Wednesday, 4 March 2009


The route that we should have taken but we cut the corner from the two black spots at the bottom to the black spot on the right. The red spots are where we should have met people, so we've missed most of them
The Desert


The Desert

A Pharoah that I found in a Libyan Kitchen

Crowds in Tripoli

In the park in Tripoli on last Sunday I was interviewed by Al Jazeera. People have been coming up to me since and being very complimentary about it. I spoke, as I always do, about the insignificance of our aid compared to the task in hand, and the real cause of our mission being to get the gates of Gaza open, but this isn't the part that people are speaking of. There was an exhibition of schoolchildren's paintings, some magnificently framed, and I had been given one of these which I pledged to bring back to the UK to auction and use the money to aid Gaza. I said that this was a way in which the children of Libya could directly help the children of Gaza. This seems to have caught the imagination of many people, and I hope that I can do the same trick in Gaza, where the Al Jazeera clip will also have been seen. This is a way for the children of Gaza to help themselves. I have already been in contact with a couple of people in Gaza, a long time ago, to see if anything can be organised, but I haven't been able to follow anything through for days because we can't find any Internet connection - I'm feeling very frustrated.
The war is in the media as much as it is on the ground. How is it that Israel can commit such vile acts of murder and have people dare to write to the press complaining about their hardships on their subsidised farms and villages in Israel, when they have stolen the land in the first place and they have killed everyone who gets in their way to keep this stolen land. None of Israel or the land it occupies has any legitimacy. Even the land purchased by the very earliest settlers in the 1870s, about the same time as the cowboys were wiping out the Indians in America, cannot be secure inside Israel without a Peace Agreement, because every Treaty or Declaration about the State of Israel solemnly swears that the original Inhabitants must be granted equal rights and securely protected. Israel is therefore in breach of ALL its obligations in International Law, and, of course, it does not recognise International Law, and has not signed up to any of the International agreements that regulate good behaviour between states. It is truly a pariah state, and the only state except the USA to threaten another with Nuclear attack. Sharon did this to Iran, and in the last month, Avigdor Lieberman, the guy who makes even the Fascist Netanyahu look moderate, said that Gazans must be got rid of, if they will not flee into Egypt, he said they should have a nuclear bomb dropped on them. Why is he not in Jail? Because his support in the country is widespread, that's why, and unlike when I was there in the 1970s, most of the population now seem like unadulterated racists. We should stop appeasing them, and tell them to their face: Palestinians have equal rights and should have equal opportunities to Israelis. Anyone who disagrees with this, cannot be accepted in 'polite' society, or any society.
Let's be clear about this. Israel is not afraid to lie and lie again to make a point in the media, usually with banal simplicities: "We only kill militants, those civilians who die were being used as Human shields". In fact Hamas claimed they only lost 68 fighters, and hospital reports tend to support this. The Israelis count "Hamas Policemen" among the number of 'Militants' killed. But Policemen are not combatants in a war, they are civilians. And they are not 'Hamas' Policemen, any more than British Policemen are New Labour Policemen.
Why am I so het up about this today? Because several people have reported to me that photos of convoyers holding guns given to them by soldiers have appeared on the Internet purporting to show that the convoy is being used for terrorist training. I took such a picture myself, and it is posted in this blog, but I don't believe in guns as a solution, and I didn't want to hold one myself. Some guy made a bee-line for me in Constantine, Algeria, however, and put one in my hands, or tried to. When I refused to take it he got quite upset and there was a row. He could not explain why he wanted me to hold the gun, and not himself, and I shrugged it off and forgot about it. But of course there is an MI5 agent on the convoy, and probably someone from Mossad, too. Was it that guy - I don't know him, so have no idea why he so desperately wanted it to be me - or was he goaded by others. It doesn't matter. What matters is that Israelis will not let the matter of the truth get in their way when it comes to the media. They will not wait for the opposition to fail, or to look silly, they are constantly working to make it happen. Lies, all lies. People who read this blog must be vigorous, please, in writing to the press. It really is war, and no reference to even small things, like "Jerusalem is the capital of Israel" should be allowed to pass unchallenged. (They say this every Eurovision Song Contest, for instance.)
