Palestine: Convoy brings aid, hope

March 7, 2009

As Gaza struggles to rebuild despite Israel's ongoing near-total siege, more than 300 people in more than 100 vehicles are leading a convoy to bring aid and hope to the Palestinian territory.

Despite a series of setbacks, the convoy continues towards Gaza City, on a 8000km journey that began in London on February 14. The convoy has travelled through Belgium, France, Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya.

The next stop is Egypt before it crosses into Gaza early March.

The convoy was preceded by a month-long fundraising drive. It will deliver $2.5 million worth of aid, including 12 ambulances and a fire engine as well as other practical aid.

The 'Viva Palestina' convoy is supported by the Stop the War Coalition, Respect Coalition, the Anglo-Arab Organisation, several British trade unions and a large number of Muslim organisations.

The convoy includes Respect MP George Galloway, Press TV journalist Yvonne Ridley and award-winnng filmmaker Hassan al Banna Ghani.

As Galloway said before setting off, "No-one will send a vehicle that is not filled with items including pyjamas, clothes and blankets. Millions of people in this country care deeply, and we are going to show that."

The trip got off to an eventful start when nine convoy members were arrested under Britain's anti-terror laws just days before the departure date. Three convoy vans were also seized by Lancashire police.

All men were later released without charge with the support of local politicians and religious leaders.

Chris Chilvers, Viva Palestina's north-west coordinator, told the February 16 Daily Mail: "My view is that this is a political decision to attack and smear the convoy with a nasty association with terrorism. I think it's an attack upon the people who have supported the Palestinians and the people who have supported Gaza."

After the debacle surrounding the BBC's decision not to show an advertisement appealing for humanitarian aid for Gaza, the aid convoy has received a similar level of disdain from the Western establishment media.

As Ridley told Arab news on March 3 that "one frustrated Irish participant told how he had approached the BBC several times to interview him only to be told 'no way'. In the end, he had to resort to stealth. He managed to persuade program executives to give him airtime on an entirely different subject.

"But when he injected Gaza into the conversation, he says he was promptly cut off."

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