Sunday, 8 March 2009

Hamas contacts Galloway, urges Egypt to permit convoy entry

From the Palestine Information Center
Former PA minister MP Atef Odwan has telephoned British lawmaker MP George Galloway who leads the British life line convoy but stopped by the Egyptian authorities at Al-Arish city, not so far from Rafah crossing point.

According to Odwan, the humanitarian caravan wasn’t yet permitted to enter the besieged Gaza Strip, but he expressed hopes that Egypt would rethink its stand and pave the way for the smooth entry of the convoy. more

Clash between Viva Palestina activists and Egyptian police - two injured

The destruction of Rafah by Israel

Haaretz reports that frustrations have boiled over at the Al-Arish compound where the convoy is being held up by Egyptian state security. The Egyptians are insisting that the convoy must cross the border in 'co-ordination' with the Israelis.

Gaza Solidarity left this comment on Hossam's blog - the source of the 'Ass-kissing carnival' story - before these clashes occured. In fact Hossam and ourselves are members of the same international organisation - the International Socialist Tendency, see the links at the foot of this website.

Gaza Solidarity does not support the Guardian's attacks on the convoy but offered fraternal criticism of the 'negotiations' and receptions the convoy leaders held with regime figures. We recognise the integrity and commitment of the activists involved in the carnival and support their efforts.

It’s a shame that the convoy has been sucked into the orbit of Mubarak’s criminal regime but I guess being a good Catholic George G is able to compartmentalise these things.

So on the one hand he calls for the overthrow of Mubarak at demos in London but when it comes to getting the convoy through to Gaza he is willing to sup with the devil. It’s a bit like going to confession for Catholics - it’s not OK to sin but if you go to confessional and make your peace with god (or at least the priest) then everything will be alright.

The convoy was always going to face the problem of having to deal with corrupt states and whether to submit to their wishes, formally or informally, for the convoy not to ‘get involved in local politics’.

But as Ian says above, the convoy leaders could have thrown down the gauntlet and dared those regimes that wished to use the convoy for their own purposes of strengthening internal control, to block it from getting to Gaza.

Having said that we surely need to be careful to remember who the main enemy is. Galloway is on our side, Mubarak obviously is not. The central question is whether he has joined the other side by negotiating with the regime. I don’t think he has - but he has allowed himself and the convoy to be used. And now we hear the governor of Sinai says most of the convoy will have to enter Gaza through Israel, which suggests the supping with the devil wasn’t worth it.

The people quick to attack Galloway in the UK are the same crowd that attack the anti-war movement in general. We should consider why it was that the Guardian newspaper here in the UK chose to run with the story - they wanted to undermine Galloway and his solidarity initiative, but have not written about the convoy before then. The UK media continues with its media blackout of the convoy.

I was once in the same organisation as Galloway (Respect) but the other organisation I am a member of - the Socialist Workers Party -split from it for various reasons. Nevertheless it does not mean we have to adopt a sectarian and hostile attitude to everything he does.

Sure, like lots of politicians, he has a big ego and perhaps even gets a buzz from ‘negotiating’ with ambassadors and presidents etc but our criticisms should be fraternal.

For Egyptian activists and comrades with direct experience of Mubarak’s repression the sight of him in meetings with NDP apparatiks must be nauseating and explains the reluctance of opposition organisations to get involved, but Galloway’s love-in with Mubarak is likely only to last as long as it takes to cross the border. I bloody well hope so anyway.

To be honest my enthusiasm for the convoy has been dented, but I still salute the integrity and commitment of the volunteers and activists involved.

Al-Arabiya, blogging and fair usage in the internet age

We received a complaint today from the Al-Arabiya News Channel concerning the use of a picture and quotes from a report without attribution. Regular readers of this blog will know we are in the habit of attributing and linking back to all excerpts from news sources cited.

This was an oversight on our part and the credits have now been added to the post.
We also try to provide picture credits when these are known. Al-Arabiya do not provide the name of the photgrapher that takes their pictures(s)on the website but if they supply the name it will of course be added.

We are not in the business of trying to steal photographers' and journalists' work. We believe the practice of citing content on blogs is fair usage where it links back to the original content and this is now standard practice on the internet. Nevertheless the corporate media has been trying to assert total control over its content on the internet but has not been able to successfully win this position in any court of law.

However, it is fair to say that we have often omitted to post the byline of many reports that we have linked to and will, as far as possible, supply this information in future. Al-Arabiya doesn't give a credit for their pics in the report we cited but if they wish to forward it to Gaza Solidarity we will certainly post it.

