Posts Tagged ‘Viva Palestina convoy’

Mubarak’s Iron Wall

January 17, 2010
Jeremy Salt, The Palestine Chronicle, Jan. 17, 2010
Mubarak is a rented president for the US and Israel, not for his own people.

Early in the 20th century the Zionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky wrote of the ‘iron wall’ that would have to be built between the settlers and the indigenous people of Palestine, whom he knew would resist the attempt to take their land to the end. What he meant by an ‘iron wall’ was the force the Zionists would have to use to subdue the Palestinians if they were to take their land. He did not actually mean a wall according to the dictionary definition of such a structure but that is what has now been built across the West Bank to pen the Palestinians up like the wild animals the Israeli historian Benny Morris says they are.

Indeed, the Palestinians have been ghettoised by a variety of walls and ‘fences’. There is the monstrous ‘separation ‘ wall weaving in and out of the rapidly disappearing ‘green line’ separating Palestinian land which had been occupied before the 1967 war from that which was occupied during it. The Gazans live in what has been described as the world’s largest open air prison. It could also be likened to a game reserve. Every season is open season and no weapon is banned. The Gazans are enclosed by the sea on one side, patrolled by the Israeli navy so that that fishing boats cannot get out and relief boats cannot get in. They face an Israeli fence on two other sides and a  concrete barrier on the border with Egypt. This is now being reinforced  by Husni Mubarak’s ‘iron wall’ of steel plates driven deep underground, destroying the tunnels through which Gazans have been supplied with desperately needed  food, fuel and medicine.

Choked since the beginning of the blockade in 2006, the Gazans are now to be throttled by international decree. This is the crime being committed by Israel, the US and Egypt, with the ‘international community’ lining up behind them with expressions of understanding of the need for the Gazans to be punished. Their torment is one of the great scandals of our age. They have been locked up in the strip for the past sixty years. They have been massacred and bombarded from the beginning.

People forget if they ever knew that the majority of Gazans are not native to this part of Palestine. They were driven there by Zionist militias in 1948. The attacks on civilians ordered by David Ben-Gurion in the 1950s and the massacres organised by Ariel Sharon in the 1970s lie buried under the weight of more murderous attacks. In the last two decades the Gazans (and Palestinians elsewhere) have been subjected to ‘targeted assassinations’ (i.e. premeditated murder by a state) and the destruction by land, sea and air of schools, apartment blocks and government buildings. The killing of children reached its apogee (or should we assume worse is yet to come?) during the onslaught of December 2009-January 2010 when more than 400 were killed, blown to bits in artillery and air assaults and shot dead by snipers.  These children had to die so Ehud Olmert could prove he was a tough guy. They had to die because the blockade imposed in 2006 after the election of the Hamas government had not brought the Palestinians to their knees.

The ‘international community’ does not mean you or me. It means Gordon Brown, Nicholas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel, Silvio Berlusconi, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and numerous other politicians lining up to defend Israel no matter what it does. They could understand why Israel had to attack Gaza in 2008. It was all those tunnels and all those rocket attacks that were the source of the problem and not 60 years of occupation. They could understand why Israel had to attack Lebanon in 2006, killing about the same number of people as they killed in Gaza three years later, although one or two of the fainthearted may have murmured ‘disproportionate’ as the newspapers published photographs of the bodies of children being lifted out of destroyed buildings. They are so understanding of Israel that Gordon Brown is promising to protect Israeli government ministers and military commanders from war crimes prosecution by changing the law. They are so understanding of Israel that the US Congress is going to close down Arab media outlets Israel does not like. They are so understanding of Israel that they can perfectly understand why it might have to launch air attacks on active nuclear installations in Iran. They are so understanding of Israel that they think the Goldstone report on Israeli war crimes (including the bombing of UN buildings and Gaza’s main hospital) and crimes against humanity in Gaza is unbalanced and unfair.

