Friday, 13 March 2009

Gaza at last!

We finally set off next day for Gaza after an inspection by Egyptian officials of our cargo of aid. We told them we were carrying hypothermia blankets. Everything has to have a medical purpose, so we’ve saws for amputations rather than house building, maternity clothes, even a wind up torch became a pacemaker. Anything they did unload was spirited away and put back onto a van that had been cleared.
To be fair to the Egyptians, one or two were deeply compromised by what their government was asking them to do. However, we put cameras in the faces of the fascists and asked them what they thought about denying Palestinians humanitarian aid? I told them that if Egypt suffered a catastrophe the British would be amongst the first to help, so why not help the people of Gaza? The cruelty of some Egyptians was unbelievable. Their fear of their own population is entirely justified, they will be strung from lampposts unless they allow real democracy. The USA subsidises their military to the tune of £2 billion dollars a year. Shame on them! The loss to Gaza from the recent invasion is nearly £3 billion, every bomb and bullet blessed by our own government. Shame on us!
The last 40kms seemed to take forever. Would they stop us again, set the riot police on us on a quiet stretch of road, stone us as we passed? Despite the presence of the riot police they kept them at the roadside, observing but not interfering. Many of us had offered them food and water, something their own officers seemed incapable of providing. One young guard was offered food and shared it secretly with his mate. After the meal the man who had cooked them food wanted to hug the poor, skinny lads and so did. As he tried to pull away the young riot policeman pulled him close, sobbing his eyes out and apologising for having to do what he’d been ordered to do to us. Seeing them again today their willingness to obey orders would have been sorely tested.
We crossed into no-man’s land where we could hear, but not see, the people of Gaza waiting to greet us. Singing, car horns blaring, we hooted back as we waited for the convoy to be cleared through.
Some people had turned up on foot from Cairo, some had raised thousands of pounds back home and although they couldn’t be on the convoy deserved to be there, however some were just gobby convoy tourists who were blagging lifts and wanting to be a part of something they had no idea about. We have travelled nearly 6,000 miles in 25 days with less sleep than a teenage Raver. We have been force driven 18 hours a day, through the night, crossed two seas, mountains, deserts, pseudo democratic regimes have lied, cheated, bullied, injured, stolen from and attacked us. We have opened a border than had been closed for 17 years, persuaded governments that they would be exposed as hypocrites to their own people if they didn’t help us to help the Palestinians. We have been watched every step of the way and been largely ignored by a world wide media strongly beholden to Zionist owners. We, this disparate, crazily thrown together ensemble of the respectable, the rebel and the social misfit, have gelled in the face of the challenges we’ve faced but none more so than when brutally attacked by the Egyptian security forces.
Despite it all it has been the people of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt who have cheered us on in their tens of thousands who have sustained and inspired us. The truckers, road workers, shopkeepers and shoppers, the petrol station owners who gave us free fuel, the mechanics who refused money for fixing our truck, the people who offered us beds and their food, the children who chanted “Allah Akhbar” - God is great - when they saw us bringing aid to the besieged, bombed and orphaned children of Gaza. It was the women trilling their tongues with joy and offering up their children to be kissed. It was also the dignitaries, politicians, bureaucrats who showed genuine care and assistance. Also the Police who told us how much they supported what we were doing and truly helped and made friends with us. They wanted to be doing what we were doing but their own governments would not allow it. We have exploited our British passports, our expectation that we would be treated with dignity and that there would be consequences if not. We have shown courage but we have been enabled to by our British freedoms. Let us be aware of how lucky we are and how complacency is our biggest enemy. Our freedom and the remarkable people we have met have combined to drive us on.
Now a few hundred yards away stand the people of Gaza. People are congratulating one another for making it. The spirit of the convoy we have wanted from day one is now manifest. Its beautiful. This is what struggle reaps. This is what revolution feels like.
We have now crossed into Gaza where garlands of carnations and petals were thrown across our vehicles and through our windows by the hundreds gathered at the Rafah crossing. Immediately we saw homes collapsed by missiles fired from F16 Israeli fighter planes. A brief formal welcome gave way to the drive to Gaza City. 25kms of crowds waving, even in the rural areas villagers and farmers lined the route. It was deeply moving to see such happiness. We have relieved three years of isolation.
Three years where the Israelis, with our backing, have slaughtered innocents, poisoned farm land with chemicals, bombed hospitals, red cross, schools, water treatment plants and mosques with illegal weapons and been able to do so with impunity. If the people of Gaza thought that no one cared that the ethnic cleansing, nay, genocide of the Palestinians was happening and no one cared, then the convoy was destroying that idea. That’s how powerful a symbol of solidarity we were. Not charity, solidarity, there is a difference. We came to stand should to shoulder, not to patronise, to learn not to lecture, we came in humility before people who have suffered so much. Well…most of us did.
Immediately we could tell the difference in atmosphere, soldiers laughed at us as we screamed and shouted with joy, they welcomed us and shook our hands and by God these were tough looking men. They all knew that we had fought back against the Egyptian police and I think this helped earn their respect.
In Gaza City the crowds grew dense and vocal until we reached a huge parade ground in the city centre where we all parked up and were welcomed by thousands of well wishers who spoke remarkably good English. So ok, discovery number one, the Palestinians are very well educated and place great emphasis upon it. We went to a Mosque to hear some more speeches, God preserve us! What makes them worse is that they love having lots of echo on the mics so that the Iman singing the Koran has this effect of echoing across the city. Great for Imans, shit when you are trying to hear instructions about where you’re staying tonight. We ended up in a swimming pool.
Well, yeah, more speeches as we sat around the pool and at indiscriminate intervals fountains sprang to life and woke John up. We were then given the best food of the whole journey. Discovery 2. The Palestinians love their food and have the best cooking skills in North Africa. Discovery 3. Their hospitality know no bounds and is, I think, part of the resistance because it is a desire to make life go on, to show that they are not victims but people with culture and dignity.

