Viva Palestina breaks the siege

October 22, 2010

Brian Lenzo reports on a new victory for the movement in solidarity with Palestine.

SUPPORTERS OF the Palestinian struggle have succeeded again in breaking Israel's siege of Gaza.

After numerous delays and bureaucratic stalling, the Egyptian government allowed the latest attempt to provide humanitarian supplies to pass through the Rafah border crossing and enter Gaza. Activists from Britain, Northern Ireland, France, Italy, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the U.S., Morocco, Algeria, Jordan, Qatar and Malaysia were part of the convoy that entered Gaza.

Sponsored by the British charity Viva Palestina, founded by British radical George Galloway, this convoy is the fifth effort by the group to break the Israeli blockade that has strangled Gaza. As convoy coordinator Kevin Ovenden said in a statement:

We have driven more than 3,000 miles to bring this essential aid and to break this illegal siege of Gaza. We have been joined by supporters from Morocco and Algeria and from the Gulf States and Jordan, to make this the biggest convoy ever to break the siege of Gaza. We are absolutely overjoyed to be here and to bring with us the soil from the graves of those who were massacred on the Mavi Marmara, which will be used to plant trees as a memorial to their sacrifice.

Vehicles from the Viva Palestina 5 convoy lined up to cross the border into Gaza
Vehicles from the Viva Palestina 5 convoy lined up to cross the border into Gaza (Azra Banu | VPM)

Viva Palestina 5 started out from London on September 18, driving through France, Italy, Greece and Turkey before arriving in the port of Latakia, Syria, on October 2. In Latakia, the convoy was joined by two others; one originating in Morocco and Algeria; the other from Doha, Qatar, that traveled through the Gulf States and Jordan.

There are now 147 vehicles with 380 people from some 30 countries carrying aid worth some $5 million in Gaza.

Among the convoy participants were Ovenden, a survivor of Israel's attack on the Mavi Marmara aid flotilla this spring, and 39 others who were also aboard when the Mavi Marmara was attacked by Israeli commandos, murdering nine human rights activists.

Like previous attempts to break the siege, the convoy faced its fair share of obstacles from the Egyptian government, no doubt under pressure from Israeli and U.S. officials.

Viva Palestina 5 had planned to sail from Syria to Al-Arish and hold a memorial ceremony at the exact spot where the massacre was carried out along the way. However, Egyptian officials declared that they would only allow the supplies to travel by boat--the activists would have to fly.

Then, Egypt announced it would ban Viva Palestina's George Galloway, the leader of the latest convoy, from entering Egypt. A day later, Egypt announced that 17 others, including a Turkish survivor of the attack on the Mavi Marmara and an 83-year-old Jordanian man, would also be banned from entering Egyptian territory.

However, after intense negotiations, Viva Palestina 5 and the majority of its 380 participants were given permission on Monday evening to travel by a combination of boat and plane to Al-Arish and then to Rafah, where the convoy finally crossed into Gaza early this morning.

According to the Viva Palestina Web site, "The convoy will be handed over in its entirety to the relevant bodies tomorrow, and the members of the convoy then expect to leave Gaza and return home in the next 48 hours, after celebrations and formal thanks are given."

The convoy and similar efforts like the upcoming "U.S. Boat to Gaza" show that neither the inaction of Barack Obama in pressuring Israel, nor the inexcusable collaboration of the Egyptian government, nor the naked aggression of the Israeli government will be enough stop the international movement to break the siege of Gaza and win another victory in the struggle for justice in Palestine.

First published at The Sitch.

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