What Next, Viva Palestina?

Mere words cannot express my admiration for Viva Palestina and those who devote their efforts to it. I love the way they shamed – and not for the first time – the great powers and their gutless leaders.

And for his pains the British MP George Galloway has been declared ‘persona non grata’ in Egypt. How heartbreaking for him.

Given past disagreements, and the stubborn refusal of this latest convoy to be derailed, it was never going to end in hugs and kisses from President Mubarak’s henchmen, or fond messages of “Come ye back soon, George.”

What really matters is that they delivered the life-saving goods when the armies and navies of the so-called Free World wouldn’t even think about it. And they did it with style in the face of Egypt’s tantrums.

The nervous Egyptian authorities allowed exhausted convoy members only 30 hours inside Gaza to say hello, distribute their aid and take a rest. Sad and wobbly regimes simply cannot handle a few hundred humanitarians so they accuse them of “incitement” and “hostile acts”, and throw them out.

Now we hear grumbles from some activists that criticising Egypt diverts attention from the real culprit. But Israel’s evil machinations would find little success without the Egyptian government’s co-operation. There should of course be free movement of goods and people through the Gaza/Egypt border. Instead, Mubarak signed up to the US-Israel-EU conspiracy to keep the 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip bottled up and helpless to resist what many are calling a slow genocide. In so doing, Egypt joined the worst offenders against international law, the UN Charter and the codes of decent conduct. It is time the spotlight fell on Cairo even if it means momentarily taking it off Tel Aviv and Washington.

Mubarak has slithered even further into the Middle East swamp of iniquity by constructing an iron Death Wall designed to create a hermetic border seal and inflict even more misery on his Muslim bothers and sisters, and the Christian community.

The Egyptian president is certainly not part of any solution. He has become a problem.

As for Mr Galloway, when can we expect to see him receive an official pat on the back for doing what the British government’s poseurs were too cowardly to do: bringing humanitarian aid to trampled people Britain still has a residual responsibility for?

Mr Galloway speaks of more convoys setting out for Gaza from Venezuela, Malaysia and South Africa. But Egypt has just announced that convoys, regardless of their origin, are no longer welcome. Instead, it is introducing a new “mechanism” whereby all aid for Gaza must in future be handed over to the Egyptian Red Crescent as soon as it arrives at the port of El-Arish. It will then be processed and passed on (if you can believe that) to the Palestinian Red Crescent.

Nobody trusts the Egyptian authorities to do this in an honest and transparent way. Besides, donors and fund-raisers often have direct links with charitable organisations inside Gaza and the West Bank. They would not wish to see the fruits of their labour and other people’s generosity disappear into some distribution ‘black hole’.

Britain still blames Hamas for Gaza’s suffering

And what says the British government, which never seems able to get anything right these days?

The Foreign Office’s “clear advice” is against all travel to Gaza. Why, when they should be facilitating travel to Gaza and applying sanctions against anyone who hinders it?

“The suffering of Gazan people is compounded by the violent and irresponsible actions of Hamas,” says the Foreign Office. “We are concerned by the recent upsurge in incidents of Hamas confiscating aid and obstructing the efforts of international aid organisations in Gaza.” We keep hearing these accusations but never proof. Gaza is on a war footing, under crippling blockade and in continual crisis. Hamas, the de facto government, runs the health service and is almost certainly best placed to know where medical supplies are needed most. Obviously they’ll step in when aid arrives.

Viva Palestina are at least as well informed about the situation in Gaza as the Foreign Office. Would convoy activists really go to so much trouble if Hamas was seizing everything they delivered?

Britain, while eagerly offering the services of the Royal Navy to help Israel stop “smuggling” into Gaza, won’t use its ships to spare the Gazans a slow death from starvation and prevent a public health catastrophe.

It is time our servants Brown and Miliband explained, carefully and logically, exactly what their problem is with Gaza and its democratically elected rulers so that the rest of us can try to understand – if indeed there is anything beneath the layers of pro-Israel ‘crapaganda’ worth understanding.

