Tomorrow, Saturday, the flotilla should be sailing into Gaza, however, given the threats issued, the likely hood of this happening is looking uncertain at this stage. We are calling on everyone to contact various political leaders to ask them to do everything in their power to ensure the safety of these brave people, and to stand up and add their voice in support of this humanitarian flotilla.

Where is humanitarian airlift for Gaza?

 
 
The Berlin airlift siege C-47
When the Soviet Union laid siege to West Berlin in 1947, the Western powers mounted a famous airlift to supply the city’s inhabitants for ten months until the siege was broken. At its height, the Berlin Airlift hauled almost 9,000 tons per day. By contrast, the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip remain besieged for two and a half years now, where is the humanitarian effort to save them?

The West’s official abandonment of the Gazans is shameful.

Gaza today has a similar population in number and density, also living in post-war squalor. A chief difference is that instead of a conqueror trying to impose a common currency to force assimilation, Palestine’s occupier wants to purge the people of the lands it want to absorb. The siege of Gaza represents living conditions made so dire that its victims want only to leave.

The recent Viva Palestina aid convoy to Gaza was the third successful effort to supply the people of Gaza. Counting also the attempts to bring supplies by boat, how do these methods compare to the help mobilized for Berlin?

At the close of the latest effort, leader George Galloway was ceremoniously banned from returning to Egypt. Some of the convoy’s participants still await flights out of Cairo, all of them declared persona non grata. Although Venezuelan upstart Hugo Chavez will reportedly be supporting the next Viva Palestina convoy this summer, Egypt has now declared that no aid effort will be allowed through its border crossing to Gaza.

Why will no foreign government support an airlift to Gaza –even if it means parachuting supplies? Or why not a naval convoy to breach the barricade? Israel repeats that Gaza is not occupied. A challenge to Gaza’s maritime sovereignty could settle that matter.

Upon arrival in Gaza, a participant in the aid convoy summarized his motivation to bring relief supplies to the people of Gaza: “because they deserve it.”

Convoy given hero’s welcome in Gaza

viva-palestina-george-galloway-rafahVIVA PALESTINA made it to Gaza! See the crush of media awaiting their arrival? None of them from the US or UK.
 
Though it took all night, the 200 vehicle convoy made the last leg from Al-Arish to Rafah safely. A compromise was reached with Egypt to redirect 59 vehicles to serve refugees in Lebanon, sooner than concede them to Israel. This is the third convoy of what organizers promise will be more until the illegal siege of Gaza is lifted.

Reflecting on the delays and difficulties posed by the Egyptians, George Galloway expressed his regret that attention was diverted from the anniversary of Israel’s criminal acts which began December 27, 2008. Instead Egypt drew the focus on its own complicity in the continued deprivation of the people of Palestine. Asked why the convoy didn’t ask to be let through Israel, if it wanted to confront what’s thought to be the principle villain behind the siege of Gaza. Galloway responded:

We will never set foot in Israel. We will never ask permission from Israel for anything. We will never recognize Israel as long as there is no Palestine. As long as the Palestinian people are scattered to the four corners of the earth as refugees; as long as Jerusalem is being monstrously, ethnically cleansed with settlements surrounding it, choking the very life and greatness out of it; as long as Gaza is under siege, as long a Palestinians are being assassinated and bombed from the air, as they have been over the last week or so –by the way from both of the main political factions within Palestine, so it’s not just Hamas people who are being murdered in front of their wives and children. We will never recognize Israel as long as such a situation exists for the Palestinians.

See the interview on this clip from Al Jazeera:

Galloway added his usual fighting words:

The Palestinians here will never be starved into surrender. Anyone who’s counting on that, whether Israel or anybody else, and I mean anybody else, who’s counting on that, is making a big mistake. They don’t know these people if they think they can starve them into surrender.

The clip below features brief interviews of several convoyers as they arrive. The briefest was a passenger on a Derry to Gaza ambulance. The Press TV correspondent greeted him with: “Hello. Welcome to Gaza. How do you feel?” To which he replied, as the vehicle kept moving:

Great. Great to be in Gaza.

