Saturday, 7 March 2009

Arrival at Gaza

Rod says the convoy has been very tightly controlled whilst traveling through Egypt and he has not been able to get to an internet station but has asked me to let everyone know that the convoy will be going through to Gaza tomorrow (Sunday) at 12 noon Egyptian time (2 hours ahead of GMT).

They are stopping at El Arish tonight and crossing tomorrow at Rafah. The Egyptian government have said they will be allowed straight through.

Let us see how much publicity is given to so momentous an event by the British mainstream press.

Pauline Thompson

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.

Advancing into Libya

Richard warming up in Mizrata, a decent seaside resort in Libya. According to convoy organisers, we left 2 hours ago, but a nice Libyan man predicted that we would not leave till 3pm. We actually left at 1510.

A Fundamental Change:
Just as I finished writing yesterday's piece, Munir in the driver's seat, said "There will be no more F words in this vehicle, and I replied that I would speak as I liked, so he got out and moved to another vehicle, in what was a pre-planned move. We had some fun on the trip, laughing about Mohammed's view that if you are reading or listening to the Koran at the time of your death, you will go straight to Paradise. "One of the Companions asked - 'Doesn't your intention matter?' - but the prophet replied 'no'". Munir said, as we were driving along listening to a tape of the Quran recited to the whoops and cheers of an obviously large crowd, 'So you're in luck, if we crash now, even as an infidel you'll be saved' Good Luck Munir. He brought little luggage, and no aid, his ambition in Palestine, as in the UK, is to preach Islam, and that was -and is - the journey purpose for him.
The issue of intention in Islam, however, does matter. A senior figure on the convoy preached a sermon in which he encouraged his congregation to remember that courtesy - respect for other people - must be behind all actions, or they have no or little value. I taped the sermon in a mosque that we stayed in a few days ago, after consulting the Imam, of course. The Mosque was warm and comfortable and welcomes any stranger in this way, but the cold water washing still leaves much to be desired in my opinion. Now I've left my washing kit behind in the last hotel, however, cold water with soap is better than cold water without.
My new co-driver is Richard - he snores. He warned me about this before coming across, and he is gently ZZZing behind me as I write this in the van at about 2pm in Tripoli. As usual, we have been ordered to be ready to move, but I'll write a whole piece before there is any action. Richard was the Group's spare driver, which sounds efficient, but was just an accident, but being spare, he liked the possibility of driving the Pea regularly, and I like his sardonic humour, so that's done then. He helped out whilst I had flu, and that's how we met.
Through him, I've broadened my social circle, meeting the Oxford Ambulance crew, Masroud and Shocut. They have been driving all day yesterday without any brakes - yes literally!!! Driving steadily and using gears to slow and hand brake to stop. They informed the Police escort provided specially for them in Tunisia, and in Libya, but shifts would change in front of them, with no communication, and the driving here demands sudden braking regularly. Once they had to over take their stopped police car on the inside verge, going through a police checkpoint in the process, triggering a rush to chase them before they eventually rolled to a stop. Mechanics have repaired the brakes to three wheels, but the fourth requires major surgery. they are continuing a considerable distance away from us! Two days later I can write that they have found a small workshop where the owner fabricated the parts that they need and fixed them properly. Needless to say, he would not take any money.
The fire engine from Manchester, crewed by the laconic Richard who bought the engine; the enormous Kamal, a Palestinian Australian who is not afraid to mix it, and Mumtiaz, a characterful bearded man of about seven stone. When they got a sudden ingress of another Convoy vehicle against their mirror, Kamal exploded out of the cab and took matters into his own hands. I saw that incident, but with the recklessness of driving increasing both in the world around, and in the convoy, I can't believe that it will be the only one. Two days later i have many reports of such overtaking incidents, including one against the vehicle that travels behind us, again damaging the wing mirror. Some of the younger men are getting fueled on Adrenaline as the convoy approaches the end of the line, but as the driver of the Blackburn van said: 'there is no point in the tail of the snake overtaking the head, no part moves forward any faster.'
The Pea has also been a casualty, overfilled with Oil by Munir, who didn't realise that you don't have to put all the bottle in. Soon after starting off it was making grinding, big end type noises and blowing black smoke, and we were pulled over by those travelling behind us. The oil was drained and changed by the Oxford crew within an hour. Everyone helped, and Kieran, team leader who claims to be pestered by me constantly (whereas I claim that I never see him) turned the tables on me by filming me talking about the problem. That was Algeria, and the Pea is now in Libya and is still running as beautifully as ever.
There are now several vehicles on low-loaders being transported towards Cairo. The number of odd-ball vehicles, like the small fishing boat, or the fire engine, that are travelling essentially outside the convoy, increases by one each time a vehicle gets put on a low loader or has to go off for repairs. We followed three ambulances, believing them to be the convoy, to a smart Mercedes garage, where we were obliged to wait for wait for the police to instruct us on how to re-join the convoy.
Two women and three men who went off in two cars to drive to Sfax for an oil filter, arrived late, booked a hotel, and were arrested by the secret police at 6am. They were not given a reason. The two women fought back, they told me in an interview, knocking over one man and elbowing another, and having eventually been restrained and put in an unmarked minibus they tried to hi-jack it at a petrol station. They were deported to Libya, and I met up with them at the border. They could think of no reason for their arrest, and knew nothing of the opposition Rally there that I had heard - but can't confirm - had been banned by the police, and which was scheduled for that night. It's fair to say that they had been off by themselves for a day or two before, but then it's also fair to say that they were following the printed route, going through the Algerian/Tunisian Border on our originally planned route. We (the convoy) saved time by cutting through the country's interior, crossing at Tebessa instead of near Annaba, but certainly I was only aware of that as we were rolling that day.
There have been many complaints at grassroots through the convoy that the host countries are keeping us away from the people, by refusing to let us drive through the big cities, but I have never been convinced. The convoy itself rebelled against going to Rabat, because of the excessive hours that it had had to drive through Europe. Subsequently, I believe that it is the organisers who are trying to short-cut the intentions of the hosts by insisting on avoiding Urban areas in the main.

