Dé Sathairn, Nollaig 26, 2009

Viva Palestina Convoy Halted – Six Palestinians Killed


The convoy of international aid destined for the besieged people of the Gaza Strip in occupied Palestine was, on Thursday evening [December 24], prevented by the Egyptian government from entering the country.

The Irish contingent left Dublin on December 4 and had travelled through England, France, Belgium, Luxemburg, Germany, Austria, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria and Jordan before being refused entry by Egyptian authorities.

Around 250 vehicles from across Europe and the United States, with groups from Malaysia and South Africa among others, are now trapped in Aqaba, Jordan.

In every country, the Viva Palestina convoy had been warmly welcomed by international solidarity activists and members of local Palestinian communities.

The only incident before now occurred in Austria, where several crews were stopped by police and their drivers fined for the vehicles being overweight. Suffice to say, those drivers were proud of that particular run-in with the law.

There had been some concern over the attitude the government of Egypt would take to the convoy. The Rafah crossing is the only means of entering Gaza not under direct Israeli control, but the border gate has been locked down by the Egyptian government for over two years.

Though the two previous convoys had succeeded in travelling through Rafah, given Egypt’s good relations with US imperialism and the zionist settler state it was known that they had come under extra pressure to prevent this aid convoy from reaching its destination.

The Egyptian government has placed several conditions on the Viva Palestina convoy if it wishes to enter. It has declared that the convoy may not enter Egypt through the port at Nuweiba, the nearest town to the convoy’s location, but instead must get a ferry past Nuweiba, travelling down the entire east coastline then back up the west coast through the Suez Canal and on to the northern port of El Arish. This route will add another 500 miles to the convoy’s journey.

The Egyptian government has also said that the Viva Palestina convoy must not donate the vehicles and hundreds of tonnes of aid it has gathered directly to the people of Gaza, but that it must hand over everything to the UNRWA.

The government has also demanded that the convoy must ask the permission of Israel to enter Gaza via Egypt. This demand by a supposedly independent government has caused disgust among the hundreds of people participating in the convoy, and outrage throughout the Arab world. Needless to say, these conditions have been rejected outright.

People are being asked to contact their Egyptian embassy to express their outrage at Egypt’s refusal to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza and for their subservience to Israeli interests. In Dublin, the Egyptian embassy can be contacted by phone at 0(0353) 1 6606718 and 0(0353) 1 6606566 or emailed at consular@embegyptireland.ie

As this stalemate drags on, the Israeli government has recalled its envoys from all over the world for a conference on “the global challenges facing Israel”. The conference will take place December 27-31 and will see ambassadors discuss such grave threats as the UN’s Goldstone report regarding the assault on Gaza one year ago.

In recent days, Israeli military forces have also got back to business as usual, shooting dead six Palestinians in two separate incidents in the West Bank and Gaza.

Israeli authorities have also delivered eviction orders to a dozen Palestinian families near the West Bank city of Jenin. The crime perpetrated by these families is that they had not received planning permission for their dwellings, which are all but impossible for Palestinians to obtain from the Israeli government. The homes will now be demolished.

The people who have spent the last three weeks on the road as part of the Viva Palestina convoy are determined to enter the beleaguered Gaza Strip. They are determined that the aid and vehicles they have spent months fundraising for will reach the people of Gaza.

It falls to people around the world to continue the push for a boycott of and sanctions against the apartheid Israeli state. The Palestinian people must see that the world has not forgotten their plight. Viva Palestina has been a shining light in this cause.

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