But another from that crew, whom Irish4Palestine identifies as JJ, doubled back on foot to deliver a wonderfully cheerful message:

Just like to say hello to all the people of Derry.

Um, we’ve travelled 5,000 miles from Derry in Irelanda. And it’s great to finally be here and meet the people.

And we’ve come this far for a reason. Because they deserve it. And more people should do this definitely, because we have to break the siege.

And I’d like to thank all the people of Derry. Alright thanks. Good man.

All this and more on this clip from Press TV:

US story of Viva Palestina? No story.

viva palestina aid convoy gaza rafah arrival qudstvUPDATE: Live feed of convoy arrival will be streamed by al-Quds TV.
 
The Viva Palestina aid convoy has been wending its way toward Gaza having left Britain 31 days ago. Now the 200 vehicles are just 40 miles from their destination, and still no coverage in the US media. Last night the 550 convoyers were blocked in the port of El-Arish by Egyptian riot police while interlopers were set upon the nonviolent activists with woodplanks and stones. Those participants who didn’t lose their phones were tweeting for supporters to call their Egyptian embassies, still no word in the US. Google it any way you like, it’s a black out.

This is the third VIVA PALESTINA aid convoy to Gaza. You can find after-the-fact articles about the July 2009 effort mounted by US activists, but nothing current in the mainstream press. Why would America’s compassion for the besieged Gazans not be reflected by its media?

Accounts of the attack are circulating through alternative channels, but nothing’s hit the mainstream.

Among the international agencies, the BBC has kept its reporting limited, but yesterday’s violence broke through. There is active TV coverage in Turkey and Iran, and transnational news agencies
Like Sky News, Al Jazeera, and Ynet, are covering the story. Still NOT ONE report in the US media, what Noam Chomsky confirmed as a media blackout.

Example: The UK Press Association lists one story, Gaza aid Brits ‘beaten by police’, where the headline infers an unverified accusation, and still no mention made of “Viva Palestina” in entire text.

Any ideas about how to break through? There are US participants with the convoy, and the contingent is still not out of danger. Is there anything the American public can do, by way of contacting the State Department to call off its dogs in Egypt, or to expose the billions in aid to Israel and Egypt, the first and second highest recipients of US foreign aid, most assuredly behind the Egyptian making obstacles for the aid convoy, part of its maintaining the siege on Gaza?

The convoy had to wait for those injured last night to return from the hospital, and for those detained to be returned. As a result, the vehicles have now set off from Al-Ashir at sundown, to travel in darkness to the Gaza border crossing at Rafah. Egyptian authorities had been trying to force the convoy to proceed at night to minimize its exposure to the local populations. The police barricades surrounding Viva Palestina, like the Gaza Freedom March in Cairo, were less to contain the activists than about prohibiting Egyptians from joining in.

Meanwhile, hearing of the attack on the aid convoy, Gazans waiting at the border began to riot. There are reports now one Egyptian soldier dead, 35 Palestinians injured, five of them brain dead. But where are you going to hear about it?

For Americans who think they’re being kept informed, that’s the story.

Violent attack on Viva Palestina convoy

Viva Palestina hurt in riotVideo footage has reached Turkish TV of last night’s attack on Viva Palestina as the convoyers waited to proceed in El-Arish. Videos show activists with head injuries, some having to be carried off. There were reported windows broken on the convoy vehicles. What a travesty if the aid to be delivered to Gaza will arrive in shambles, courtesy of the Egyptians. We won’t know until sunup. Finally the BBC has reported the story, but not what really happened.

The BBC reports, like ABC Australia, that water canon were turned on Viva Palestina because they refused to comply with Egyptian demands. But witnesses tell of a different progression.

(UPDATE: The UK Press Association lists one story, Gaza aid Brits ‘beaten by police’, where the headline infers an unverified accusation, and still no mention made of “Viva Palestina” in entire text.)