Go by sea

Events now seem to be prodding Viva Palestina to change tack. Perhaps it Is too simplistic to suppose that Gaza needs to be sea-fed like any other coastal community. But should humanitarian relief teams continue to seek access by land crossings that are controlled by militarised thugs bent on destroying Gaza’s population and halting any convoy in its tracks?

Deal direct. Surely that must be the aim. And do it in the name of God. A large armada of boats led by a multi-faith alliance demanding freedom of the seas and the right to an armed escort, could be the best vehicle. The United Nations should provide the necessary security arrangements to check the cargoes as they are landed in Gaza.

It would require considerable courage. Whether religious leaders have the balls for it is doubtful, even when the highest moral purpose is being served, but they might surprise us. A sprinkling of politicians could be relied on but the higher echelons know which side their bread is buttered.

Israel, Egypt, the US and the UK might wish to airbrush Mr Galloway out of the picture, but that’s unthinkable. He’ll be nominated for the next Nobel Peace Prize and seen as a million times more deserving than the fraud in the White House.

Yes, the REAL international community – that’s ordinary folk like you and me and Viva Palestina and everyone and his dog around the globe – are finally beginning to assert themselves against the corrupt power freaks that strut the world stage.

Stuart Littlewood, after working on jet fighters in the RAF, became an industrial marketeer in oil, electronics and manufacturing, and with innovation and product development consultancies. He also served as a Cambridgeshire county councillor and a member of the Police Authority. He is an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society and has produced two photo-documentary books including Radio Free Palestine (with foreword by Jeff Halper). Now retired, he campaigns on various issues, especially the Palestinians' struggle for freedom. Read other articles by Stuart, or visit Stuart's website.

5 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on January 12th, 2010 at 10:26am #

    Fascist do not support all fascists. US likes uzbek, pakistani, tajic, jordanian, colombian, israeli, georgian, et al fascists, but not some of the pashtuni, gazan fascists.
    One thing is certain: all socialist-more democratic lands wld be feared-hated for an eternity! And left turn from dumbsville to sharpsville, uncle wld never allow, if he cld help it.
    That is the sole reason he has and commands 5ook cia/fbi agents; maintains 777 bases; its ships cruise oceans; aggresses, invades, occupies lands.
    And he is just begining; expect at least 50 more land hijacks; oops, war on terror.
    And china waits and awaits the worst! tnx

  2. Ismail Zayid said on January 12th, 2010 at 2:56pm #

    Stuart Littlewood hits the nail on the head. Mubarak, in his submission to to Israeli and US orders, is clearly a major part in the conspiracy to humiliate the Palestinian people and deny them their right of self determination and the basic elements of human existence.

    In contrast to Mubarak, stands George Galloway who is willing to make the effort and sustain the pain and toil to offer the humanitarian assistance for the besieged people of Gaza. He deserves the praise and honour, in defiance of Brown and his government who are playing the same Mubarak role.

  3. catherine said on January 12th, 2010 at 2:58pm #

    Yes, I’m waiting for the British Parliament to strongly condemn the treatment by Egypt of one of their own. I’m sure it will be announced very shortly. Very, very . . . . . shortly. Maybe even by dinnertime. . . . .

    Viva the Palestinians and all who traveled to the gates of Gaza.

  4. Maryb said on January 13th, 2010 at 3:57am #

    Woody – the author of that pathetic attempt to smear George Galloway has about as much humanity and bravery within him as George’s little finger.


    Tinpot tyrant ain’t seen nothing yet
    By George Galloway on Jan 11, Daily Record Article

    I have been in a few dangerous places in my life. In the mid 80s along with an ITN news crew I was bombed by the Ethiopian air force.

    My face pressing into the dirt, with no cover around, I saw the shrapnel tear and kill small children and watched others die on a wooden table in a grass hut after they bombers had gone.