They don’t understand why the Gazans are firing home-made missiles into Israel in response to massacres, targeted assassination and the destruction of infrastructure including sewage and water works. They are appalled. ‘Violence is not the way’. They say it all the time. The phrase rolls off Tony Blair’s tongue like softened honey. Violence is not the way unless it is Israeli violence, or their own violence, delivered daily in Iraq and Afghanistan, with Yemen coming up as a new target in their ‘war on terrorism’. This violence does not appeal them all.  Of course they are shocked by the war dead, but the war dead are their soldiers who have been killed and not the vast number of civilians killed by the war machine of which these soldiers are part. The ‘deaths’ of hundreds of thousands of civilians in these countries in the last two decades is merely tragic or unfortunate. The torture of others, or their removal to third world countries so they can be tortured there is something they simply don’t talk about.

Now we have Mubarak’s steel wall. The ‘international community’ understands why it has to be built. Israel is facing an existential threat from these tunnels.  If the Gazans behave, if they hand back their captured Israeli soldier, if they accept Israel’s ‘right’ to exist on their stolen land,  if they accept that they have no right to go back to it, if they accept whatever demand Israeli makes,  if they accept that Israel has the right to attack and they have no right to defend themselves, with the paltry weapons they have, then of course the blockade will be lifted and they can have a bit more food and medicine depending on how they behave themselves.  Along with the steel wall shutting off the Palestinians is another wall Israel is going to build with Egypt’s consent along the Auja pocket, formerly a demilitarized zone seized by Israel decades ago.

Mubarak is not Egypt. The will of the country is not represented in his parliament and his government. He is a rented president, a president for the US and Israel, not for his own people. He is as much an extension of the US government as the company known as Blackwater until the murder of civilians by its contractors in Iraq caused such a scandal that it had to change its name. Mubarak is a contractor. He helps to run the Middle East for the US.  Egypt is his responsibility and those who would get in his way, Muslim activist or secular liberal, he crushes.

Were fair elections to be held in Egypt, Mubarak and his National Democratic Party would be finished. On the question of Palestine, whatever their other differences, there is no difference between the Muslim Brotherhood and the secular opposition parties and movements. Outside the ranks of Mubarak’s party there is no support for the actions he has taken, including his recent prevention of the Viva  Palestina convoy from delivering aid to Gaza.  The Egyptian people are with the Palestinians and amongst them there is a deep sense of shame at what Mubarak is doing. This is the country of the revolution of 1952, the staunch defender of the Palestinians, of the Third World struggle against imperialism and colonialism, turned into a humiliating dish rag by the west’s satrap in the presidential palace in Cairo.

– Jeremy Salt is associate professor in Middle Eastern History and Politics at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey. Previously, he taught at Bosporus University in Istanbul and the University of Melbourne in the Departments of Middle Eastern Studies and Political Science. Professor Salt has written many articles on Middle East issues, particularly Palestine, and was a journalist for The Age newspaper when he lived in Melbourne. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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Israel and Egypt continue to Squeeze the Lifeblood out of the People of Gaza

January 17, 2010

Israeli Airstrikes and Tank Shelling and Egyptian Underground Walls and Maritime Blockade

by Ann Wright, CommonDreams.org, January 17, 2010

Two weeks ago, almost 2,000 internationals came to Egypt and Gaza in a massive show of civil society support for the people of Gaza.  1,362 persons representing 44 countries in the Gaza Freedom March and over 500 persons with the Viva Palestina Convoy let the people of Gaza know of their concern for the tragic consequences of the actions of their governments in support of the Israeli and Egyptian blockade.

Yet, two weeks later, with the apparent approval of governments (United States, European Community and Canada) who support the quarantine, blockade and siege of Gaza, Israel and Egypt have tightened the squeeze to wring the lifeblood out of the people of Gaza.

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Galloway: A double betrayal

January 16, 2010
Morning Star Online,  January 15, 2010
George Galloway

I have been in a few dangerous places in my life. In the mid-1980s, I was bombed along with an ITN news crew by the Ethiopian air force.

