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Viva Palestina delegation faces hurdles as

Convoy presses on with aid for besieged Gaza

Published Jul 15, 2009 3:48 PM

July 14—Organizers of the largest U.S. humanitarian aid convoy to Palestine in history spoke today by telephone from Cairo to 50 people protesting outside the Egyptian United Nations Mission in New York. They updated supporters on the progress of the Viva Palestina effort. The news was that the Egyptian government had agreed to allow more than $1 million in medical aid into Gaza, and that the convoy was expected to reach the border with Gaza on July 15.

Protest at Egyptian Consulate in New York
on July 13 demanding the convoy be given
safe passage to Gaza
WW photo: Sara Flounders

During the day it had appeared that the Egyptian government was going to deny passage into Gaza. This earlier news sparked emergency demonstrations in New York, San Francisco, Houston, Chicago and other cities throughout the U.S.

The 218-person contingent of activists plans to bring wheelchairs, walkers and medical supplies to the people of Gaza. A genocidal attack on Gaza in December and January, on top of a two-year Israeli siege and blockade of the area, makes this aid essential for the people there.

The fact that the caravan hails from the U.S. gives the convoy added resonance, as Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. government aid in the world. And Israel uses U.S. weapons and missiles against the Palestinian people on a daily basis.

Viva Palestina was organized by British Member of Parliament George Galloway, who organized a caravan from Britain under the same name in March. Galloway intends to organize future aid convoys to Gaza this year from Venezuela, Moscow, and again from Britain and the U.S. on Dec. 27, the year anniversary of the opening of Israel’s attack on Gaza.

Participants in the delegation include former U.S. Congressperson Cynthia McKinney, who was imprisoned in early July by Israeli forces for attempting to bring aid into Gaza by sea with the Free Gaza Movement. Also participating are representatives of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Middle East Children’s Alliance, Cuba Coalition, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA), International Action Center, International Socialist Organization, Workers World Party and the Answer Coalition.

Bill Doares of the International Action Center and then Galloway, McKinney and New York City Councilperson Charles Barron all spoke by phone to the New York rally in front of the Egyptian U.N. Mission. They told the protesters that they expected to leave in three hours for Gaza and that all the participants were expected to get into the enclave, bringing more than $1 million in medicines and medical equipment.

The 218 people in Egypt with the convoy from the United States plan to carry the medical materiel across the border by hand if necessary.

The question of trucks had still not been settled. Egyptian officials had told negotiators with the convoy earlier that of 47 vehicles donated to Gaza, only the two ambulances will be allowed to enter Gaza. Gazans desperately need new vehicles in the area to provide various public services.

The Viva Palestina U.S. convoy, which left New York on July 4 for Cairo, Egypt, had faced an increasing number of hurdles laid out by the Egyptian government. Barron told the protesters, “The revolutionary spirit of Palestine has ignited the struggle. Those taking to the streets in the U.S. and worldwide have earned the credit for this breakthrough with the Egyptian government.”

“They don’t want this to be successful because they don’t want any more convoys,” said Barron. “They want to set an example with us. They were hoping that they would discourage us.” But Barron stressed that the convoy remains firmly committed to deliver the supplies and break the siege of Gaza.

He and the other speakers appealed to the people demonstrating in New York to keep the pressure on to get the trucks and all aid supplies through the Rafah border crossing. This crossing has been closed since June of 2007.

A petition being circulated by the International Action Center (available at www.iacenter.org under the Action Alerts heading) states: “It is a violation of international law to deny [the Viva Palestina convoy] passage or to detain and harass them in any way.” The petition demands safe passage for the convoy as well as an end to the siege of Gaza.

For updates on the Viva Palestina convoy, visit www.vivapalestina-us.org.