Queueing for the Lunch we weren't supposed to have in Mizrata. The man looking at the camera is Mohammed, a Libyan Youth Organiser.

The same thing is now happening in Libya.. The Libyan organisers have agreed a programme which now has been repudiated by our organisers. I was told that today we would be going to Tripoli for a reception, but our team leader told us officially that we would be avoiding Tripoli and driving a long 500 kilometres today. I'm writing this in the van after the reception in Tripoli that we attended has ended. We are waiting for the team leader and others to return from the Souk, and we'll be gone. To another reception outside Tripoli, says my source, and at 3.36 it's getting late for 500 kilometres, since we've only done 50. Two days later, and the pattern has repeated itself. I met a charming man in Mizrata, a large, faded resort along the coast from Tripoli where we stayed in bungalows, who told me: "you will not leave at 10, you will have lunch here before you go, and you will not go as far as your organisers say. The guest is not a free man, he is the prisoner of the host. Even in the Koran, it is said to be better to give than to be the supplicant, and in Bedouin culture, from which Libyan culture - and all Arab culture - derives, if your host asks you to stay for dinner, you have no choice"
'There is a reason for the programme: Your trip has two purposes, the first is to get to Gaza and get the gates open, but the second is the political work along the way, and this is just as important, and it is why the programme is agreed as it is.
Despite several public statements by the organisers to the contrary, we left at 3pm, and next stopped for a snack at a large reservoir project, which the Libyans call the man made river, and I write this extra bit as Richard is driving - at midnight, to our final destination. Libyan Architecture is very eclectic, and Architects certainly don't suffer from fear of self expression. This cross between a marauding dragon and a tiger moth plane is in Tripoli
We're also driving in Libya. In Tripoli at least the driving is aggressive and dangerous, worse than I remember in Cairo, even. I'm writing this as we canter through weaving traffic at 60, but if we need a new clutch, it'll be all those hours of crawling along the Tripoli Motorways at 0mph, fighting for every inch of road - and that's with a police escort.
One of Gaddafi's Hundred Trucks - not to mention 2 Fire Engines and a flock of Ambulances

But one of the reasons for the programme times is that we have been joined by 100 articulated lorries, donated by the Government of Libya, and although we are not in convoy with them, we are building a relationship with them as we pass and re-pass them, and they travel at night. We have also had added directly to group 11 an ambulance and a fire-engine, both brand new. There is also a press coach which also carries various others who are travelling with us, and all in all, in volume, the Libyan effort knocks ours into a cocked hat. At 30 tonnes per lorry, it's 3000 tonnes of mainly flour. But then, as my Libyan friend and I both agree, it is not the amount of aid that matters, because however much we take we will need as much tomorrow, it is the sheer weight of public opinion represented by all those rolling wheels which will batter the gates open, nothing else, and it is the opening of the gates that is the only acceptable outcome for the children of Gaza