With my face pressing into the dirt and no cover at all around me, I saw the shrapnel tear and kill small children, and watched others die on a wooden table in a grass hut after the bombers had gone.

I have been bombed by Israel in Beirut and held with an Israeli machine gun at my chest in Nablus during the first Iraq war.

I’ve never however been in a more dangerous situation than two weeks ago in the tiny Sinai port of Al-Arish to which the Egyptian dictatorship had insisted we bring the Viva Palestina convoy. Five hundred foreigners from 17 different nationalities with their 200 vehicles were crammed into a locked compound without water, food or toilet facilities.

They included no less than 10 Turkish MPs, one of whom was the chairman of Turkey’s foreign relations committee, there at the express wish of Turkey’s prime minister.

We captured on film from a third floor office the thugs of the Mukhabarat (intelligence) piling up stones and sharpening their sticks behind the backs of several ranks of riot police with helmets, batons and shields.

Then there was mayhem. We may have complaints about our own police, but I tell you when you see policemen hurling half-bricks into a crowd of women and men who’d only come to deliver medicine to desperate people under siege, you thank your lucky stars we don’t live in such a state. Fifty-five of our 500 were wounded and, but for the shocking effect on Arab public opinion – our own media didn’t give a damn – of the live footage (all on Youtube now), we might still be there now.

The morning after our siege was over and the dictatorship wanted us on our way. We refused to leave without our wounded comrades and the seven who had been taken prisoner. After another stand-off, our demands were met and we proceeded to a tumultuous welcome in Gaza, our numbers complete.

Then the word came to me from inside the Egyptian tyranny that I was to be arrested when we came out. Had that happened while I was surrounded by 500 pumped-up convoy members there would have been serious trouble, and I mean trouble.

So I sent them the message that I would come out in the dead of the night before and face the music alone but for my old friend Scots journalist Ron McKay.

We emerged into the hands of a grim phalanx of mainly plainclothed secret policemen, none of whom could speak English, who bundled us into an unmarked van.

An Egyptian gumshoe journalist from the Daily News tried to interview us but was battered away. We were then driven off at speed.

I knew we were not going to be killed as we were able to call the Press Association, which makes all the difference in these situations.

We also made the formal call to the British Foreign Office, but it wasn’t worth the money. During the five-hour car journey to Cairo – in which a British MP of 23 years standing and a senior British journalist were hurtling, surrounded by three other vehicles and at least 25 security men – the British diplomats did nothing but tell us to co-operate.

But co-operation was difficult as our captors could speak no English and were saying nothing.

Britain used to run much of the world but now our diplomatic service couldn’t run a menage.

The chinless wonders of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office – whose shameful silence in the run-up to the Iraq war is seeping out at the Chilcot Inquiry – are just about the last people with whom one would go tiger shooting.

They are very good at lying for their country’s rulers abroad, but incapable of doing much else – such as helping travellers who are in trouble, especially if they’re largely British Muslims who’ve just broken the siege of Gaza and incurred the wrath of the tin-pot dictatorship in Cairo as a result.

News came to us from London that Nile News, a mouthpiece of the dictatorship, was reporting that the seven convoy prisoners who had been released at Al-Arish were to be re-arrested on emerging from Gaza. Thus the bloodbath we had sought to avoid now looked inevitable.

We demanded to turn around and return to the Gaza-Egypt border but were refused. Security-force goons pushed us physically into the airport building and gave close quarter attention to both of us, even in the toilet.

The British embassy, having provided zero support for the hundreds of British citizens with Viva Palestina caught up in the battle of Al-Arish, now failed to send even an inky-fingered clerk to the Gaza border when the convoy was coming out and there were legitimate fears that there would be further arrests and another bloody battle.

I would complain to their boss, Foreign Secretary David Miliband, but what’s the point?

He met the Egyptian foreign minister the day before my arrest and deportation and gave the Egyptians the green light to go ahead.

And anyway, he’s busy sheathing his banana after yet another failed assassination attempt on Gordon Brown

The security goons finally ushered us up to the entrance of the BA plane and the first English speaker of the night stepped forward to declare me persona non grata in Egypt. I had been banned from Egypt apparently because I was “a trouble-maker.”

