Thursday, 13 August 2009

Joint international solidarity effort initiates huge relief convoy to break Gaza siege

Viva Palestina is at the centre of attempts to co-ordinate activities among the various organisation involved in international attempts to break the siege. A huge international effort will now be taking place in December.

Viva Palestina goes international
– D-day 5 December!

The Viva Palestina US convoy achieved a remarkable success, but in the teeth of significant obstacles.

Two hundred people, almost all US citizens, passed through the Rafah crossing into Gaza on 15 July carrying with them a quarter of a million dollars worth of medical aid and supplies. The delegation reflected the great diversity of US society. There were Muslim-, Arab-, African-, Jewish-, Latino-, and Native-Americans as well as Christian ministers.

It was the largest such mission in terms of people and aid ever to leave the US for Palestine. We were delighted that it could be joined by Cynthia McKinney, the former US Congresswoman and Presidential candidate, who arrived hot-foot after her detention on the high seas by Israeli forces and was able to enter Gaza for the first time, having joined George Galloway and the Viva Palestina convoy. Along with New York Councilman Charles Barron, her participation signalled a reforging of the alliance between Black American figures and Palestine that were a hallmark of the solidarity movement 30 years ago.

The convoy did face great bureaucratic obstacles, however. They resulted in an original three day stay in Gaza being lopped to just 24 hours and in 47 new vehicles dedicated for medical use being prevented from crossing from Egypt to Gaza. They remain safely in the customs free zone in the port of Alexandria.

As with the British convoy in February and March, there is a great desire in the US to repeat the experience. This we must do. But we need to calibrate our response to take account of both logistical issues and the difficulties faced by the latest Viva Palestina convoy and other missions which have attempted to cross into Gaza.

Pooling all our efforts

Viva Palestina representatives have had a series of extremely productive discussions with similar campaigns and initiatives – ranging from the Free Gaza movement to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in Britain – over the last two weeks. We all agreed to even greater coordination of our efforts.

In addition, the Viva Palestina Venezuela convoy is picking up steam and will be taking place later this year.

Bigger, better, and more effective in December

All of this means we have the chance to organise a huge convoy, far more significant than either the British or the US ones. Given the various attempts to restrict aid to Gaza by sea and land, nothing less than a very significant increase in the size and impact of the next convoy will do.

That means an even bigger build up to a single mission in December. The reasons, emerging from discussions between the British and American convoy coordinators and others, are clear:

*December 27 marks the anniversary of the beginning of the Israeli assault on Gaza. Aiming to enter Gaza then will be part of focusing the world’s attention on the massacres. It is also when people in Gaza have said they wish to have maximum support.
*The second US convoy needs to be in December. It will be greatly strengthened by combining with the effort from Ireland the Britain. One mega convoy will have more impact than two smaller ones.

*A joint mission heading from London, with Americans flying in to take part, will form the core of a convoy heading through Europe, into the Balkans, northern Greece, Turkey, Syria, Jordan and into Egypt – picking up support along the way. Discussions are well advanced on organising major events – rallies, cultural and sporting – at strategic points on the way. This will be critical in both building momentum to cross the border and in raising the humanitarian crisis in Gaza along the way.

*We appreciate that for some it is easier to get time off work in October than December. But for many more, it is the other way around. In particular, on both sides of the Atlantic there are large numbers of young people and students who simply cannot go in October, but who can in December. Additionally, there will be mustering points along the route so those who can’t make the whole journey can join there.

*We want to get more high profile individuals to take part. This requires the extra time afforded by going in December. There are exciting initiatives to involve sporting and cultural figures. The will take some patience and time to make work.

*Everybody’s efforts in building both the British and US convoys were remarkable. With extra time in October and November, we believe we can far outdo what we’ve done before. We will have extra time to build up the regional structures and organisation of the convoy to make the mission both smoother and more effective.

*The two months of October and November should be used to reach out far further to potential support than we have already.

All this means that we are reorganising the next Viva Palestina convoy to be an international mission – spearheaded by people from Britain and America, leaving from London on the weekend of 5 and 6 December, aiming to be in Gaza on 27 December. Don't worry about the date moving again - we're setting the date in stone so we can all start planning and organising now.

Viva Palestina

Human Rights Watch says Israel killed civilians holding white flags

(pictured - one of the four injured children)

Human Rights Watch releases report today on the murder of Palestinians holding white flags during the recent war. Israel, despite requests, has so far refused to comment on its soldiers' refusal to obey the rules of war.
This report documents seven incidents where Israeli soldiers fired on civilians with small arms during Israel’s major military operations in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009. These attacks killed 11 civilians — including five women and four children — and wounded at least another eight.

These casualties comprise a small fraction of the Palestinian civilians killed and wounded during what Israel called Operation Cast Lead, but they stand out because of the circumstances of the attacks. In each case, the victims were standing, walking, or in a slowly moving vehicle with other unarmed civilians who were trying to convey their non-combatant status by waving a white flag. All available evidence indicates that Israeli forces had control of the areas in question, no fighting was taking place there at the time, and Palestinian fighters were not hiding among the civilians who were shot. Whether waving a white flag or not, these people were civilians not taking an active part in hostilities, and therefore should not have been attacked, according to international humanitarian law (the laws of war).


The full report can be downloaded here