Another day in Aqaba, which as unexpected places to stay go is very nice. I'm staying with a few people in a hostel near the sea front. Very basic cheap and run by a really friendly Palestinian family who treat us with great respect and welcome. Everyone here recognises us and asks us about what we are doing - and wishes us luck. Last night about 40 of us went down to the beach - music chat and a drink or two - some Palestinian musicians turned up at about midnight and started playing songs accompanied by an amazing oud player. Loads of people came to watch an exchange of Irish freedom songs and Palestinian liberation music....... My inner traveller is being woken up in a way that it never really has before - I really like the middle east.
On a more serious note, here is an update
WE are informed that the convoy leaders have for the first time established a line of communication with the Egyptian Government at a senior level and that negotiations are underway. WE don't know in the proletarian part of the conoy (the drivers) the line that is being followed. The two unnegotiables from our side are that we insist on handing the aid directly to the people of Gaza, not through an intermediary like UNWRA, and that we have to go through the port of Nureiba. The note struck by George Galloway tonight was cautiously optimistic. We will accept any other conditions they apply
Tomorrow we start some early frors of action. A number of people (including George) have signed up to start a hunger strike (or fast) This will start at 11.25 am, the exact moment the bombing of GAZA started a year ago to the day. The fast will have a rolling start with more people joining each day. The fast will end when we get to GAZA. " if we can't deliver the aids to the people to whom it belongs, then we will deny oursleves the food we need in solidarity with them" (Ibid George Galloway), Personally I won't be doing this as I wouldn't remain functional and I've had some water retention round my legs which has been painful at times and I'm not taking any risks with my health but I salute the pople who are
There will also be a rally starting at 11.25 am with our Jordanian partners (the union of Muslims) who are providing us with food and support and a venue to meet and plan, as well as a huge amount of free accomodation. I don't yet know where the rally will take place but the obvious targets are the Egyptian consulate or the Israeli presence here. However the line being taken is that we must do nothing at all to 'annoy' the Egyptisns and make it clear we see the culprits in this situation as the Israeli sate.
There is a feeling that the main aim of the Egyptians is to avoid us getting to RAFAH on the 27th (tomorrow) on the first anniversary of the start of the bombing and invasion of GAZA, and that they won't want us on the ship tomorrow either (obvious parallels with Moses parting the red sea), but that once this is avoided they will let us in......... we wait to see.
Please keep up whatever attempts you are making to contact the media where you are. I used to live with Two really well known journalist (30 years ago) - Jackie Ashley and Ed Vulliamy of the Guardian and I'm going to try to get in contact with them which will probably be impossible so if you have any contacts like this use them,
I was sold a couple of story lines by a young women called Norah in F group who has been doing media work for the convoy for the last few months. The key words are : Christmas, fast, getting over the red sea, bringing aid to the children in GAZA, the fact that the medicines are siting in the vans up in the mountains going off in the very hot sun (by the way the Jordanians will not release the vehicles from the customs compound and will not allow us to retrieve anything but personal items so we can't protect the medicinal perishables - no idea if this is a political or administrative decision) Whilst Israel killed another 6 people on GAZA and the west bank today, we have essential medicines ands some very high tech equipment with us (The Gloucester Group I am with bought a $3,000 EEG machine with the money we raised, to my personal knowledge there are 2 electron microscopes, dialysis machines everywhere, blood scrubbers and loads of other very much needed stuff - god knows what the Turks have got but they are incredibly well resourced - the Bristol group have a 40 ft artic rammed with equipment)
Finally I asked Kevin the convoy leader to check out yesterday the point I mentioned in the blog about Anti Semitic chanting from some of the militants in the Turkish group - he tells me he has done this and has received assurances that this is not the case. I accept these assurances and hope they are true.
We hear the Israeli Government has been using the argument internationally that the strap line 'VIVA PALESTINA' proves that the convoy is not about humanitarian aid but is a political intervention in the affairs of a sovereign state - how Machiavellian is that?
Signing off - If I don't blog tomorrow it means we are on the move - although I suspect it won't be tomorrow -
yours cautiously optimistic