I made my own declaration to him which was that he and his fellow torturers would one day face the wrath of the Egyptian people, who incidentally had queued up at the airport in full view of the goons to shake hands with us. Mr Mubarak, a tin-pot tyrant who gets 99.99 per cent of the vote in elections, ain’t seen nothing yet.

George Galloway is Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow.

Egypt deports MP George Galloway

January 8, 2010

By Tim Moynihan, Press Association, The Independent/UK, Jan 8, 2010

Plainclothes Egyptian police officers bundled george Galloway on to a plane bound for London
Getty Images

Plainclothes Egyptian police officers bundled George Galloway on to a plane bound for London

George Galloway was deported from Cairo today despite wanting to return to Gaza to help members of a humanitarian convoy who have reportedly been arrested, a spokeswoman for the convoy said.

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Terror is the price of support for despots and dictators

January 7, 2010

Egypt’s complicity in the Gaza’s siege underlines the role of western support for such regimes in the spread of war

Seumas Milne, The Guardian/UK, Jan 7, 2010

An an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor had gone on hunger strike in support of a besieged people in another part of the world, and hundreds of mostly western protesters had been stoned and beaten by police, you can be sure we’d have heard all about it. But because that is what’s been happening in western-backed Egypt, rather than Iran, and the people the protesters are supporting are the Palestinians of Gaza instead of, say, Tibetans, most people in Europe and north America know nothing about it.

For the last fortnight, two groups of hundreds of activists have been battling with Egyptian police and officials to cross into the Gaza Strip to show solidarity with the blockaded population on the first anniversary of Israel’s devastating onslaught. Last night, George Galloway’s Viva Palestina 500-strong convoy of medical aid was finally allowed in, minus 50 of its 200 vehicles, after being repeatedly blocked, diverted and intimidated by Egyptian security – including a violent assault in the Egyptian port of El Arish on Tuesday night which left dozens injured, despite the participation of one British and 10 Turkish MPs.

That followed an attempted “Gaza freedom march” by 1,400 protesters from more than 40 countries, only 84 of whom were allowed across the border – which is what led Hedy Epstein, both of whose parents died in Auschwitz, to refuse food in Cairo, as the group’s demonstrations were violently broken up and Israel’s prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu was feted nearby. Yesterday, demonstrations by Palestinians on the Gazan side of the border against the harassment of the aid convoy led to violent clashes with Egyptian security forces in which an Egyptian soldier was killed and many Palestinians injured.

But although the confrontation has been largely ignored in the west, it has been a major media event in the Middle East which has only damaged Egypt. And while the Egyptian government claims it is simply upholding its national sovereignty, the saga has instead starkly exposed its complicity in the US- and European-backed blockade of Gaza and the collective punishment of its one and a half million people.

The main protagonist of the siege, Israel, controls only three sides of the Strip. Without Egypt, which polices the fourth, it would be ineffective. But, having tolerated the tunnels that have saved Gazans from utter beggary, the Cairo regime is now building a deep underground steel wall – known as the “wall of shame” to many Egyptians – under close US supervision, to make the blockade complete.

That’s partly because the ageing Egyptian dictator, Hosni Mubarak, fears cross-border contamination from Gaza’s elected Hamas administration, whose ideological allies in the banned Muslim Brotherhood would be likely to win free elections in Egypt.

But two other factors seem to have been decisive in convincing Cairo to bend to American and Israeli pressure and close the vice on Gaza’s Palestinians, along with those who support them. The first was a US threat to cut hundreds of millions of dollars of aid unless it cracked down on arms and other smuggling. The second is the need for US acquiescence in the widely expected hereditary succession of Mubarak’s ex-banker son, Gamal, to the presidency. So, far from protecting its sovereignty, the Egyptian government has sold it for continued foreign subsidy and despotic dynastic rule, sacrificing any pretence to its historic role of Arab leadership in the process.