The Irish 4 Palestine blog is maintained based on regular phone and text updates from “their boys” in the convoy. In the thick of the ugliness last night, communications ceased. Then strange voices answered the phones, which had been found dropped on the ground. Finally one phone was answered by an English-speaking woman named Pat who described the attack:

“…the whole thing happened when convoy members were still locked inside this gated compound, then suddenly a very large group of plain clothes “people” arrived at the compound with sticks and stones, they were then allowed into the compound by the Egyptians and began attacking the convoy members trapped inside with nowhere to go. The Egyptians then joined in the attack when the plain clothes vigilantes arrived and went inside to attack.”

Her account was corroborated by ensuing witnesses. What may have motivated the vigilantes is open to conjecture, because we’re led to believe the aid convoy usually met a warm welcome throughout the region.

Malaysian activist Juana Jaafar was providing live play by play and occasional pics throughout the night. Her observations early on may offer one angle:

The gates have been blocked by authorities’ cars and hundreds of riot police waiting outside! Members are getting anxious

Riot cops! And a water cannon truck just arrived. Dejavu ke? Okay damn, a water tank size of 16 wheel petroleum carrier just arrived.

Members sitting at gates … I don’t understand Arabic but I know stuff being said bout “Yahudi” and am feeling uncomfortable. There are Jews in and supporting our mission …

Shit la the jangguts nak tunjuk hero pulak. Bangang ah!

Anti-Semitism is a subject no one wants to mention in polite company, perhaps because it the accusation is so frequently invoked by Israel. In accounts of peace activism in the Middle East, frequently however we read reports of Arab bystanders showing solidarity with peace actions, but declining to join in if there happen to be Jewish activists among the organizers, regardless the cause, even the anti-Zionist ones.

In this case, were the Egyptian police trying to play up the presence of Jewish activists in order to motive the plain-cloths agitators among them to throw stones?

The longer (abridged) sequence of Tweets from Juana Jaafar recounts the night’s adventure.

8PM
Yay! All members are together now as last batch rolls in! We going by the minute now. Autho may impose all sorts on new rules on us like drive in the mid of night so public can’t see us; no fanfare. Some say they may not let all vehicles out so looks like convoy is small.

But rumor has it there’s pizza in the Welsh caravan so am gonna head there :]

The gates have been blocked by autho cars and hundreds of riot police waiting outside! Members are getting anxious

Riot cops! And a water cannon truck just arrived. Dejavu ke?

Okay damn, a water tank size of 16 wheel petroleum carrier just arrived.

9PM
Members sitting at gates. Someone leading a doa. Doa man crying while doa. I don’t understand Arabic but I know stuff being said bout “Yahudi” and am feeling uncomfortable. There are Jews in and supporting our mission …

Shit la the jangguts nak tunjuk hero pulak. Bangang ah!

Standoff with autho in El-Arish port

We have been told there are protests going on right now in Istanbul, London, Chicago and at Egyptian ambassies elsewhere

11PM  
All hell has broken lose at the port. Shit flying around and police spraying and gassing. We’re in the gates

12PM  
Instigators started moving in from within the police lines and moved on the inside of the police side of the barricades. Convoy members were sitting on the ground when shouts from police lines started and then wham, hell. Just helped bandage a friend’s head

Some people are missing including a Malaysian student who came on his own from the UK. We are trying to find him. He may be arrested

Wisma, a Malaysian student has been detained by Egypt police in El-Arish. Please help.

Calm now. Galloway speaking to us, explicitly named Egyptian regime as instigator of violence. Said now the world can see who is responsible for Gaza siege. We have bend over backwards to come to El-Arish cause Egypt said we’d be welcomed here, instead welcomed with violence.

Galloway says Viva has video taken from meeting room to show special police starting violence. Police then threw stones at meeting room
    
1AM
Arrested are from Great Britain, USA, Malaysia and Kuwaiti.

