Tag Archives: violence

Yvonne Ridley Reports

Yvonne Ridley reports from Viva Palestina
9th March 2009


GAZA OR BUST

The last 24 hours have probably been the blackest since the Viva Palestina convoy set off from London.

Yesterday the convoy members became the target of an orchestrated wave of violence first started by Egyptian police and then culminating in vicious attacks by unknown thugs.

The end result was a number of peace activists whose only aim is to take humanitarian aid into war torn Gaza were treated in hospital for head injuries.

Mercifully the string of casualties was not too serious but the experience denied us the chance of fulfilling our mission to deliver aid to Gaza yesterday.

And dramatic images of the rioting and attacks could not be relayed to Press TV viewers because someone sabotaged the satellite van by deliberately cutting through a vital cable which would have beamed the shameful attacks across the world.

However, every cloud has a silver lining and I would like to take this opportunity of personally thanking the Egyptian authorities and those dark forces who tried to derail Viva Palestina.

The event has only served to make us stronger, unite and bond us together more and created a wave of international media interest in Viva Palestina.

I think it would be fair to say that when you bring a diverse group of 300 plus people together on a gruelling mission to cover 5,000 miles driving across North Africa the result can result in a less than harmonious state of affairs.

To be frank, there was friction and infighting and some of us generally got on each other’s nerves as you would when you are confined to close quarters with challenging living, sleeping and eating conditions.

However, the deliberate bloody-mindedness of the Egyptian authorities did something we had failed to do for ourselves … it caused us to unite, bond and emerge stronger than ever from underneath the rows of police batons, bricks, bottles and stones.
The trouble began when the police – who were only obeying their orders – tried to break up the convoy into small groups of medical and non medical aid. We were told the first would go through the Rafah crossing while the latter would go through an Israeli checkpoint.

This was never going to be accepted by anyone on board the convoy. Our aim from the outset was simple: Rafah or bust.

Giving aid to the people of Gaza has nothing to do with the Israelis and I do wish they would stop trying to make themselves centre stage in an affair that does not involve Tel Aviv.

As we dug in our heels about the convoy being physically divided, the authorities decided there was only one solution – batter us into submission, after all that is what police states do.

And so, when the police tried to get physical, the convoy members followed their natural instincts and used passive resistance to defend themselves.

Egyptian police are obviously not used to confronting stroppy westerners in such large numbers and so they retreated while a second wave was sent in. Hundreds of riot squad officers, wearing visors, carrying shields and batons tumbled in to one of the two car parks in a large town centre compound in the port of al Arish and set about the unarmed peace activists.

They too were heroically repelled and what followed was an uneasy stand off as some convoy members received medical attention.

The net result was scores of vehicles had been able to escape the compound in which they were being held behind metal police barriers.

It was a minor victory and what followed was a very British response – the lads decided to have a game of football. I did try to persuade the Egyptian police to join in stressing they would have much more fun kicking a ball instead of kicking my comrades, but they seemed reluctant to let go of their batons.

As the night drew in the convoy leader George Galloway who was 40 kilometres down the road, was made aware of the battle of al Arish and so he refused to cross the Rafah Border in to Gaza and returned to the convoy.

It was a hard call to make as the international media had gathered at Rafah for a party that never happened. As usual the Israelis also played to stereotype by shelling and bombing parts of Gaza.

By the time Britain’s best known parliamentarian reached the compound night had fallen and bright stadium-style lights illuminated the two car parks.

Suddenly the area was plunged into darkness by a powercut which coincided with a brick, bottle and stone attacks on the convoy members by youths in their late teens and 20s. Seconds before the lights went out some convoy members saw a couple of unidentified men scrawling anti-Hamas slogans on lorries.

The lights remained out for some minutes, during which time the vicious attack was unleashed – the whole proceedings failed to warrant one single Egyptian police officer to swing his baton into action.

Those who had wielded their sticks with such a passion before, stood impassively by and watched the onslaught.

The power kicked back in again and the bright lights illuminated the scene to reveal several convoy members lying dazed and confused, blood dripping from gaping head wounds.

While they were ferried to hospital for treatment, there was a second powercut and a repeat of the violence.

Once again the police stood by and watched the thugs launch their attacks on unarmed and defenceless members of Viva Palestina.

Galloway, incandescent with rage held an urgent meeting with the governor of the region and secured assurances this would not happen again. He also secured a pledge that the convoy would be allowed to make its way to the Rafah crossing for 6am on Monday.