From the wider international perspective, it is precisely this western embrace of repressive and unrepresentative regimes such as Egypt’s, along with unwavering backing for Israel’s occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land, that is at the heart of the crisis in the Middle East and Muslim world.

Decades of oil-hungry backing for despots, from Iran to Oman, Egypt to Saudi Arabia, along with the failure of Arab nationalism to complete the decolonisation of the region, fuelled first the rise of Islamism and then the eruption of al-Qaida-style terror more than a decade ago. But, far from addressing the natural hostility to foreign control of the area and its resources at the centre of the conflict, the disastrous US-led response was to expand the western presence still further, with new and yet more destructive invasions and occupations, in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. And the Bush administration’s brief flirtation with democratisation in client states such as Egypt was quickly abandoned once it became clear who was likely to be elected.

The poisonous logic of this imperial quagmire is now leading inexorably to the spread of war under Barack Obama. Following the failed bomb attack of a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day, the US president this week announced two new fronts in the war on terror, faithfully echoed by Gordon Brown: Yemen, where the would-be bomber was allegedly trained; and Somalia, where al-Qaida has also put down roots in the swamp of chronic civil war and social disintegration.

Greater western military intervention in both countries will certainly make the problem worse. In Somalia, it has already done so, after the US-backed Ethiopian invasion of 2006 overthrew the relatively pragmatic Islamic Courts Union and spawned the more extreme, al-Qaida-linked Shabab movement, now in control of large parts of the country. Increased US backing for the unpopular Yemeni government, already facing armed rebellion in the north and the threat of secession from the restive south – which only finally succeeded in forcing out British colonial rule in 1967 – is bound to throw petrol on the flames.

The British prime minister tried this week to claim that the growth of al-Qaida in Yemen and Somalia showed western strategy was “working”, because the escalation of the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan had forced it to look for sanctuaries elsewhere. In reality, it is a measure of the grotesque failure of the entire war on terror. Since its launch in October 2001, al-Qaida has spread from the mountains of Afghanistan across the region, to Iraq, Pakistan, the horn of Africa, and far beyond.

Instead of scaling down the western support for dictatorship and occupation that fuels al-Qaida-style terror, and concentrating resources on police action to counter it, the US and its allies have been drawn inexorably into repeating and extending the monstrosities that sparked it in the first place. It’s the recipe for a war on terror without end.

Egypt, Middle East’s master pimp

December 28, 2009

By Yvonne Ridley, Information Clearing House, Dec 26, 2009

The activities of the rent boys who parade up and down Al-Shawarby Street in Cairo provide a good metaphor for the relationship the Egyptian Government has with Israel and the US.

Both are quite shameless and ruthless; prepared to do whatever it takes to please … in order to secure a fistful of dollars.

But at least the man whores of Al Shawarby are honest about their trade as they eagerly hustle potential customers.

Yes, they are shameless but so is the Egyptian Government as it continues to enforce the brutal siege in Gaza for Israel’s pleasure and America’s dollars.

Galloway: Delivering a message to Obama

July 19, 2009
Morning Star Online, Friday 17 July 2009

George Galloway

I have just returned from Gaza with the Viva Palestina US Lifeline 2 convoy. Our aim was partly about delivering aid, but it was also partly about delivering a message. Having raised the funds for the convoy and gathered the volunteers, we set off on US Independence Day, July 4, from John F Kennedy airport in New York to Cairo, where we purchased desperately needed vehicles and medical supplies to drive down to the Egypt-Palestine border.

We then ran into a series of bureaucratic obstacles from the Egyptian authorities, but the convoy members showed incredible resilience and patience. After a considerable amount of delicate negotiation, we finally received the go-ahead.

The convoy was supported by Vietnam war veteran Ron Kovic, whose life story formed the basis for Oliver Stone’s Born On The Fourth Of July, along with many others.

And accompanying me through the Rafah crossing on Wednesday were presidential candidate and former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and New York council member Charles Barron, alongside over 200 other US citizens.

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