As Egypt regime assists U.S.-Israeli genocide
Viva Palestina convoy breaks the siege of Gaza
Published Jan 15, 2010 10:39 PM
For the third time in a year, Viva Palestina, the international relief effort
led by British Member of Parliament George Galloway, has broken the siege of
On Jan. 6, 518 volunteers from many countries drove more than 156 vehicles
loaded with tons of medicine and other humanitarian aid into the only part of
Palestine independent of Israeli control. They were backed by a global
outpouring of solidarity, especially from the people of Turkey and the Arab and
Islamic world, and as far away as Malaysia.
Jan. 6 rally in support of
Viva Palestine caravan,
WW photo: John Catalinotto
When the convoy entered Gaza after its month-long, 5,000-mile journey, hundreds
of thousands of Gaza’s 1.5 million people lined the streets in welcome.
“The sight of people lining the streets virtually the full length of the
Gaza Strip, after waiting for 10 hours for our last vehicles to pass (thanks to
further Egyptian delays) was the only vindication that this initiative ever
required,” said convoy leader Kevin Ovenden.
The third Lifeline to Gaza convoy defied an international conspiracy against
the people of Gaza by the military/banker regime in Washington, D.C.; the
U.S.-funded Israeli apartheid state; and the U.S.-funded Mubarak dictatorship
in Egypt. The day before they entered Gaza, the international volunteers were
assaulted and beaten by 2,000 Egyptian riot police and undercover cops with
clubs, stones and water cannons. Fifty-five people were injured, some
seriously, and seven arrested. Egyptian troops opened fire across the border on
people in Gaza itself, who were protesting the attack on the convoy. Israeli
missiles also struck Gaza while the convoy was there, killing three
Palestinians. After returning from Gaza, MP Galloway was seized by undercover
cops, forced on a plane to London and barred from returning to Egypt.
Lifeline 3 left London on Dec. 6 with 200 volunteers and 80 trucks and
ambulances filled with supplies donated by people across Britain and Ireland.
It drove through Europe, warmly welcomed and joined by people, trucks and
supplies in Belgium, Italy and Greece. A huge popular outpouring greeted the
convoy in Turkey, where 125 people, including 10 MPs, and 60 more vehicles
joined the convoy.
International Action Center activist Ralph Loeffler, one of 62 U.S. volunteers
on the journey, reported, “For the first time in 30 years the Turkish
government permitted a political demonstration in historic Taksim Square, and
it was to support Viva Palestina’s medical relief convoy to blockaded
Gaza. A massive, enthusiastic crowd turned out in the pouring winter rain to
hear George Galloway and Kevin Ovenden thank the Turkish people and government
for supporting Viva Palestina’s third convoy to Gaza.
“After leaving Taksim the convoy proceeded to Adapazari [Turkey] to
overnight in a sports stadium. Although the convoy arrived about 2 a.m., the
citizens of Adapazari were there and ready to help. Locals swarmed the vehicles
and buses to carry ... the 200 convoy participants’ sleeping gear and
baggage into the stadium.”
In Syria, a British volunteer reported, “We were greeted by the sound of
music and cheering. At the border posts, a huge reception was waiting for us,
with speeches, music, flowers and flag-waving customs officers.
“There were also many, many Palestinians from the Syrian refugee camps,
whose welcome was overwhelming. They told us we were heroes, angels, and
thanked us over and over again for helping Gaza. We could only tell them that
it was our duty, our obligation, and an honour to do what we can to fight the
occupation — what else can you say when you experience such hospitality
from people who’ve been exiled from their homeland for more than 60
years? It was a humbling experience. ...
“One 12-year-old girl said to me: ‘I’d like to come with you
to my country, to see my land, but I’m not allowed. Thank you for going.
It gives us the strength to carry on.’”
In Jordan too, the convoy was officially welcomed by the government and warmly
welcomed by the people. But when they reached the Red Sea port of Aqaba,
Jordan, whence they had planned to take a ferry to Egypt’s Sinai
Peninsula and drive to Gaza, the Mubarak regime told them they could only enter
Egypt through the Mediterranean port of Al-Arish. This forced the
convoy’s return to Syria, from whence a Turkish ship conveyed the
vehicles to Egypt while the majority of volunteers followed by plane.
The Egyptian regime’s open subservience to the Israeli state —
which has twice invaded Egypt and murdered thousands of Egyptians, including
schoolchildren and prisoners of war, and executed hundreds of Egyptian
prisoners in cold blood — shocked even veteran political activists. It is
in stark contrast to the attitude of ordinary Egyptians, who at every
opportunity have expressed sympathy with the VP convoys.
When the first 167 VP participants landed at Al-Arish, Egyptian authorities
seized their passports and told them the rest of the convoy would not be
allowed in. After a sit-in at the airport, Egyptian authorities backed down
temporarily, but the next day told the convoy leaders that 43 of the vehicles
and their contents would have to pass through Israeli-controlled territory.
When Viva Palestina leaders tried to negotiate that demand, pointing out the
aid would be unlikely to reach Gaza, the Mubarak regime sent in police to try
and seize the trucks. Plainclothes cops hurled rocks at the volunteers while
uniformed police attacked with clubs, gas and water cannons. The activists
stood up to the assault however, even capturing one of the assailants, and a
standoff ensued. Viva Palestina agreed to the Egyptian regime’s demand in
return for the release of convoy members arrested by Egyptian authorities. The
supplies the Egyptians did not allow in will be sent to Turkey and distributed
there to people in need.
The violence against Viva Palestina came only a week after Mubarak’s
police attacked the 1,400-strong Gaza Freedom March and prevented it from
bringing aid to Gaza. The regime took a very different attitude toward Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who received a warm welcome in Cairo on the
anniversary of Israel’s assault on Gaza. In the 1970s Netanyahu was
involved in terrorist operations in Egypt as part of the Zionist special
operations unit Sayeret Matkal.
Viva Palestina’s third entry into Gaza was a people’s victory in
spite of the force arrayed against it. It not only brought in much-needed aid,
but it posed a powerful political challenge to the blockade. Said Ovenden:
“We launched Viva Palestina with a strategic outlook that we could crack
open the siege by fusing aid, a savvy understanding of the political context
and campaigning. We think this effort is working and can contribute to the
growing international movement in solidarity with the Palestinian
While solidarity with the besieged Palestinians of Gaza is growing, so is their
peril. With U.S. funds and help from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the
Mubarak regime is building an 80-foot-deep wall along Gaza’s southern
border to block the tunnels that are Gaza’s primary lifeline. And there
is growing evidence Israel is preparing another full-scale assault on Gaza.
The lengths to which the forces of oppression are going to crush the people of
Gaza make it incumbent on the people’s movement to redouble efforts to
break the blockade. The Viva Palestina movement appears determined to rise to
the call. Upon his return to London, George Galloway told the media:
“I’ve been banned from returning to Egypt, but that doesn’t
mean I’m not going back to Gaza. There’s more than one way into
Videos and first-hand accounts of the convoy may be found at
Cecil participated in the second Viva Palestina caravan in July.
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