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
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
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
“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.
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