Sunday, 29 March 2009

Lets all campaign to get the Rafah crossing open

All of us can sign this petition to the EU
Viva Palestina have announced that they will have a campaign to get the borders of Gaza opened. Well good, but people should know that they are not the only game in town. From large and small groups and even individuals, people have been fighting this battle for a long, long time.
PSC is the daddy, or I should say Mummy, perhaps, since it's been so ably led by Betty Hunter for, well, one or two years.

War on Want, and most other aid organisations have been fighting...

All the Human Rights organisations, from Amnesty forward, not to mention the International Court at the Hague.

The international Red Cross and Red Crescent:

Not sure if this building is part of the Red Crescent Building next door, but you can see the remains of three destroyed ambulances if you look carefully: Can you see them yet?

Governments, too, claim that they are upholding Human Rights as enshrined in developing International law, but, often, they are simply lying, or in the case of the British Government, reading only the sections that they wish. So we need all these campaigners, and more and more.

Then there is the ISM - The International Solidarity Movement founded by a very Young Law Graduate who happened to be Palestinian in Israel when the second Intifada broke out. Non Violent Direct Action. Sitting with Palestinians as they are held up at checkpoints, occupying various Palestinian Buildings to act as Human Shields against the Israeli Occupying Forces in the West Bank, organising demonstrations at the cost, sometimes, of their lives, and now in Gaza going out with the Fishermen to try and shield them from being killed by Israeli patrol boats which I have photographed just off the end of the Pier, let alone 20 miles out, as agreed by the Oslo Accords. Two days ago two farmers were shot dead by the Israelis because they were harvesting their fields, and their fields are inside the 1 kilometre exclusion zone that Israel enforces - INSIDE Gaza. Now Gaza is only 6 kilometres wide at its narrowest point, and 10 at its widest. That's a lot of land that the Israelis are sterilising.

FreeGaza, another new organisation in which Huwaida, the ISM founder is involved. This organisation has been bringing in supplies by boat, breaking the siege by sea. Their last trip was halted by some Israeli patrol boats, and the trip before ended with the boat getting deliberately rammed, and almost sinking, but the first second and third trips drove down the price of petrol, so much psychological impact did it have on this starved economy, even though the boats carried no oil.

It's interesting how many of these organisations are run, in the majority, by Women. All of them, in fact, except Battling George Galloway's Viva Palestina. All of them working towards opening the border, when a bunch of macho guys in motors drives up and takes over. Or tries to. I was on the Convoy, and George is almost God in Gaza. I listened to a Palestinian telling me, even though he knew I had arrived on the convoy, how difficult the journey had been, and how so many people had died on the trip. "NO-one died on the journey, I said, except a Libyan Journalist who had not actually joined us yet, who was killed in a crash" "Are you sure?", he said. "George Galloway IS a moslem" said another, "why would he come otherwise?"

Well, that's a polarisation that Al Queada would like, but I don't. And its a sad fact of human nature that most Gazans think of Galloway, who arrived at Gaza by Plane, as taking enormous risks, but will not know the names of those who accompany the farmers and the Fishermen at the risk of their lives.

Congratulations on the convoy, George, but remember, most of the hard work is done elsewhere. These organisations could not be further from the punch drunk chaos that was the convoy, disorganised, and excessively hierarchical, with a remote and unapproachable leadership . Is it the influence of women that makes these hard, hard working organisations so very effective and respected at what they do? Huwaida once said to me that there is no difference between starting up the ISM and being a Prom Queen. (Well, she was brought up in Detroit, at that time easily the Murder Capital of the World) You win by powers of attraction, not force and fear. And that is the message that we need to convey, both to bullying nations, and to bullying organisations. So Israel cannot impose its will on the Palestinians, it must give up compulsion, and all the stolen land, too. Only when the Palestinians feel that they want to live with the deal on the table can there be peace, because only then will Israel get the opportunity to live without paranoia. In Gaza the people here generally support or accept Hamas, which has made the strip safe, and neutralised the Mafia families left over from the corrupt last years of Arafat, but political debate has been lively every where I've been, in formal meetings and on street corners, with most people not afraid to put their views on camera. The way you do things, the way that you run an organisation, is part of your politics. I commend the freedom (I know that it's compromised) inside Gaza, but the way that the Palestinians are treated like animals in a zoo - poked through the fence by the Israelis - is simply racist. It is beyond unacceptable.

Those in power who know nothing about the horrors of Palestinian life are the greatest supporters of Israel, so if we are to gain change for Gaza, we must tell them the truth, especially the politicians, but it is an uphill battle, to say the least. This is a Gordon Brown Quote from a Labour Friends of Israel Lunch in 2007: "I think it's a measure of the bonds of friendship between Israel and Britain and between the Labour Party and the Jewish community that we have here today with us fellow members of the Cabinet, Valerie Amos, Hazel Blears and Pat Hewitt; we have 20 Ministers, almost 70 Members of Parliament and I should add 40 members from the House of Lords as well." israel is supported by virtually the entire Tory Party as well.

If the Uk is not fertile ground then we must move to the EU, which alone could gather the strength to challenge the US, and I want to feature one organisation about to try to do that here:

The Peace Cycle, founded by Laura Abraham, and now run by a non hierarchical collective, which is nevertheless fixated on organisational excellence, as FreeGaza is, come to think of it, does what it says on the tin. They Peace Cycle has cycled from London to jerusalem three times, and tomorrow, sets out to Cycle to Brussels where it has an invitation to address the parliament on Tuesday. I shoiuld be in that delegation, but I am now myself also a victim of the siege of gaza, and cannot attend.