Police and the people - the Oscars

No Return! waiting at the Libyan Border

I thought that I'd consider which Country had done the most in various departments, such as heavy policing, strength of voice from the people, etc., etc. I thought about this because of the events of yesterday. In short, it seems that political dialogue between our convoy leaders - George Galloway since he's travelling with us at the moment - and the Tunisian Government, have broken down, leading to a charade of a day, which I'll tell you about shortly. Before doing that, though, I want to make clear that I have very little knowledge of the governments of North Africa, and cannot do the research since I don't get enough time on the Internet. That's why I thought that I'd have an Oscar award for the various categories of behaviour we've experienced here.
First Yesterday: It seems that we have arranged with the Libyans that we will enter Libya today, Saturday, at 8am, so George and co wanted us camped near the border in our vans ready to move as a sweetly trained flock of homing pigeons at the rising of the sun. They were afraid that if they accepted the Tunisian's offer of accommodation, they would not be able to get us out of bed in time. The question is, essentially, do we get accommodation because they're nice, or because they want to control us? That's not all. From Gabes, it is only about 100 kilometers to the border, but there is one large town on the way, 33k from the border, that the road went through without alternative. Friday being the day of the Major Muslim prayer, and 'holiday' (Muslim's don't actually get a day off in the Quran, I'm told by Munir - no wonder the Israelis wanted to employ Palestinians before the first Intifada) it was said that the Government didn't want us to stop in the town for those Friday prayers, in case the people got too excited(?!), but it was also said that they would try to get us through the town quickly so that they could push us over the border and out of the way.
At this point I probably need to tell you that there was - allegedly - an opposition rally organised in Sfax, a town not far from Gabes, at which we, or at least George was to be the guest of honour. A couple of people who went up to this event were arrested and have gone into Libya on their release 'for their own safety'. None of this is verified, and the leadership will not talk about anything, but there is no doubt that there is an anti- government agenda being disseminated in the convoy, which some say is the agenda of the Respect Party, and others that it is a Human Rights agenda, because the Government is so dictatorial. In the official Blog of the trip I saw a post in which someone described the Tunisian Police presence at the border as overwhelming and intimidating, and described onlookers as being all of a certain age and obviously bussed to wave at us. This is so far off my experience that I thought that I would award these Oscars, so here they are:
Most efficient Police (Most Forceful): Algeria
Most effective (and entertaining) motorcycle outriders: Algeria, by a distance. the shabbily dressed army outriders of Tunisia don't compare, and I can't remember the Moroccans. The Algerians performed like circus stars, and deserve an Oscar.
Least effective Secret Police: Tunisia. Well I saw many, whereas I didn't really notice them elsewhere, although I know they were there. The photo of the Fez, below, shows the local head man in that Moroccan town.
Most Demonstrative Crowds: Morocco, until the last night in Tunisia, and the first night in Algeria, which were wild. But only in Morocco did almost every individual give us a hearty wave even if we didn't wave first. In Algiers, even crowds sometimes seemed distant, reserved, detached. And in the high plains areas the people were much more likely to ignore us.
Most sincere crowds: You can't shout Allah Akbar at the top of your voice more than 100 times - we are about no.104 in the convoy - without being sincere and passionate. Dead Heat between all countries, when the crowds let rip, although the last night in Tunisia was the most fervent, but Morocco overall.
Most efficient Convoy Marshals: Algerian, when they bothered to. I got the feeling sometimes that they were playing with us, letting the convoy run pell mell along motorways, then reining it in and bringing it to a halt in order to change over at their lunch break. (I'm not joking) I would have given Tunisia joint billing, but if we were able to outmanoevre them so easily, they don't deserve it. However, when we set off from Gabes, we left the convoy to fill up with LPG when we saw a station. In seconds the bemused gas station owners and sightseers were overwhelmed with police, and much to the surprise of the owner, a car with a three star general or equivalent swept in to the gas station and said the government would pay. They then gave us a 2 police car escort and forced their way through he traffic tailing back behind the convoy, and I re-joined it in minutes. The Algerians however, forced groups of ten vehicles through crowded town centres at a reasonable pace, and without unduly alienating the public, something that the Tunisians couldn't manage.
From our border cold lands to Gabes the half day trip was uneventful. Vehicles were escorted to a football stadium - uncomfortable memory of Death camps in Chile when we see the fencing around the terraces and the heavy police presence - but of course the vehicles are secure, which they would not be in the town. I spent the afternoon shopping and received no attention, because I don't look like a Muslim, and this convoy now seems to be associated in Government's minds and the public's with a British Muslim project. When I changed money in the Post Office the heavily scarfed woman teller was quite surly about changing sterling. She called a supervisor and we saw them look on the internet for a picture of the note to ensure it was genuine. She was definitely irritated. But when someone mentioned Gaza to her, her manner changed, a warmth and speed entered into her proceedings. She did the same things, but willingly, and saw us off with a cheery greeting. Conservative po-faced bank tellers support the fight of the Palestinians eh! If you were a government, you must get a piece of this action, you must show the people that you are throwing your weight behind this problem, and not siding with the Americans (although you probably are).