Whilst we ate, mattresses were laid side by side on the floor, we looked on with silent groans. Others in the convoy were in hotels, others in apartments, we it appeared had drawn the short straw. The Egyptians had only allowed us about two hours sleep the night before and the thoughts of sleeping next to a load of snoring, farting men was not appealing. However, always the resourceful duo, I had noticed some men disappearing under some stairs and so followed and lo! The angels did smile upon us! For we had found the promised land! The massage room and three massage beds, one each and one for the next smartest guy who has learnt by now to watch and follow us.
The next morning I rolled off the bed and into the pool, heaven. We were fed a beautiful poolside breakfast of fresh mountains of feta, beautiful pastries, olives and jam. The food and the camaraderie made this place a palace and the only place to be, right here, right now, or for that matter at any time or place on earth.
We were driven back to the vehicles where a formal handover took place.
We were saying goodbye to our truck, donated by Rockwell Water, filled with articles of compassion by Welsh and Irish people, fuelled by them too so that she could be driven here. She has been a home, a frustration, a symbol, a trusty friend, a kitchen, a meeting place, a bar for the non believers; fun and fear have followed her all the way and sometimes pushed in front of her, why we have even slept with her, both at the same time actually. Now we packed our bags and left her full of memories and achievements, filled with love from hundreds of you. We have been through so much together, sometimes we nursed her, sometimes I think she nursed us. Of course we wept! What else would we do! It was a release of determination, a realisation that we had done what we set out to do, four long weeks ago.
I walked around carrying the Welsh flag I had cut down from the truck. People came up wanting to know what it meant and where it was from. Discovery 4. Unlike most North Africans the Gazans know where Wales is. We can work with these people!
From there we were driven to some of the most devastated areas. Let’s preface this by saying that nothing I saw on our TVs comes close to what we saw. Countless houses, whole streets in fact, blown up, collapsed, warping and contorted like strange dead beasts and there in amongst collapsed floors, amongst the rubble and dust, beneath tarpaulins, strung across pillars that once supported floors, sat people, children, bewildered by our presence, there they lived, orphans maybe, people cooking food for families now depleted. We moved on to a camp of tents regimentally in line. These had arrived this week. The Egyptians had refused to let them across the border for six weeks. To the coast where people are terrified to sit on a beach since a family were shelled and killed as they had a picnic. The waters now polluted, the fishermen murdered and boats sunk. On to the farms where tens of thousands of olive trees have been bulldozed and the land poisoned and now called a buffer zone. All the time the land is shrinking away from the Palestinians, Yard by yard the Israelis expand. The “chosen people”, denying their own teachings and committing the greatest act of genocide in our part of the world since world war 2. The orthodox Jew who shot two children dead as he casually ate chocolate and as they came from their house with their hands in the air. He didn’t kill the parents, better to watch them suffer their loss. The deliberate and illegal use of phosphorus still burning two months later. The stench of rotting flesh. The deliberate targeting of medical workers. The calculated destruction of the infrastructure. The destruction of factories producing building materials. The destruction of any means they might have of earning and exporting. This is genocide. Simply put, what I now know with my own senses and intelligence, is that the Israelis want every inch of this land for themselves and they will not stop until they are stopped.
Just to prove a point, 10mins after we left the area they shelled a police station killing two. It is illegal to kill policemen as they are considered civilians. Do the Israelis care? No, because no one tells the real story and we aren’t putting enough pressure on our government to stop them.
I tell everyone that friends of mine who are Jews gave generously and they understood the difference between being Jewish and Zionist. The people of Gaza remain remarkably rational despite such pain and turmoil. Do they have the right to defend themselves? You decide.
We sat in silence for hours. Perhaps each one of us was saying to themselves, “ We must come back. This must not stop here. What we’ve done is just the beginning.”
We defeated Fascism, Stalinism, Apartheid, can we defeat Zionism?