We’re now only a few hours away from that deadline and it remains to be seen if the governor will keep his word.

But regardless of what he decides I want to thank him for pulling every single member of Viva Palestina into one, united front.

Thanks to him and the cack-handed police operation, Viva Palestina has emerged refocussed and stronger than ever with one, determined goal: Rafah or bust.

And it will happen, inspite of the best efforts of Tel Aviv meddling and Egyptian authorities’ bullying.

The people united can never be defeated.

Gaza, next stop.

* British journalist Yvonne Ridley and award-winning film-maker Hassan al Banna Ghani are on the Viva Palestina convoy making a documentary about the journey from London to Gaza. her website is http://www.yvonneridley.org and you can follow her updates by Twitter or Facebook


War on Terror: Demand the Truth

Terror becomes a pair of Bushy hands

Terror becomes a pair of Bushy hands. U.S. President George W. Bush hands back a crying baby that was handed to him from the crowd as he arrived for an outdoor dinner with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Trinwillershagen, Germany, July 13, 2006. REUTERS/Jim Bourg (GERMANY)

Avaaz is calling for signatures for this campaign.

-o-

This week the US government is debating whether to set up a Commission of Inquiry to look into Bush’s ‘War on Terror’ tactics. This could have major ramifications all the way up the chain of command.

Key US Senators, leading this call for justice, need a massive global endorsement to ensure that the Commission is set up and has real teeth. But there are powerful interests that want to cover up the truth about torture, secret detention and other unlawful abuse.

-o-

Your voice counts!


To An Israeli Soldier Facing a Sleeping Baby at a Checkpoint

You are in full military gear.
He is wrapped in a blue blanket, serene.

The barrel of your gun is close to his feet.
His grandfather holds him steady, to keep his sleep.

This moment will pass or come to an end.
The measure of fear is in that distance, closing in.

Dear soldier, tell me
Did you choose your own womb?

-o-

Here is the photo that prompted this piece.


The Good Neighbour

Bang!  There he goes again, repeatedly taking aim
Until he hits whatever it is he’s been missing.
Sure of eye even when he falters.
He smiles and waves as we shudder.

It has been a while since we let him
Silence our worries with his hobby.

Our neighbourhood has grown used to this
Night and day, good or bad weather.
Everyone hides a fear of the gun collector.

On days when he fancies something new
From one of us, we grow restless.

Maybe, as we whisper
Among ourselves, we are just imagining it.
No, he’s not really interested in this thing of mine,
You think?  He already has his own, from someone else.

Extra care must be taken that he doesn’t feel
Violated by our talk in our own homes.
It is undeclared but true, his claim
Lies beyond his yard.
Soon enough we’ll know who’s next.

-o-

This poem was written in September 2008.  It is an acrostic.


Who Told You What

I can only imagine what it’s like in Gaza today, the 21st day of systematic bombing and intensified ground assault. I wouldn’t want to be a screaming child looking for my mother who is probably one of over a thousand dead.

Where I live it is the middle of summer in the Southern Hemisphere. The strong Southeaster winds are sweeping through this land, heeding no borders. This country I now call home is where the term Apartheid was born. A term that has been used to describe Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

Read the rest of the article


Myths and Bloodstains


“I am deeply alarmed by the current escalation of violence
in and around Gaza. This is unacceptable.”
Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary General
30 December 2008

“Israel has been supplying comprehensive humanitarian aid
to the Gaza Strip and has even been stepping this up by the day.”
Tzipi Livni, Israeli Foreign Minister
31 December 2008

It may be hard for anyone to imagine
I was once a little girl,
filling a small pot with handfuls
of moist soil, making room
for a fragile seedling.

Now I can’t remember
the last time I planted
something that took time
to grow.

Today I had someone do my fingers
after a cleansing.
The faintest hint
of pink, nothing darker.

Soon three more ministers
and a president will try
to give me a squeeze.
Like all others, their hands
will grow weak as I stand
on burgundy heels.
My firm smile alone
will make them squirm.

I wonder if I should put on
that elegant black suit
worn only once, next to Condee
Rice, a string of pearls
tracing the lines on my neck.
I would have preferred
a choker. Even so, I made her look
even smaller.

This pair of earrings,
twisted “O”s,
will make my hair seem
less stiff and straight.

Details are forever crucial.
I know.

-o-
Land Theft

Photo


Israel Needs Shoes


New moon dimmed by flares
Shoes scatter on rubbled streets
Not one matching pair

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