As members of the National Union of Journalists in the UK and of the International Federation we are committed to safeguarding the intellectual property of journalists and photographers. Unfortunately the corporate media isn't, and usually insists on journalists and photographers handing over those rights to the company that owns the media in which their work appears. Hopefully the trade unions at Al-Arabiya and elsewhere are fighting to wrest these rights from their employer and to receive payment for the re-purposing of their work.

Viva Palestina convoy still being held in Sinai - probably no crossing into Gaza tonight

It now seems unlikely that the Viva Palestina convoy will be allowed to cross into Gaza today, according to my old comrade Clive Searle reporting on the Viva Palestina website.

The convoy organisers are indeed determined that the convoy stays together and are demanding that it be allowed to cross at Rafah, and not through the Israeli-controlled crossing. Earlier reports only referred to the Libyan contingent making this demand.

The convoy leaders, including George Galloway, are locked in talks with the Egyptian regime who seem to be intent on doing the bidding of the Israeli apartheid state.

The four members of the convoy deported from Egypt are flying back to the UK tonight.

Viva Palestina convoy split with non-medical aid to enter through Israel

Pic and quotes from

General Muhammed Shusha, governor of north Sinai, now says the convoy will be split in two with the medical aid going through Rafah and the rest of the convoy going through Awja at the border between Egypt and Israel, 43 miles south of Rafah. It seems GG's negotiations have failed to get all the convoy through Rafah as originally intended. Why is the Egyptian government dancing to Israel's tune. Have they threatened to bomb the convoy? It has long been suspected that Israel co-ordinates its air strikes with Egypt as tunnel operators on the Egyptian side have noticed that the police and other security people always seem to disappear just before a raid hits the area.
"We know the value of Galloway as a peace advocate and we welcome him as a known friend of the Arabs," Ali al Din al Hilal from the NDP

and George Galloway returned the compliment:

"The warm welcome of the people here and their concern for Palestine is overwhelming. Egypt has given so much for Palestine over the last 60 years. Many soldiers have died for Palestine and we acknowledge this commitment," Galloway said at the press conference.

For more go to Apologies for lack of link and credit to original story, bit of a rushed job. Al-Arabiya report by Marwa Awad in Rafah and Muhammed Eta in Cairo.

International Women's Day in Gaza - Women say no to war

Yesterday, on the eve of International Women's Day, the CodePink US women's group arrived in Gaza. They were joined by US African-American novelist Alice Walker.

Sandra Ruch, one of the sixty women that crossed into Gaza at Rafah is posting on her blog here
Today we arrived in Gaza. It is very hard to believe and it is very hard to describe how I am feeling. We left Al Arish this morning around 9a.m. and made the 40 minute drive to Rafah. This morning Medea and the group told us that at their meeting last night with the Red Crescent, they received greetings from the wife of President Mubarak and an assurance that we would be getting into Gaza today. This was really hard to imagine since so many have been waiting for days to get in and humanitarian aid is rotting at the border. It is obvious that the Egyptian government does not want the negative attention that would come from not letting our group in. Our group is full of journalists and activists that would be sure to get the message out that a humanitarian mission is being denied entrance into Gaza. It is hard enough to get a sheet of paper into Gaza and we got not only 59 people but a bus as well...more

Viva Palestina convoy can only go to Gaza 'with Israeli co-ordination' says Sinai governor

George Galloway, who arrived in Cairo on Saturday, was met by officials from Egyptian dictator Mubarak's NDP party.

According to the AFP news agency opposition groups have cancelled welcome receptions and meetings for the convoy.This information is in fact based on an old post from Hossam el-Hamalawy at

Galloway claims the convoy has indeed been working with opposition groups, but this seems unlikely as the convoy has been broken up by Egyptian police and prevented from meeting ordinary people as it travels across Egypt.

So, even if opposition groups did want to organise receptions for the convoy, which apparently they don't, it would have been prevented by the state security forces.

Hossam is in unrepentant mood about the convoy's unfortunate collaboration with the very same people that have been imprisoning and torturing Egyptian activists that have been raising solidarity with Gaza. His blog has this from a Lebanese socialist concerning a statement from Yvonne Ridley. We can only hope she is not speaking for other members of the convoy with the following patronising words: 
“Tonight, El Arich will experience something special when the people of this town will witness at first hand the arrival of the saviours of Gaza.”

This latest from Yvonne Ridley on the Viva Palestina blog…

“Saviours of Gaza”!

What the fuck?

Who are these arrogant people who declare themselves “saviours”.