Part of their presentation was an exhibition of Children's paintings sent by me, but they cannot be sent, because there is no postal service to or from Gaza. Couriers such as DHL and Aramex operate, but they operate through Israel, by law. So my pictures have be taken by road to the Erez crossing into Israel, and there they are censored, and destroyed at the whim of the censor. If passed they go to the Israel office of the courier where they join the other non-censored Israel mail.

I asked Aramex to send the parcel, and they said that it could be done, but the pictures must not be 'Political'. Some of the pictures are on the blog: judge for yourself whether Israel would have allowed them. So I asked DHL, and I said that they had to be in Brussels for a speech in the EU parliament against Israel, on Monday. They didn't reply to my email, but said when I chased them a day later that they could send the pictures, but that they couldn't be sent before Sunday because the Erez crossing was not open until then. That would mean, after their trip to the censor's office, that they could not be guaranteed to be delivered on Monday, but a special arrangement could be done which would cost $700. The price was anyway $300, and if I wanted confirmed Monday morning delivery, it would be $3000. Now this conversation was on Thursday, and Erez was open on Friday, because an acquaintance passed through it. So its a scam, and probably the only way that a courier can make money in Palestine, I'd assume.

So that's my thought for the day: There is no justification in making people live in a dictatorship for a philosophy that espouses freedom.

This is the English Class of the Tomooh Foundation, an NGO that educates Gifted Children, after school, on a voluntary basis. They have just begun a socio-psychological group for disturbed children, but these girls clearly have the poise and dignity that I'm talking about. I'm going with the management to a UNRWA school that was completely destroyed, and now shares a building with another school, to take the Art Project forward, Hopefully.

That applies to organisations as well as states and philosophies; we must live, even under oppression, with the dignity that we require of freedom, and we should not give up that dignity on the pretext that we are somehow required to do it to protect the Nation, or make a convoy run quicker (You do that by having someone who can organise, George). I think that by and large the Gazans keep that dignity magnificently, and when they have freedom, many will look back to this time as a golden age of unity in society - yes, really. But they still deserve the chance to lose their dignity of their own free choice in a free society, like the rest of us. (And they still need therapy for the shock of the war)

But this adversity also mothers inventiveness, so if the borders are closed, dig tunnels under them. If there's no petrol, bring out the old Donkey Carts, they're here in numbers, and let's start trying to build with the local clay bricks and with lime mortar, because we can't get cement. Not yet, but it's coming.

And so for me, without any possibility of officially getting my pictures to Brussels, lets see if I can anyway, and lets all laugh at the impossibility, in the end, of Israel actually sealing the border permanently. Then all write to President Abbas' West Bank Palestine Authority pointing out how much tax they are losing on items smuggled through the tunnels, which are now large enough to take 50inch Plasma TVs, and Motorbikes, and so might soon be big enough for the my Van, the 'Pea". and Egypt, what value of exports are you losing by the restrictions on trade? So, why don't you just open the Rafah Crossing, and Mr Obama, tell Egypt that it's OK, they won't lose $2billion in US aid if they do.

And all of us can sign this petition to the EU to end Israel's preferential trade agreements, so they'll be the only losers, instead of the only winners - wouldn't that be great?

1 comment:

Viva Palestina said...

Good post Rod but I don't think it is George's fault that intitiatives such the peace cycle did not get any publicity. Rather it was because George Galloway was an MP that he got to meet ministers of North African countries and the coverage that it did get. Yes because George has his programmes on Talk Soprt and Press TV that we heard more about Viva Palestina. Yvonne Ridley also helped with the coverage.

I think we are all working for the same objective that is to help Palestine.

We can try and get publicity for the peace cycle and other organistaions that you have mentioned. We need to contact Press Tv and other sympathetic media outlets to cover the different intiatives.

I believe as a result of posting on other sites, the Viva Palestina have urged their visitors to help get your Van and paintings out through Rafah.

George did not organise the Viva Palestina convoy, he was merely the leader and took the initial intiative. He helped to negotiate with the officials of the different countries but it was the hard work of people like you, the thousands who raised the funds, the thousand who donated etc. the staff at Viva Palestina, the web admins for gazaconvoy etc. that have made it possible.

Now as a result of Canada banning George the aid convoy and Palestine is being mentioned in the news. That is a good thing.

The Irish/French containers have been ceased by Egypt and not being allowed into Gaza.

I have the link below, please do post it on your blog and I will ask Viva Palestina, PSC, The Peace Cycle and others to high light it.

Syria, Egypt, Algeria, Saudi sent many aid vehicles within days of the attack on gaza but the Egyptian authorities did not allow them to get into Gaza. But this never made news.

Irish aid for Gaza seized in Egypt

Egyptian police have prevented four Irish containers with humanitarian aid from being delivered to Gaza. The Department of Foreign Affairs has said it is “actively engaged with the Egyptian authorities” to try and resolve the situation.

The four containers are part of a consignment of aid from Ireland, Britain and France which has been held up at the Egyptian port of Alexandria. The containers were filled by the Galway Palestine Children’s Appeal and the Cork Palestine Children’s Authority almost two months ago, following a public appeal

We need to work together and have better communication and exchange of information and ideas between the different organisations.

Let us see if we can enlarge the photo of the paintings and get some kind of display for Brussels. I don' t know if I will have enough time. Are you able to send a higher resolution so that we can print a decent A4 of the photos of the paintings?

Good work Rod, stay safe.