One person just got rolled out on a stretcher.

2AM
Things are quiet now. Injured are reluctant to be taken to hospital unless Galloway guarantees Egyptian authorities gives safe passage.

4AM
It’s 415am here. We been camping in our vehicles. Some took refuge in the mosque. Riot police still outside gate + 3 water cannon trucks

Calm now but the mood is shit. Some members also not happy how few others reacted to Egyptian provocation saying we have driven this far in peace.

We’re okay, safe. But freezing. Hope things look better in morn

5AM
For the record: Malaysian boy detained only taking pix at the gates, not involved any other way. Our group mate from Great Britain detained was also just filming

Viva Palestina standoff with riot police

viva palestina riot police egypt
CONTACT YOUR MEDIA OUTLETS TO COVER THE BREAKING NEWS!
Following reports that Egyptian authorities want the convoy to proceed under cover of night, Viva Palestina’s Juana Jaafar reports Egyptian authorities have brought police in riot gear and a water canon — “Shit la the jangguts nak tunjuk hero pulak. Bangang ah!” Zubwe Hatia, Joti Brar, Peter Jones, P. O’Neill, and Abu’Safiyyah tweet from the convoy. Ahmed Fadel from Gaza. Or check Twitter VP3 list.

FROM JOTI: 20:20 GMT
“Full-on battles between convoy boys and Egyptian riot cops. Tear gas, water cannons, rocks throwing.”

If the confrontation worsens, look for updates from reporters on the scene: Lina Attalah and Jano Charbel, relaying through Hossam el-Hamalawy and Cleopatra in Cairo.

Gaza aid convoy united in El-Arish, but Egypt still moving the goalposts

viva palestina aid convoy ferry lattakiaJAN 5 PressTV update below.
Viva Palestina’s aid convoy was augmented by 47 additional vehicles impounded on a previous convoy run, bringing the total to 220, most ambulances. Why does Gaza need more ambulances, you might well ask.

It’s a question everyone is too polite to ponder. The answers are simply too cynical: because aid is being restricted to medical supplies, and because someone keeps shooting at ambulances. BTW the full Goldstone Report is now available online.

Press TV reports

Viva Palestina shows Code Pink how solidarity works

Gaza Freedom March breakers
Egyptian authorities in El-Arish tried this evening to decapitate the Viva Palestina aid convoy on its final leg toward the Gaza border. This was the successful strategy Egypt used to divide the Gaza Freedom March a week before, but the activists held strong, and it didn’t take a referendum for the isolated group of 157 to stick up for the 400 others waylaid in Syria. ReadingPSC tells the story from El-Arish.

When the convoy was forced to leave Egypt’s Red Sea port to reenter Syria and travel by ferry from Lattakia to Egypt’s port at El-Arish, only a minimum number of convoy participants were permitted to stay with the vehicles. The rest learned they could only rejoin the convoy by air. The same plane was to fly repeated trips, carrying one fourth of the number each time. But that’s not how it worked out.

On the second flight, the plane was forced back to Syria due to engine problems, and now remains grounded. As it stands tonight, 3/4 of Viva Palestina remains in Syria. Meanwhile, the Egyptians tried to compel the first group to depart for Rafah and man the convoy without their comrades, telling them the extra 400 would be denied permission to follow.

Of the convoy participants issuing updates, Readings PCS and Derry to Gaza are safely in El-Arish, while York to Gaza et al will fly from Damascus in the morning.

If there remain further obstacles for the convoy, Viva Palestina is recommending you contact the Egyptian embassy/consulate available to you, to press Egypt to honor its commitment to let the aid convoy through and help break the siege of Gaza!

Reading PSC printed this encouragement from Noam Chomsky:

Dear Convoy: a message from Noam Chomsky!…

Despite the media blackout, which is a disgrace, this is turning out to be a really spectacular triumph, I think, and it’s hard to express properly my admiration and respect for those who are directly engaged.