I think the Yvonne Ridley quote is possibly from Press TV, the Iranian english-language TV service, as there is no such quote on the vivapalestina blog. She hasn't posted on it since 2 March. Press Tv this morning carries a report this morning from El-Arich, 40km from the Rafah crossing. Also features the four people from Manchester and Huddersfield who were deported from Egypt and prevented from taking their vehicles into Gaza. Windows Media Player required.

The governor of Sinai says the convoy will have to cross into gaza in co-ordination with Israel, but this doesn't seem to have applied to others that crossed into Gaza on Saturday: the Glasgow peace convoy and the US codepink4peace group.

Hamas reports that the Glasgow Peace Convoy has already crossed into Gaza at the Rafah crossing:
The British Justice for Gaza convoy was able to enter the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing on Saturday evening.

Adel Zurub, the information officer of the governmental anti-siege committee and the spokesman for the crossings and borders, said that the convoy which includes seven to nine medium-sized trucks loaded with medicines and medical equipment were allowed into the Palestinian Rafah city on its way to Gaza city, noting that the convoy includes 19 British activists.

Also the CodePink4Peace US Women for Peace organisation composed of sixty women, including award-winning US African-American novelist Alice Walker, also crossed into Gaza on the eve of International Women's Day, which is celebrated around the world today.

The Viva Palestina site says the Libyans who joined the convoy will refuse to go into Gaza through an Israeli-controlled crossing:
Press TV reports that leaders of the convoy including George Galloway and deputy leader Talat Ali and Nazir are in intense negotiations with the Egyptians. Reports coming to us suggest that they expect every vehicle to be allowed to cross today.

However, Yvonne Ridley reports on Press TV that there are rumours that there is an attempt to move some of the convoy to Israeli controlled crossings. Members of the convoy are united in their determination to cross at the Rafah border crossing. The Libyan contingent, which comprises 100 trucks, is adamant that under NO circumstances they will cross through an Israeli controlled crossing.

Not clear from the Viva Palestina report whether the rest of the convoy is taking the same stand.

British soldiers killed in Ireland - will the UK launch indiscriminate air strikes?

Two British soldiers were killed in the north of Ireland today by republicans. I wonder if the UK is now going to place an economic blockade around Derry, bomb and shell indiscriminately and refuse to talk to Sinn Fein, although its armed wing, the provisional Irish Republican Army, has been disbanded?

That's not to say that the UK has had an enlightened policy in its many years of occupation of the north - far from it. But it places the barbarity of the IDF's Gaza operation in context.

Resistance: the essence of the Islamist Revolution

Alastair Crooke held a press conference around his book, Resistance: The Essence of the Islamist Revolution, in London last week. Thanks Nasser for bringing this event to our attention.

Crooke was once a member of MI6, the UK's secret service agency focused on foreign 'enemies'. He was one of the main the links between the British government and Hezbollah for example.

The book begins with a discussion of Plato but if you can get beyond that, the book has much useful information and is a refreshing look at what motivates the Islamist movements in the Arab world in the context of the failure of secular organisations to achieve the liberation of Palestine and the bankruptcy of the secular Arab rulers - depressingly on display in the most important and populous Arab country, Egypt.

Yo might say that Crooke comes from the more thoughtful wing of the British ruling class.
You can buy the book through Amazon

Where the boycotts are biting hard

Stop the Wall has a lot more information on the boycott campaigns around the world in its 7 March Newsletter.

This month, there was widespread action across Europe supporting the BDS effort against Israeli produce. In the UK, a demonstration was held outside the main Carmel – Agrexco warehouse in Middlesex on the 2 February. The action was aimed at raising awareness about BDS as well as blocking the company’s daily shipment. More demonstrations against Carmel Agrexco were also held on 7 February, including another at the main warehouse.

In Wales, activists also targeted settlement produce, staging an action in front of a large Tesco supermarket and calling for a boycott of Israel. Several activists filled shopping carts with settlement produce before pushing the carts out of the store without paying. The items was then strewn on the ground in front of the supermarket and covered with fake blood. The group proceeded to speak about the situation in the West Bank and Gaza, handing out flyers to customers explaining the action and calling for BDS before being removed by the police.

In Denmark, BDS activists across Denmark held a day of action on 14 February, where they distributed information on reasons for boycott in front of supermarkets selling produce from firms like Carmel and Jaffa.

For UK actions, see news here, here and here. For Denmark, click here.

