Irish in Xmas humanitarian bid to break siege of Gaza hindered by Egypt
rights, freedoms and repression |
Saturday December 26, 2009 22:55 by Fintan Lane - IPSC media officer 087 1258325
The Israeli siege of Gaza must end
Huge crowd welcomes Gaza convoy in Amman, Jordan
Following several months of fundraising, four teams from across Ireland departed on Saturday, 5 December, to travel 4,000 miles across land to Gaza in Palestine to deliver ambulances and humanitarian aid to the besieged people of that tiny region. Concerned Irish citizens from Cork, Derry, Dublin, Galway and Tyrone are bringing two ambulances, a mini-bus, and a truck filled with over 10 tonnes of humanitarian aid.
IPSC webpage |
Latest news from Jordan |
Ireland to Gaza Facebook Page |
Official Viva Palestina webpage |
'Viva Palestina Cork’ Facebook page |
Stranded in Jordan |
Willie O'Dea gives his support |
Noam Chomsky and Proinsias De Rossa give their support |
Egyptian government efforts to hinder march |
Youtube footage of convoy entering Turkey
Contact details for the Egyptian Embassy in Dublin are: +353-1-6606718 / +353-1-6606566 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact details for the Egyptian Embassy in London are: 0044-20-7499-3304 / email@example.com”
The Irish participants decided to abandon their Christmas celebrations and family gatherings in Ireland this year because they feel so strongly about what is happening in Gaza.
They have received considerable support and encouragement from well-known public figures such as Prof. Noam Chomsky and Proinsias De Rossa MEP (SEE HERE).
After leaving Ireland, they linked up with the ‘Viva Palestina Convoy’ in Britain and more than 100 vehicles set off on 6 December for the long overland journey through France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Egypt.
Video footage of the convoy entering Turkey on Tuesday, 15 December, showing Irish citizens from Cork and Derry, is available
The convoy then entered Syria, after 14 days on the road, before moving into Jordan, where they received a huge welcome in Amman with large crowds attending a solidarity reception. For a report on the welcome in Amman, Jordan, (SEE HERE)
The convoy, however, has since run into serious difficulties as it attempted to enter Egypt for the last leg of its journey to the border with Gaza. Despite interventions by many human rights activists and even by Irish Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea (SEE HERE)
It appears that the Egyptian government is intent on hindering the humanitarian convoy and is also consciously undermining the ‘Gaza Freedom March’ planned for 31 December (SEE HERE).
On Christmas Day, Cork convoy participant Kate O’Sullivan published the following plea on the 'Viva Palestina Cork’ Facebook page
“Hi! The convoy needs help!! We are currently stranded in Jordan because the Egyptians won't leave us in so we need everyone to email the Egyptian embassies to pressure them. Please word emails politely but firmly. We all have visas so they should not be able to do this but they are. Let's pressure them into doing what ...is right and let's get this aid into Gaza!
Please contact the Egyptian Embassies (Contact information in Link box above)
Unfortunately, it remains unclear whether the Egyptian government will relent and allow the aid convoy to proceed. The plan is to reach the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza on 27 December.
Their arrival on this date is symbolic as it marks the first anniversary of the beginning of Israeli assault on Gaza last year, which left over 1,400 people dead, including more than 300 children, and over 5,000 injured.
The situation in Gaza remains dire as this small area of Palestine is under permanent siege by Israeli forces and is sealed off from the outside world. Michael Martin, the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, recently became one of the many refused permission to visit the area. Homes, hospitals, schools and mosques still lie in rubble, and Israel continues to restrict the entry of basic goods such as fuel, medical equipment, oxygen, baby food, paper, books and construction materials. There is a concerted effort underway by the Israeli state to force the people of the area into submission.
In total, 12 Irish people are on the ground participating in these attempts to help break the siege of Gaza. Tyrone man David Callendar outlined his reasons for travelling when he spoke of seeing a young child in Palestine holding a sign at a demonstration two years ago:
“I saw a young boy of about 7 or 8 holding a sign that said ‘Where is the world?’ This is a very common question in Palestine and, for me, being part of the ‘Viva Palestina Convoy’ makes that little boy’s sign bigger, brighter and louder.”
On 27 December, more Irish citizens – including members of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) – will fly out to Cairo to meet up with the Irish convoy participants. Together, they will attempt to enter Gaza and the intention was, on 31 December, to join thousands of people from Gaza and across the world in the ‘Gaza Freedom March’. Unfortunately, it now appears that the Egyptian government is doing everything in its power to frustrate the international delegations from reaching Gaza for the march. Consequently, march organisers are planning commemorative Gaza solidarity events to be held within Egypt if they are not allowed to proceed to the besieged territory.
Among those taking part from Ireland will be John Hurson, Ger Cassidy, Hilary Minch, Zoe Lawlor, Caiomhe Butterly, Kate O’Sullivan, David Callendar and Deirdre Morgan.
According to Dublin IPSC member Hilary Minch, who was to be one of the Irish participants in the march, “Despite calls for justice, in spite of the flagrant violations of international law by Israel, the siege continues. Do we stay silent? Do we continue to look the other way? I don’t believe it is acceptable to bury our heads while the people of Palestine suffer horribly.”
It is not certain now that Hilary will be allowed leave Egypt for Gaza.
The demand of the ‘Gaza Freedom March’ on 31 December is simple: that the government of Israel opens the borders and ends the illegal collective punishment of the 1.5 million civilians of Gaza. The ‘Gaza Freedom March’ is a grassroots global response to the inaction on the part of world leaders and institutions.
Among the distinguished international participants will be 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, Hedy Epstein, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker.
Inside Gaza, excitement over this event has been intense. Representatives from all segments of civil society, including students, professors, refugee groups, unions, women's organisations and NGOs, are busy organising and estimate that at least 50,000 Palestinians would participate. “We are moved by the tremendous response to this march and are heartened that the global community has not forgotten us,” said Haidar Eid, a member of the Organising Committee in Gaza.
It would be shameful if Egypt destroyed this international act of solidarity.
It is not clear how events will unfold over the next few days, but the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) is calling on Egypt to clear the way for both the convoy and the participants in the ‘Gaza Freedom March’ to enter Gaza. The current behaviour of the Egyptian government is a disgraceful attempt to undermine the Palestinian people of Gaza and will simply further their sense of isolation and abandonment. The siege of Gaza must be lifted.
The next few days will be crucial and it is essential that Irish people make their voices heard in solidarity with the people of Gaza. Contact the media and demand that these events be fully reported on. And contact the Egyptian embassy (address above) and insist that the convoy and march be allowed to proceed!
For regular updates on the convoy, go to Ireland to Gaza Facebook Page
Cork convoy participants with George Galloway MP in Jordan
Galloway addresses the crowd in Amman