  1. Thx Greg for a heart-felt and moving account of your experience in Gaza .. I have posted it on my facebook and have requested friends to do the same. Thx again for the job well done .. and as you said this is just the beginning ... the plight of the palestinian people will not be forgotten as long as people like you and those who involved in Viva Palestina and other organisations are around ...

  2. Long Live Greg.
    Though we have not met, you are a hero to us all Greg, much respect to you and your friends, we have been with you only in spirit, but you took the blows and you came through. Three cheers for Greg, hero of the Welshmen.

  3. "Let no Zionist imagine that anything I criticise the convoy for comes close to the disgust and revulsion I feel for their murders of innocents."

    Question: what do you think of Hamas's murders of innocents? Do you also feel disgust and revulsion for *those* murders? If so, why did you go on a convoy that handed thousands of pounds direct to the group that committed those murders?

    Is it only some murders of innocents you disapprove of?

  4. Yes Finally made was touch and go for a while and i think we all feared the worst but you overcome the obstacle and made it. What a journey - forgot to tell you that from experience the Egyptian Police are something else.
    Reading your vivid account enabled me visualise the crossing of the threshold and experience the sights and the atrocities yet feel the welcome and the happiness too. So the destination has been reached and the journey ended and women and children the innocent victims will have a little comfort for a while. For some reason i thought a whole range of things could happen when you got there maybe more fighting to break out?? But the main thing i thought about was a miracle - that something would happen when you reached there but unfortunately it wasn't a one way journey and you have had to come home. So what happens now - people need to get involved with the WORLD MARCH AGAINST WAR and for NON VIOLENCE, it is going to be massive and you can do anything to support, it desperatley needs supporters in WALES. I am trying to organise something for Cardiff. People need to change the consciousness of society and do something and realise that anger, conflict and any form of violence is detrimental THERE ARE NO WINNERS. We need to realise that yet again genocide is taking place - and that the killing of women and children 'whoever' they may be, colour, religion whatever!!! is WRONG!!! Einstien said something like if we are not careful the next world war will be fought with sticks and stones because if nucleur war is released then that will be the END and then the wars of 'lands' and 'words' will be insignificant to what faces the world then.

  5. What about Islamism, Greg? Think we can defeat that? Or need to?

    I genuinely admire you for getting up off your arse and doing something with the aim of helping people less fortunate than you. But I think you, and people like you, have been used and abused; and I think giving the aid to Hamas was a terrible, terrible mistake. Along with the presence of Galloway it turned your mission from a humanitarian one to a political one - one tied to the politics of Jew-hatred at that.

  6. I pray that next time I will be with you, passing through a free egypt
    when someone believes in god they have hope in these things..

  7. A brief reply to Johhny Mac if I may. Thanks, firstly for reading the blog, secondly George Galloway means nothing to me. I took the only decision, based upon the only opportunity, to do something that I could. In theory there was much I distrusted about the convoy, in practice it often resembled the gumball rally rather than an humanitarian peace convoy. However, we got aid to Gaza, broke through a siege and were able to see for ourselves what was really happening. Hamas is the government of Gaza, I don't share their religion, nor their politics, but they are probably one of the least corrupt governments in the entire region, therefore giving the aid to them (we had no other choice), meant it was likely to be fairly distributed.

