What Next, Viva Palestina?

By Stuart Littlewood – London

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’.

Blaming 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 is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. For further information please visit www.radiofreepalestine.co.uk. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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