Those readers who are used to blogging, Facebook and Twitter may already be familiar with the postings from the Viva Palestina convoy that is making its way from Britain to Gaza. The convoy of lorries, minibuses and ambulances, full of medical and other supplies, is expected to enter Gaza on 27 December (the anniversary of Israel’s bloody assault). The lead is being taken by the 15 ambulances, each one named after a medical worker killed, while trying to help people, by the Israeli bombing and invasion of Gaza. All the vehicles and equipment, as well as the aid, will be left in Gaza.
Our comrade, Joti Brar, is part of that convoy and is sending out updates as the journey progresses.
This, the third Viva Palestina convoy, set off on 5 December and is aiming to not only break the two-and-a-half year siege and deliver much-needed aid and vehicles into Gaza, but also to highlight the plight of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents (two thirds of whom are refugees from earlier wars waged by Israel against them).
To send messages of support, and subscribe for updates from Comrade Joti Brar’s blog, Twitter account and Facebook group, go to joti2gaza.org.
The more attention that the convoy has while it travels, the less likely it is that the Egyptian authorities will try to stop it entering Gaza; so please do publicise these online resources as far and wide as possible.
Joti’s messages, sent out between long drives, are full of praise for the many and varied people who had given money and equipment, collected and helped service vehicles for the trip, all of whom have contributed to the hundreds of thousands of pounds needed to pay for “ambulances, minibuses, vans and lorries, and to fill them with medical and other aid that is desperately needed in Gaza.”
She also stressed the international nature of the convoy which had crossed “Europe via France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Italy and Greece, and arrived in Istanbul, where we were joined by more drivers and vehicles from Turkey, Malaysia and the US. From here we will travel to Ankara and east to the border, before crossing into Syria, Jordan, and then Egypt.”
The message of the 17 December continues “The war crimes committed by Israel during that attack [a year ago] have been well documented. What is less talked about is that the siege of Gaza – an illegal and barbaric act of collective punishment, which is itself a war crime – started well before that and continues to this day.
“So as well as delivering much-needed medical aid, the convoy will be bringing a very important message of solidarity to the people of Gaza. We are coming to show them that they are not forgotten; that the people of the world will not stand by and let Israel starve them into submission.
“And we are bringing the same message to the Israeli Government and all its backers in Britain and the US: that Palestine is not forgotten, despite the lack of mainstream media coverage; that Palestine has friends all over the world; that the siege will never succeed in its aims.
“I personally am bringing with me messages of support and solidarity from friends, colleagues and comrades to let the people of Palestine know that they have friends among the British people, even while British corporations, government and media are busy arming Israel and excusing its war crimes.
“Right now, the biggest potential obstacle to the success of the convoy is the attitude that the Egyptian authorities might take towards it. There’s no doubt that the Egyptian people are supportive of the convoy and the Palestinian cause, but it is equally true that Britain, Israel and the US will be bringing maximum pressure behind the scenes to persuade the Government to deny us entry into Gaza.
“To help with this effort, they are also doing their best to deny us the oxygen of publicity, which is why we’re asking everyone back home to do what they can to publicize the convoy and its aims far and wide.
“Leaving western Europe, it became clear to those who didn’t already know that this mission has the backing of most of the REAL international community. Not only were people everywhere happy to see us, but local mayors in Thessaloniki and Istanbul have turned out to greet us, local organizations have fed and sheltered us, national press and TV have reported on us, and local police have escorted us on parades through city centres.
“On arrival in Turkey, we were overcome to find a big welcome rally taking place right at the border crossing, where both Greek and Turkish police and soldiers gave us victory signs!
“At the outskirts of Istanbul last night, my van, comprising four ‘Aunties’ from England, Ireland, Wales and France, was surrounded by emotional women who hugged us and thanked us for coming. It is clear that the fact that we have come from the belly of the beast makes our presence here especially significant to people outside the West.
“A little while later, a small girl knocked on the window of our van. When I put the window down, she handed me a beautiful picture she had drawn depicting the friendship between the Turkish and Palestinian people, and asked me to deliver it to the children of Gaza.
“We are determined to succeed. The children of Gaza especially deserve to know that we have not and will not forget them.”
In another message Joti confessed “I’ve never had much time for all the ‘broadcast your life’ social networking stuff before, but, on a mission like this, it has really come into its own. A whole network of Twitterers, bloggers and Facebook users are pushing the message out far and wide. And every little plug really does make a difference.”
Joti reported that she “gave a short phone interview to the Lebanese Daily Star, who contacted me via Twitter. This morning, the New Internationalist contacted me via this blog asking if I’d write some posts for them too.” To read the Lebanese Daily Star article go to http://www. dailystar.com.
Returning to the previously mentioned crossing of the Greek-Turkish border Joti comments “as well as getting victory signs from soldiers on both sides, we found an amazing welcome rally had been organised right by the Turkish entrance barrier! In Britain, the police would be setting the dogs and tear gas on us. In Turkey and Greece, the police were joining in. Which is even more significant given the tense relations between the two countries …”
The ordinary people of Greece and Turkey have proved their support for the convoy, , offering food and drink, waving, beeping horns and waiting around for hours in the cold to cheer it on.
Reinforced by contingents from Malaysia, Turkey, the USA and more, making a grand total of 200 vehicles and 450 people, the Viva Palestina convoy doggedly continues on its journey to Gaza.
In the words of Joti, echoing the thoughts of all on the convoy and all its supporters “People of Palestine – the world is with you!”