    Some people, including ourselves, did hold back goods and money so that they could give it themselves without it being mediated by Hamas. We gave football kits to a school for example, but you are right, the overwhelming aid is to be distributed by the democratically elected government.

    It is quite untrue that my actions were linked with anti-jewish sentiment. I never heard a bad word said about Jews, I heard plenty against the state of Israel and Zionism. I also note that a far right, openly racist, zionist party have now been invited into the government of Israel. Perhaps we should be more concerned right now with addressing the racism that lies behind the actions of Israel rather any that opposes it.

  8. As for Chas's remarks, of course I oppose political murder by whosoever commits it, but lets have a sense of perspective here, Israel has the fourth largest army on earth. Hamas is at best a resistance organisation. It is therefore naive to suggest the "two wrongs don't make a right" type arguement because it justifies Israeli agression which is overwhelming and in the words of their own leader "disproportionate". In reality any crimes committed by Hamas pale besides those of Israel. Lastly, I have no choice in either government. I do have a choice to help those trapped by the situation and that is what I did.

  9. Hamas does not hate Jews. Hamas hates the Oppressors, the land thieves, the occupiers!
    Hamas is an Islamist group but that has nothing to do with the conflict with Israel!
    For the thousnad time the conflict with Israel is not religious!
    The muslims ACCEPT all the prophets including Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them). There are thologicl differences between Islam, Christianity and Judaism but it is not enough to wage war and that is why you will find when the muslims ruled that region the non muslims lived in peace!
    The Zionists want to make it a religious issue so they can use the "God promised us this land" excuse for their land theft!
    If you ask a Palestinian if a Jew who lived in Palestine before the creation of Israel has a right to live there I think you will find the vast majority will say YES. Ofcourse much Palestinian blood has been shed and much brutality committed against them so there will be some Palestinians who will want revenge but the vast majority will accept any non muslim migrating through peaceful means!
    Now for those zionist sympathisers who visit this blog let me paint you a scenario. We have about two million muslims in the UK a large number of them are concentrated in a few cities. Imagine if the muslims went to the UN to ask for a seperate homeland to be created inside Great Britain and imagine we asked more land than people or actual ownership! Let us see how the rest of the people in this country react!

  10. Sorry for the typos. But just to clarify the theological differences are not enough for Muslims to hate the other people of the book. The Jews refuse to accept or acknowledge other prophets and the Christians refuse to accept or acknowledge Mohammed (pbuh). But the muslims accept them and much of what is said in the old testament. Not in exact word for word but things such the miracle birth of Jesus (pbuh).
    The zionists want to protray that Islam does not tolerate and is unforgiving and unable to coexist! It is ofcourse utter nonsense. The demonisation of Arabs and Muslims helps to convey the message to the masses of US and West that the root of all the trouble are the Arabs and Muslims and not the theft and occupation of some one else's land.

  11. Thanks for your reply, Greg.

    So, to clarify, you condemn Galloway for giving convoy money to Hamas?

  12. I condem the British and American governments for supplying WMD, nuclear weapons to the terror state of Israel. I condem the support of Israeli State Terror by the US/UK.

    Hamas is the elected government of Palestine. Hamas and every Palestinian have the right to resist against squatters/occupiers who come with guns (ZIONISTS) and terrorise the rightful and peaceful owners of the land (PALESTINIANS). The Palestinians have every right to resist occupation, blockade, seige!

    Hamas has agreed to recognise Israel only if Israel agrees to recognise the Palestinians right of return and right to exist! Remember it was ISRAEL that wiped PALESTINE off the MAP! Israel was created through TERROR!


    A new UN report exposes a bit of misinformation peddled by the US and Israel and shatters the Zionist illusion that the Gaza war was legal.

    The report, prepared by human rights investigator Richard Falk, confirms that Tel Aviv was indeed the party that violated the Egyptian-brokered six-month truce in Gaza.

    Israel and the democratically elected Palestinian government confined to the Gaza Strip agreed in mid June 2008 to a six-month truce.

    While reports indicated that Tel Aviv had initially broken the truce with its tanks and bulldozers crossing the southern border of the Gaza Strip on November 4 and 5, echelons in the United States and Israel insisted otherwise.

