Safe Journey, Viva Palestina

By Stuart Littlewood – London

The great Viva Palestina convoy is on its way. It left London on Sunday, with the media doing their best not to notice despite photo opportunities and a press event laid on in front of the Houses of Parliament.

The hundred or so vehicles, carrying humanitarian aid, are expected to arrive in Gaza on 27 December – the anniversary of the launch of Israel’s murderous blitzkrieg.

I asked the organizers if they provided a Gaza postbag for delivering seasonal greetings from supporters and well-wishers. Nobody trusts ordinary mail that has to pass through Israel. The answer seemed to be ‘no’ so perhaps the idea was too much of a burden on an already complex operation.

If there had been a postbag I’d have been tempted to pen a letter to Mr. Haniyeh, whom the media call the ‘de facto’ prime minister of Gaza. ‘De facto’ is taken to mean not officially recognized. However, everyone outside Whitehall and the White House acknowledges that Hamas’s Mr. Haniyeh is the genuine, democratically-elected, legitimate article. My message to him would probably have said something like this:

Dear Mr Haniyeh,

Aasalaamu Aleikum. Many of us here in the UK do our best to persuade political and religious leaders to extend the hand of friendship and dialogue to the people of Gaza and their elected government.

Unfortunately we are governed by people of doubtful judgement and with links to the Israel lobby. Nevertheless, do please invite the likes of Blair, Brown, Cameron and Miliband to Gaza to see for themselves what has happened to the people, the land, the business and the culture once entrusted to the British government under mandate to prepare for independence and flourish.

And when you do, please inform me and others who are interested so that these opportunities for the West to learn the truth can publicized. 

Also, would your press office kindly keep Gaza’s supporters in the West fully informed of diplomatic efforts by creating a distribution list for news releases?

May I also ask when Hamas intend to issue a revised Charter? Many feel this is a necessary and urgent step if Gazans are to benefit from the admiration and goodwill recently earned and advance their bid for freedom. 

I and many friends are unable to join the Viva Palestina convoy, but please accept our good wishes for the New Year to the brave people of the Gaza Strip and sincere hopes that 2010 will bring justice nearer for them and indeed all Palestinians, Muslim and Christian.

Hamas means Islamic Resistance Movement. They do what it says on the label: resist the Israeli occupation with any means available. The US State Department has declared Hamas a terrorist organization on the grounds that "various Hamas elements have used both violent and political means, including terrorism, to pursue the goal of establishing an Islamic Palestinian state in Israel".

Why, you may well ask, isn’t the US administration equally bothered about the extreme violence used by Israel to establish a Jewish-only state on lands belonging to the Palestinians? Does the State Department actually know where Israel’s official border ends and Palestine’s begins?

Britain on the other hand has outlawed Hamas because “Hamas aims to end Israeli occupation in Palestine and establish an Islamic state”.

Does that make Hamas our enemy? Do they pose a threat to British interests? No – unlike Israel which thinks nothing of shooting-to-kill British photographers, endangering British lives by ramming and trying to sink their unarmed boats on the high seas, obstructing British volunteers taking aid to starving and sick children, bombing infrastructure paid for by British taxpayers and infiltrating all levels of our government with lobby-fodder to bend foreign policy in their favour… like ensuring we “proscribe” Hamas.

The atrocities committed by Israel have turned the Gazans and their Hamas leaders into world-class heroes. It’s hard to know where you and I stand legally if we were to have dealings with “terrorist” Hamas. If I did decide to write in friendly terms to Mr. Haniyeh, or if the convoy delivered chocolate (a substance banned from entering Gaza by Israel) for the PM’s children, would we be arrested, accused of bringing comfort to the enemy, clapped in irons, flogged and ‘rendered’ to foreign torturers?

This morning I read a Jerusalem Post report that the Israeli government operates a policy of not letting senior political figures, such as foreign ministers, enter the Gaza Strip from Israel. One reason is to deny Hamas the legitimacy that would come of such visits. Another of course is to hide the appalling situation Israel has created there. The wonder is that other nations meekly go along with this ban.

The convoy will avoid Israel altogether by taking a long detour south through Jordan, and across to Egypt, before heading north to enter Gaza through Rafah. Foreign ministers should do the same.

Safe journey, guys!

– Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. He contributed this article to Visit:

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