Ongoing Campaigns

Veolia campaign update
The activities of French transportation giants Veolia and Alstom in building on occupied Palestinian land clearly constitute misconduct sufficiently grave to warrant the exclusion of all its divisions from public contracts in Europe. It is difficult to imagine what misconduct could be more grave than the aiding, abetting, facilitation or exacerbation of war crimes and human rights violations. [MORE]

Church of England divests over £2.2 million from Caterpillar
The Church of England has clarified their position on their investments in companies profiting from and supporting the ongoing occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, clarifying that late last year they removed over £2.2 million from Caterpillar, a company whose bulldozers and heavy plant equipment are used to destroy the homes of Palestinians and construct the Wall. [MORE]

Consumer boycott of Max Brenner launched in Australia
Palestine solidarity activists in Sydney have launched a campaign targeting Max Brenner Chocolates, a 100% Israeli-owned company belonging to the Strauss Group, as part of the growing international boycott of Israel. [MORE]

Latest News

Israeli company NICE wins new contracts Brazil and South Africa
In Brazil, NICE SmartCenter has been selected by seven leading Brazilian telecommunications and contact center outsourcing companies. Each of these companies placed orders in the fourth quarter of 2008 for NICE SmartCenter for their contact centers, which handle millions of customer calls each month, to meet the requirements of the country’s new presidential decree. [MORE]

In South Africa, Transnet Port Terminals, the largest cargo terminal operator in South Africa, is expanding NICE’s IP video surveillance environment at Durban Car Terminal and Ngqura, for a total of five port terminals. The new project is part of a national security upgrade initiative designed to improve security at South Africa’s commercial ports and ensure compliance with the government’s Key Points and Strategic Installations regulations for the security of national critical infrastructure sites. [MORE]

Egyptian workers strike against exports to Israel
In an unprecedented action, the first following the destruction of Gaza, workers from the Egyptian Fertilizers Company in Suez protested on 7 February against the export of fertilizers to Israel. [MORE]

British cooperative to promote Palestinian goods over Israeli
The British retailers' cooperative sent a letter to the Carmel Winery distributor last week saying: Up to this day we have not taken any products containing significant parts manufactured in the occupied territories. From now on, we will also avoid marketing products with any part of their components purchased in the occupied territories.

Britain also plans to promote Palestinian goods. "We are opening commerce channels with Palestinian farmers in hopes of launching the first fair-trade Palestinian product later during the year," the letter said. [MORE]

modu wins first-ever $38.5 million contract in Philippines
Israeli mobile phone company modu announced an exclusive agreement with Lynk Communications to distribute modu phones and jackets in the Philippines, with agreements in several other countries in the region to be announced at a later date. An initial order of modu phones and modu jackets, valued in total at $38.5 million, will hit the region beginning in the 2nd quarter 2009. modu expects to expand to other Asian markets in the coming months. [MORE]

Bank Hapoalim considers expanding in Turkey
Israeli bank Bank Hapoalim is unconcerned that the recent Israeli-Turkish diplomatic spat following Operation Cast Lead will impact long-term opportunities, and the bank is considering expanding its activity in Turkey. Currently, Bank Hapoalim's Turkish business is handled through subsidiary Bankpozitif Credi Ve Kalkinma Bankasi AS. One option under consideration is the acquisition of the Turkish operations of Millennium Banco Commercial Portuguese and consolidating them with Bankpozitif.

Bank Hapoalim owns 35% of Bankpozitif, with the rest held by C Faktoring SA, whose owner, Halit Cingillioglu, is considered close to the AK Party, Turkey's current ruling party.

Bank Hapoalim is the largest Israeli Bank, founded in 1921 by the Histadrut and the WZO. [MORE]

VocalTec wins South African VoIP contract
Israeli telecommunications provider VocalTec Communications Ltd. will supply its Essentra VoIP solution to South African Under-Serviced Area License (USAL) provider Amatole Telecoms Ltd., a Black Empowered Enterprise (BEE) company. [MORE]

Max Brenner to open Philadelphia chocolate bar
Strauss Group Ltd. chocolate subsidiary Max Brenner will open three branches in the US, the first in Philadelphia this summer at a cost of $1.5 million. The company will have five branches in the US when the move is completed.

