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Proletarian issue 31 (August 2009)
Viva Palestina US convoy makes it into Gaza
Behind-the-scenes pressure on Egypt fails to succeed in crushing the sanctions-busting solidarity mission.
Following in the footsteps of the hugely successful Viva Palestina aid convoy that arrived in Gaza in March with almost a hundred vehicles loaded with supplies, the Viva Palestina US convoy set off to Gaza from New York on 12 July. The 200-odd delegation were not travelling light, taking with them a million dollars’ worth of aid, including 35 wheelchairs and 20 suitcases full of assorted medical supplies.

The Egyptian authorities, who have been shamefully hesitant to offer any help to their Palestinian neighbours, tried every bureaucratic trick to prevent the convoy entering Gaza. No doubt responding to pressure from their allies in Israel and the USA, they claimed that travel permits hadn’t been secured (not true); they claimed that the names of the delegates hadn’t been provided (they had been provided in triplicate); and they threatened the convoy with dire consequences if it didn’t return to Cairo.

However, the delegates would not be budged. George Galloway MP, speaking for the delegation, stated:

“If the Egyptian authorities want us to jump through yet another hoop, we will, even though their ambassadors in Washington, DC, London, and Tripoli, Libya were already supplied with this information, at their request. The US embassy in Cairo was informed about the mission, as was the Egyptian foreign ministry.

“So now we expect that there should be no further reasons for the delayed transportation of this urgently needed relief to the people of Gaza. We have hundreds of thousands of dollars of medicine, which are time-sensitive and perishable and which need to reach the children of Gaza.”

Finally, the convoy was allowed to cross into Gaza on 16 July, after three days of waiting at the border.

Although the convoy was only allowed into Gaza for 24 hours (rather than the three days that had been planned for), the delegates were able to get a lot done. Xinhua noted on 16 July that Hamas premier Ismail Haniya had met with four anti-zionist rabbis from the delegation.

Haniya told them: “Hamas has no problem with the jews; the problem is only with the Israeli occupation, which is based on zionism.” He praised those jews who “expressed their rejection to the occupation” by joining the aid convoy. “You reject the existence of people on the land of other people, so we have nothing but respect for these positions and appreciate your ideology.”

Rabbi Dovid Weissman pointed out that jews, muslims and christians had lived together in the Middle East in harmony until the rise of zionism in the early 20th century.

Soozy Duncan’s report gave some details of the delegation’s activities: “The group then drove around the Gaza Strip in buses to see the aftermath of the bombing onslaught six months ago, before attending another press conference at the Legislative Assembly and travelling to Shafa Hospital in Gaza City to deliver the medical aid which was brought from the United States and gathered in Cairo. Finally, delegates met with families of some of the 11,000 prisoners being held in Israel at the Ministry of Prisoners in Tel Alhwa, where children of parents killed in December and January also addressed the group.”

Viva Palestina is planning another convoy, which will depart from Britain on 4 October 2009. It has been mentioned that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez may be among the delegates.

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