This may be out of sequence because of technical problems this end. I have to write quickly because we may have to move at any moment. Sound like a drama queen? Not so.
We were force driven across Egypt with long stretches of the roads lined with police and miltary spread out at 100yd intervals. They turned their backs on us as if afraid we might see their faces. This led to some rather oddimages such as policemen staring intently at bushes, or brick walls. Now I'm sure neither are likely to attack us, so what on earth was going through their officers minds?
We have been staying at secure hotels sites where thousands of policve surround us. However we did sneak out last night for a meal, claiming we had left our bags on the truck. We awoke this morning to discover that the blocks we were in had no running water. Now I'm not nice at the best of times, even worse in the mornings and positively homocidal if I don't have a shower. Screaming blue murder I terrified my way into anoter vlock with i found a shower that not so much showered but peed on me. But hey, it was wet. I woke up, and was really quite pleasant until it all went horribly wrong.
We are at El Alarish 40kms from the Rafah crossing into Gaza. Spirits were high this morning thinking we would be there by lunch time and knowing that crowds were waiting for us. We also felt sad that this was the end of an amazing, testing, exhausting journey where we had all learned so much.
George Galloway and others shared a stage with Egyptian officials this morning and they all flattered one another, I don't doubt. Meanwhile John and I arranged for a CAT bulldozer to pull us out of deep sand in a "car park", we had been directed into the previous night. The flattery did no good.
In the afternoon we were fenced in by police who told the organisers we had to move to the crossing in groups of 5 vehicles. The organisers refused this request because of fears for our safety and the possibility that we could be picked off and refused entry. Apparently the local government decided that they would only let 25 vehicles a day through the crossing, meaning up to 8 days delay for the last vehicles. Again the convoy leaders refused. As we understood it the Egyptian government had given permission for the entire convoy to travel together, perhaps local officials had other ideas. Perhaps what was happening was a deliberate attempt to provoke a response. We were instructd by our leaders to remove the blockades and to drive to Gaza. This provoked a physical confrontation. Riot police were deployed against us as the vehicles started leaving the car parks. These police carry large cane sticks to whip you with and rubber truncheons that split your skin and leave large whelts. Tempers flared on both sides as we each sought to protect our comrades from the other side. The mini riot was frightening and at times vicious. Two of the convoy were sent to hospital with others refusing to go. The Sheikh, an Iman from, Birmingham who has become a spiritual leader and more for the Muslim contingent, tried to calm the men down and form a sit down protest. A lot of talking was done and eventually the convoy halted half in, half out of the car parks and there we remain, surrounded by riot police. The majority of the riot squads look like frigtened conscripts, working class boys with no choices, who in all probability sympathise with us, but their officers drive them on. When they re attacking you, you don't have the chance to talk class politics, never mind find enough translators.
The car parks are well lit. Tonight they switched the lights off in one car park and suddenly a mob appeared and stoned the convoy, the police stood by and let them do it.
We are being told that we will only be let through with vehicles carrying medical aid. That all other vehicles must be handed over to Egyptian authorities and driven through Israel and through their checkpoints into Gaza. We will be allowed into Gaza on foot. Clearly the symbolism of the convoy will be destroyed. We cannot allow this. Egypyt cannot allow this.
The fact that Egypt therefore appears to be doing whatever Israel says either escapes them or is true. Egypt is the second most heavily subsidised country in the middle East after Israel, both of course by the USA. The fact that Obama and Hilary Clinton have backed Israel despite their masscre of innocents and clear war crimes against a civilian population including the use of phosphorus bombs, is proof that little really changes when we vote. The power blocks upon which America lays its imperial foundations are the same. Obama should remember the peace marches which nearly 60 years later have meant he, as a black man, can be president. Perhaps he could then point out to Israel that the Gaza strip is becoming a larger version of the Warsaw Ghetto and the sad, nay sic, ironies of that are apparent to the world. Our peace convoy may not have the discilpine of Martin Luther King's, but it is changing for the better as we get close to Gaza.
We are now being told that we will be sneaked out of the city at night. This is very risky. We could be driven into the middle of nowhere and given a good hiding for daring to demand they stick to their agreement to let us enter Gaza. An agreement that was in place this morning. The Liyan truckers are adamant that they will not be pushed around by Egyptian police and relations between these neighbours could be severly damaged as they fought besides us this morning. They also played football against us this afternoon in the street infront of the riot squads, who had they lined up could have used their shields to prevent the ball going out. John distributed gaelic football jerseys for both teams from the aid we are carrying. What the Gaelic Athletic Assoc. would make of beaded Pakistanis taking on Liyan truckers in Egpyt and playing football at that, is hard to imagine, but it served to release tensions. That was until they switched the lights out and allowed us to be attacked by the mob, who it so happens disappeared into the night and low and behold, the lights came back on.
People are frightened, angry, hurt, but we have to be patient and let GalLoway, Sabah and the authorities negotiate. We could be stuck here for days.
News reached me today that a pro Isralei website has used some of my criticisms of the convoy on their website. Let me make it absolutely clear that I will pursue them with every force I can muster including the Writers Guild and their lawyers to prosecute them under the copyright laws unless it is removed at once. I will continue to give my version of events, critical or otherwise, but 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.