However, if this is an Islamic Jihad, this convoy, then that might stir up an Islamic movement that is sleeping in every country, it now seems to me. But if that is not harnessed properly for the government, it might lead to its overthrow, as in Algeria. So it might be best to get the convoy through in the dead of night, film a few selected supporters cheering and show it on TV as a great government triumph? You'll have to make your own mind up.
Morocco is a Monarchy, which is traditional and seems to have genuine support, there seems no rift between the people and the Government, in general
Award for most friendly Police:Morocco - see the Fez. The guys posing there are Colonels and similar.
Algeria, and my research is my memory from some years back, was a once democratic state in which the Islamist Party won an election, but was denied power. There followed years of bloody civil war. The police are direct, friendly - see boy's toys - but were prepared to drive us round in circles when it suited them.
Most Ruthless Police: Algeria
In Tunisia our convoy yesterday crawled along at 5 mph. We stopped for 2 hours for midday prayers, then shortly after for Lunch, then shortly after for sunset prayers, and we still hadn't reached Ben Guerdone, the town we couldn't go round. On the outskirts we stopped for no reason, and a message filtered back that we had stopped simply because we couldn't push through the crowds. i walked forward, and indeed it was so. Everyone was high fiving, shouting thank you to us, or Allah Akbar. they gave us the two fingered salute, but also the single finger pointed to heaven - it also means God is Great - and the more of that there was, the more the government wouldn't like it, I fear. they gave us all this love, emotion, power, and biscuits, water, milk, sweets, bread, and I feel sure that some would readily have given their lives right there.No wonder the opposition conference harnessing the convoy to its cause was cancelled and the leaders arrested, but you'll have to do your own research to find out if these rumours are true.
While we were on one of our many stops, I filmed a man who approached me to use his English, but also to tell me of the distress that he feels that his 'brothers' in Palestine are being killed while the West supports Israel, especially, he complained, by the use of the American veto. "why do Americans hate us so much?" he said, in reversal of the usual complaint.
Several people gathered round, and I shook hands with each of them as they joined the group to be involved with this westerner. One man, a billy bunter type, fat and with a pushed in nose, joined us and there was a perceptible shuffle among the rest. I had just replied to the question 'how do I like Tunisia? with 'great, the police are a little strong, but I really like it'. I did it on purpose, I was trying to sow the seed of a conversation to feel the pulse. My Friend replied without hesitation, 'yes, they are strong, they keep tourists safe, you can be sure that you will have no problems in Tunisia'. I saw Billy Bunter later, working the crowds in Guerdone, so he really was Secret Service, even if he was young and very thick looking. ( That's shameful prejudice really, but it's what I see)
The police tried to keep us moving through the town, but it is a large town, and it took us more than three hours. Three hours! It was like a carnival, and an election all at once. The police drove their cars, in the suburbs anyway, along the dusty road edges where the crowds were standing, between the crowds and the convoy, to force the crowds back. Is this sensible crowd control, or evidence of a police state? I know some vehicles went out of their way to antagonise the police by stopping as often as possible - Respect Party Agenda by rumour - but we didn't and the crowds constantly surged forward. They chanted Allah Akbar, and shook hands endlessly. It took three and a half hours to drive through the town and we finished up in this car park at 2330 and went to sleep exhausted.
Least Effective Police: Tunisia, but I hope that the man I spoke to is not arrested, nor any other, though I hope that in the other countries too. They were simply more effective in policing us.
In life as in personal relationships, there is a balance between handing power to others and retaining autonomy for yourself, which some people think can be expressed in a democracy, perhaps. What is the level of crowd control that is acceptable? The police were really no worse than I have seen in Las vegas on New Years Eve - friendly if you don't question them, but totally ruthless in dispersing the crowds after midnight. better than the Tunisians in fact. Arrest and detention without trial cannot be acceptable, if that happens, and allowing popular movements free expression is essential to avoid a police state. But whilst i think that everyone must form their own opinion of all these three governments so far, I am very certain of this: the passion of evryone in these lands is clear, and the great sense of personal connection to the tragedies of Palestine is palpable. Until they can freely express, there cannot be satisfactory peace in their own countries, surely, and untill Israel is made to behave like a civilised country, they will never rest.