Max Brenner currently has 25 stores and chocolate bars worldwide, of which 18 are operated by franchisees, with the rest wholly owned by Strauss. The company has six branches in Israel, fourteen in Australia, two each in the US and the Philippines, and one in Singapore. [MORE]

Cafe chain Aroma plans to open branches in NYC and Toronto
Cafe chain Aroma Israel is continuing its international expansion. This week, it opened its first branches in Ukraine capital Kiev and Cypriot resort of Limassol. The openings come a few days after the chain opened its second cafes in both New York and Toronto. All these branches are operated by franchisees, with Aroma directly owning a small stake. [MORE]

Boycott campaign starts to hurt Israeli companies

Time to panic on the Tel Aviv stock exchange

The Palestine/Israel Alternative Information Center has surveyed the Israeli business press and found increasing alarm among the business community about the growing effectiveness of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which has been deepened and widened by the Israeli Occupation Forces war on Gaza.
These campaigns range from calls to boycott goods from the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, to calls to stop all economic contacts with Israel altogether. They include protests at sporting events, two countries cutting diplomatic ties with Israel (Bolivia and Venezuela), and many demonstrations around the world, attended by hundreds of thousands of protesters.

The growing protest against the atrocities committed by the Israeli military in the Gaza Strip have begun to change something in the Israeli political discourse, and the first indication of this can already be seen in the Israeli economic media.

Although the Israeli economic media doesn't concern itself with the moral dimension of the attacks on Gaza, the economic dimension of recent events have created a rising level of concern. In order to demonstrate this trend, here are summaries of four articles that appeared in the Israeli The Marker magazine for economic news:
The AIC points to four articles that have recently appeared in the Israeli business and economics magazine The Marker:

1. On 2 February, Guy Grimland warned about a growing phenomenon of boycott of Israeli high-tech companies, and several Israeli companies received letters from European and U.S. companies explaining that they cannot invest in Israel for moral reasons.

2. On 3 February, Nehemia Strassler, one of Israel's most famous economic correspondents, attacked the Israeli Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, Eli Yishai, for calling on the Israeli military to "destroy one hundred homes in Gaza for every rocket that falls in Israel." Strassler had nothing to say about the Palestinians living in these homes or about the loss of life, but he warned:

"[the minister] doesn't even understand how the operation in Gaza hurts the economy. The horror sights on television and the words of politicians in Europe and Turkey change the behavior of consumers, businessmen and potential investors. Many European consumers boycott Israeli products in practice. Intellectuals call for an economic war against us and to enforce an official and full consumer boycott.

Calls are heard in board meetings of economic corporations to boycott trade relations with Israel. So far deals were canceled with Turkey, the UK, Egypt and the Gulf States, and visits by economic delegations were cancelled. It’s much easier now to switch providers while abandoning Israeli providers. Many company boards are required to take wide considerations into account with regards to the good of society and the environment, and they put political considerations in that slot as well.

Of course there is also an economic cost to severing diplomatic ties. Qatar cut its trade relations with Israel, Venezuela and Bolivia cut diplomatic relations. Mauritania recalled its ambassador and the relations with Turkey worsened considerably—and this bad ambience seeps into the business sector decisions. Here, just yesterday Dudi Ovshitz, who grows peppers for export, said that 'there is a concealed boycott of Israeli products in Europe.'"

3. On 6 February, Shuki Sadeh wrote about even more companies that have decided to boycott relations with Israel. A Turkish company demanded that Israeli companies sign a document condemning the Israeli massacre in Gaza before they can offer their services for it. Sadeh quoted Naomi Klein's recent call for boycott, the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for boycott and Israeli organizations that support the boycott and provide information for the global BDS movement. Sadeh's article also had concerned quotes by Israeli businessmen who demanded government intervention to protect them from the growing boycott.

4. On 11 February, Ora Koren reported that the Israeli business sectors feel the effects of the attack on Gaza. She reported that Israeli businessmen in Turkey are hiding their names so that the local BDS organizations won't learn about their activities, and that the situation is even worse in the UK.

These four articles are a sign that there is a shift in the effectiveness of the BDS movement against Israel, and that if the momentum is maintained and strengthened, Israeli businessmen may decide to move their headquarters away from Israel, or to begin to put pressure on the Israeli government to begin respecting international law, and ending the occupation. (Jewish Voice for Peace)

Many thanks to:

Hamas demands Egypt lets Viva Palestina convoy through Rafah crossing

Hamas is calling on the Egyptian state to allow the safe passage of the Viva Palestine convoy through the Rafah crossing, despite its closure by the Mubarak dictatorship that prefers to see the people of Gaza starve and die for lack of food and medical aid.

Adel Zurub, information officer of the government's anti-siege committee, said: "The committee has contacted the caravan, and we knew [from the organizers] that they were heading to Rafah crossing point, the only entry point into Gaza Strip before them

Zurub says the government in Gaza has prepared to receive the caravan to honour the sacrifices of the volunteers involved in bringing the aid to Gaza.

Meanwhile Israel is continuing to blast the Rafah crossing from the air. The Israelis struck yesterday, destroying more buildings but thankfully no casualties have been reported.