    A widespread campaign in support of the alleged Israeli right to enter the Palestinian territory was then launched by US and Israeli media outlets.

    "Records show that, during the ceasefire, it was predominantly Israel that resorted to conduct inconsistent with the undertaking, and Hamas that retaliated," Falk responded in a report presented Monday at the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council.

    The report outlined the incidents leading up to the three-week Israeli offensive on the tiny coastal strip. The carnage caused by the Israeli operations killed nearly 1,350 Palestinians and wounded around 5,450 others -- most of them civilians.

    "On 4 November … Israel killed a Palestinian in Gaza, mortars were fired from Gaza in retaliation, and then an Israeli air strike was launched that killed an additional six Palestinians in Gaza," Falk said, adding that the "the breakdown of the ceasefire seems to have been mainly a result of Israeli violations."

    Falk, who based his findings on Israeli sources, said the number of Palestinian rockets and mortar shells fired into Israel after the ceasefire came into effect in June had considerably declined.

    "The ceasefire was remarkably effective; after it began in June 2008, the rate of rocket and mortar fire from Gaza dropped to almost zero, and stayed there for almost four months," the report continued.

    The report went on to conclude that "the experience of the temporary ceasefire demonstrates both the willingness and the capacity of those exerting control in Gaza to eliminate rocket and mortar attacks."

    Since Israel denied Falk entry into Gaza during the war, his report focused on the legality of the military operations and whether Israel even had a right to enter the Palestinian sliver in the first place.

    Tel Aviv in late December had claimed that it launched Operation Cast Lead on the territory of 1.5 million Palestinians in "retaliation for Palestine rocket attacks on Israel".

    The UN report confirms that Tel Aviv began the bloodshed by breaking the truce and is thus unable to use claims of self-defense.

    After the carnage some Israeli soldiers have worn T-shirts promoting violence against the Palestinians.
    In addition to the lost lives, the onslaught cost the Palestinian economy at least $1.6 billion, destroying some 4,000 residential buildings and damaging 16,000 other houses.

    Israel's staunch ally, the United States, on Monday commented on the report, which calls for an investigation into Israel's war crimes in Gaza, as "biased".

    "We've found the rapporteur's views to be anything but fair. We find them to be biased. We've made that very clear," State Department spokesman Robert Wood told a press briefing.

    The US has so far vetoed at least 45 anti-Israel resolutions at the UN and has blocked official condemnation of crimes committed against the native Palestinian population.

    At the height of the war on Gaza, the US abstained from voting on the resolution which called for an 'immediate and durable' ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the region.


  14. Inerpal was CLEARED for a thied time by the Charities Commission. Those zio scums at hurry up harry would never have a proper debate on Palestines right to exist, the theft of Palestinian lands etc. because they are a bunch of Zionist t*ssers!
    Galloway and Viva Palestina gave the money to the democratically elected gornment of Palestine! The US/UK Zionist government may want to call them terrorists but that won't change the truth! When a place is under seige then those under seige have every right to break it and fight back!
    Chas do you agree with those neo con zionist scums at hurryupharry?

  15. It seems as if some people (perhaps Chas and his "hooray harries"), some elements of the media and certain governments confuse humanitarian aid with support for terrorism.

    Delivering blankets, tents, food, medicine, toys, educational materials, sports equipment and sanitary goods to people besieged in the largest concentration camp in history is humanitarian.

    Doing nothing and/or allowing people to be bombed, shelled, shot at on a daily basis,or standing by when land is illegally grabbed or polluted, water treatment plants are destroyed in order to encourage water born disease, cement plants are targeted so that people cannot rebuild their shattered homes, illegal weapons are used against civilian populations, ambulance crews are targeted as are the police in order to induce a breakdown in civil society... this is supporting terrorism.

    Under international law people have a right to protect themselves and I wholeheartedly support that.

    I do not support the indiscriminate use of violence against civilian populations by countries, groups, or individuals.

    I do not support the discriminatory partition of human, civil and democratic rights within any state or group on the basis of race, class, creed, gender or sexuality.

    I see no alternative to a peaceful co-existence between a state of Israel and an independent Palestine.

    I do not support a strategy of utterly humiliating the Palestinians before negotiating with them to achieve that aim. (I also think such a strategy will never work and will never happen)

    I hope that clarifies my current position. I remain open to argument.