    I have been bombed by Israel in Beirut and held with an Israeli machine gun at my chest in Nablus during the first Iraq war.

    Involuntarily, I put my hands up and the blue-eyed blonde “Israeli” said that if I didn’t put my hands down he would kill me.

    I’ve never, however, been in a more dangerous situation than last week in the tiny Sinai port of Al Arish to which the Egyptian dictatorship had insisted we bring our convoy.

    Five hundred foreigners from 17 different nationalities with 200 vehicles were crammed into a compound without water, food or toilet facilities. They included 10 Turkish MPs one of whom was the chairman of Turkey’s foreign relations committee.

    We captured on film from a third floor office the thugs of the Mukhabarat (Intelligence) piling stones and sharpening their sticks behind the backs of several ranks of riot police with helmets, batons and shields. Then mayhem.

    We may have complaints about our police, but I tell you, when you see policemen hurling half-bricks into a crowd of women and men who’d come to deliver medicine to desperate people under siege, you thank your lucky stars we don’t live in such a state. Fifty five of our 500 were wounded and, but for the shocking effect on Arab public opinion (our own media didn’t give a damn) of the live footage (all on Youtube now), we might still be there yet.

    Next day, the dictatorship wanted us on our way. We refused to leave without our wounded comrades and the seven of our number who had been taken prisoner. After another stand-off our demands were met and we proceeded to a tumultuous welcome in Gaza our numbers complete. Word came to me from inside the Egyptian tyranny that I was to be arrested when we came out. Had that happened while I was surrounded by 500 pumped up convoy members there would have been serious trouble.

    So I sent them the message that I would come out in the dead of the night before and face the music alone but for my old friend Scots journalist Ron McKay. McKay is a thriller writer these days but what happened next would have taxed even his imagination.

    We emerged into the hands of a grim phalanx of mainly plain clothed secret policemen, none of whom could speak English. They tried to keep our passports but we refused to budge without them – even though there was menace in the air, or perhaps because of it.

    They bundled us into an unmarked van which they refused to let us climb out of, at one stage man-handling us. An Egyptian gumshoe journalist from the Daily News tried to interview us but he was battered away.

    We were driven off at speed. I knew we were not going to be killed as we were able to make the necessary calls – well at least the call to the Press Association which makes all the difference in these situations.

    We made the formal call to the British Foreign Office but it wasn’t worth the money. During the five-hour journey to Cairo the British diplomats did nothing but tell us to co-operate. That co-operation was difficult as the police could speak no English and were saying nothing.

    Word came from London that Nile News, a mouthpiece of the dictatorship, were reporting in the morning the seven convoy prisoners we had released at al Arish were to be re-arrested on emerging from Gaza.

    Thus the bloodbath we sought to avoid now looked inevitable. We demanded to return to the Gaza-Egypt border but were refused. At Cairo airport we refused to enter the terminal and tried to hail a taxi to take us back.

    Security forces goons pushed us physically into the airport building and gave close quarter attention to both of us, even in the toilet. They followed us everywhere and when McKay took a picture there was nearly a serious incident. They ushered us up to the entrance of the BA plane and the first English speaker of the night stepped forward to declare me persona non grata in Egypt.

    I made my own declaration to him which was that he and his fellow torturers would one day face the wrath of the Egyptian people, who had queued up at the airport in full view of the goons, to shake hands with us. Later, his department stated I had been banned from Egypt because I was “a trouble-maker”. Mr Tinpot tyrant 99.99 of the vote Mubarak, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

  5. Maryb said on January 13th, 2010 at 5:40am #

    Another pathetic attempt. Details of his expenses which are quite legitimate are in the public domain (total for latest published 2007/8 was £136,390 which made him 456th out of 645 MPs so nothing exceptional there).

    The piece you copy and paste without a link is probably from the same kind of source that he sued and won for defamation. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4717886.stm

    Better watch out – he sues for libel (and wins) quite often! And you are off the point as usual.