As a result of incidents like this, there has been developing a Paranoid element in the camp. People are from a disparate and unequal background, with some elderly people, some I would describe as joy-riders, some serious religious elements, some middle class Guardian Readers (yes Sarah Gillespie, there are some), some sorted folk, and some who are working through personal issues or have a chip on their shoulder. In this environment, and as people become more familiar with the rhythm of the convoy, and its 'hurry up and wait' ethos, so boredom and devilment have set in. Overtaking, and rash and dangerous driving, which I mentioned earlier in the blog have continued to grow. A van - said to be hired!! - has overturned without casualties, but is a write off. Several minor accidents and angry incidents have taken place. Scapegoats have been sought for the media reports, and I have been obliquely threatened, while the official film crew have been explicitly threatened, and Press Tv were attacked when they tried to film the overturned Van. After shooting seventeen films, I can no longer get the co-operation of many whom have been previously filmed by me, and I may abandon the documentary. Nevertheless, I filmed a fight early last night, and a heated dispute, within a matter of minutes.
Last night we spent in the desert. we shouldn't have been there, since we were scheduled to take the Coast Road around by Benghazi, but at last the organisers got the Libyans to agree to their plan. The plan was to drive right through the desert, to Tobruk, and then go through the Egyptian border today. But as night fell, the man they call the Sheikh, head of the Chamber of Commerce and nothing to do with the convoy really, decreed that we would stay in the desert, and sleep in our vans or under the stars, because "The road is dangerous at night. Camels cannot be seen and they will run across the road in front of you, and if you crash into one it will be very serious." This turned out to be a Very Good Thing.
The convoy also has a sheikh - at least one - but this Brummie has become the most respected figure on the convoy. The Muslims have asked him before to be their Emir, or representative, and he has previously refused, but now he has accepted. He made a long speech which was impassioned and coherent. A message that you could feel the younger group, especially, had been waiting for. I'll spare you the quotes from the Quran, but if I simply give you the bald outcomes, the effect of the words on the assembly of almost all the convoy sat on the side of the road; in the cloudless night, soldiers at a nearby checkpoint stopping lorries which ground down and up their gears as they crawled between our close packed vans; the words floating over the chilly evening breeze, without a murmur of disinterest; if I simply give the outcome, the effect will be lost.
The outcome was this: there will be no more overtaking or reckless driving, do you all agree? YEEEESSSS.
There will be courtesy between all, whether Muslim or non muslim, do you agree? YEEESSS
There will be no more intimidation, do you agree? YEESS.
Really the effect had long been wanted. Reassurances were given that despite the undoubted presence of MI5, and others on the Convoy, there would be no paranoid aggression. Everyone was relieved and went to bed, literally happy. The next morning, TEAM 11 - us - were given the honour of leading the convoy for the first time, and we pulled away with only one attempt to push in (stopped by the police immediately), and absolutely no overtaking all morning. Believe me, that is truly remarkable, and we have turned a corner. Even Kevin was caught smiling today, and he has spoken to me almost with civility. It is doubly tragic that as we halted for the day, we assembled to give our condolences to the family of a Libyan Journalist killed in a crash on her way to join us for the push to Gaza. The Convoy has been dedicated to her; nice one Kevin.
Tonight I am in the internet cafe in Tobruk, 100kms from our camp. We've been driven here under Police escort, by the Libyan Sheikh. He is buying my pals dinner while I finish uploading. Video doesn't work, upload speeds are not high enough there isn't time, I'm stressed, but tomorrow, tomorrow, we cross into Egypt, and the gates of Hell will soon be before us, and we will be a united and disciplined convoy, and we WILL get into Gaza. On of our young Drivers, Arif, is flying out to Cairo on the 5th, to re-join us for the last push. Looking forward to it Arif. This convoy has finally become a nice place to be.
The whole group 11 was also interviewed by a small Libyan funded Egyptian Station. It was a long running interview in which several people spoke. Kieran, team leader, said that he thought that a disparate group of people had welded into a team, I made the point about the need to force open the gates wide, and liberate the people, Shocut from the Oxford Ambulances, said that we were a United Nations of dark and light skins, Moslems, Christians, Atheists, and if we count the Mossad agent, Jew as well. We ended the interview by chanting "We are going to Gaza and we're not going home 'til the gates are open wide." You better believe it folks.

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