It has to be a shot in the arm for the people in Gaza, and might stir up some opposition to the dictatorship in Egypt, which is exposing its brutality daily — to everyone except the US media (hope it’s better elsewhere). And I think a lot of people are going to come back home really invigorated.

Good luck in what lies ahead.

Viva Palestina convoy to arrive in Rafah NPR fails to name it, or mention the Gaza Freedom March

viva palestina route el arishAfter endless impediment, not the least of which was a sudden Israeli naval exercise to block its path, the Viva Palestina aid convoy appears finally about to reach Gaza. Permission to enter has been granted, although last week Egypt reneged on the okay it had given to the 1,400 strong Gaza Freedom March. NPR had a reporter at the Rafah border crossing, but didn’t mention the aid convoy until 1/3 into the report, and then not by name, and never mentioned the New Year’s Eve march at all. As well, NPR referred to the besieged prison state as an “enclave” whose borders were forcibly closed, “understandably,” when Hamas “took over.”

Here’s the opening of this morning’s report. My favorite part? Two. First the interminable sportscast-lke intro, a beautiful day in Fenway Park, etc. Then, hesitation as the reporter explains that the border is opened to let Palestinians out, and um, sometimes back in.

Steve Inskeep: “This is a rare day in a Palestinian enclave known as the Gaza Strip. A border crossing opened today, which is rare because Gaza is surrounded by Israel and Egypt and both have kept the crossings closed for weeks at a time over the last couple years. Today people and supplies have been allowed to move and NPR’s Peter Kenyon is at the border crossing of Rafah on the Egyptian side, Hi Peter.”

Peter Kenyon: “Hi Steve, how are you?”

SI: “Okay thanks. What have you seen?”

PK: “Well it’s a beautiful sunny day here, a little bit windy but a bright blue sky, and I’m at the actual crossing point. The black iron gates are slowly swinging open and closed from time to time, letting Palestinians out into Egypt or uh, sometimes back in, people who need to get home. Now this is a very limited opening, not any kind of a max exodus.”

SI: “Is this an opportunity to move supplies in addition to people?”

PK: “It is. In fact there is an aid convoy that has endured quite a few setbacks that has now finally arrived in the port of El-Arish. That’s about twenty-five miles away and that is expected to come as early as today, possibly tonight, there’s some last minute logistical difficulties. It’s a British convoy led by the outspoken member of parliament George Galloway. And they have finally arrived and they do hope to get in.”

And that’s the extent of the coverage of the aid convoy that has been winding its way toward Gaza for the last month. No mention of “Viva Palestina” or organizations behind the effort, or even what their difficulties have been. The final “logistical difficulties” to which the reporter alludes concern Egypt’s sudden stipulation that aid consist only of medical supplies. Check with York to Gaza, the Reading Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, the Sitch, among others, for the final updates.

Meanwhile the BBC has pictures of conditions in Gaza.

While the Gaza Freedom March was kept contained in Cairo, Egypt was simultaneously stopping the Viva Palestina aid convoy from entering through Aqaba. Ultimately the convoy was forced to circle Israel and return to Syria, where it had to ferry its vehicles on the Ulusoy-6 from Lattakia to the Egyptian Port of El-Arish to reach the Rafah border crossing into Gaza.

Gaza Freedom March update

free PalestineGFM activists still prevented from leaving Cairo spoiling Rafah rendezvous with demonstrators in Gaza; American citizens undertaking hunger strike after being blocked from the US embassy; the siege of the UN offices has been called off; and the Viva Palestina convoy in Jordan has taken an alternative route. Follow Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah and Institute for Public Accuracy’s Sam Husseini for minute by minute updates. Official reports from GFM. Photos by Antony Loewenstein. Solidarity actions continue worldwide, including Colorado Springs.

Abunimah reports after delegation of three activists were permitted to meet with US embassy staff:

USG supports the siege of Gaza, offers excuses & stonewalling. During meeting political officer Greg Logrefo confirmed that US Army Corps of Engineers is providing technical assistance to build underground wall.