Hi Folks - we arrived in Aqaba (only port in Jordan) last night - and a very happy christmas to one and all. It's lovely balmy warm weather here, and I can see the sea from the cafe where I am typing this - if I can find a cheap pair of bathers I am going to go for a swim later.
We face our first serious political challenge. We have known all along that the Egyptian government does not want us to enter the country or to enter GAZA. The politics of this are complex but basically they are a key american and Isreali ally and so do not want international attention or attention in the Arab world to focus on their collusion with the siege of GAZA.
The current position is that the Egyptian Consul in Aqaba has made it clear that we are not welcome, and will not be permitted to deisenbark at the Egyptian port of Nureiba (the destination port from Aqaba). We will be welcome to enter GAZA at Rafah when we get there but they will not allow us to enter Egypt at Nureiba. This has been reported in the Jordan times - and is basically a delaying/b;ocking tactic. They are able to say that we are welcome to cross into GAZA whilst making it impossible for us to do so.
They inform us that there are international protocols (which just seem to have been invented) that requires aid for palesinians to come in through the Egyptian Port of Al Areish. To get there we would have to retrace our steps hundreds of miles to go to LEbanon - we would then have to charter several ships and pay for them with money intended for GAZA, and then travel to Al Areish where the aid would have to be handed over to UNWRA (UN welfare and relief agency - the UN body set up to support the palestinains and notoriously corrupt and inefficient) Our response to this is that we do not recognise the palestinians as refugees in their own country, which we consider to be a sovereign nation and that the people of our respoective nations (Turkey, UK, BElgium, Malaysia, France, GErmany, Jordan and Syria, USA etc ) have chosen to donate the aid and send it directly to the people of GAZA, by means of the VIVA PAlestina Convoy
We are therfore respectfully asking Hosni Mubarek, the president of Egypt to show magnanimity to the people of GAZA. We are making it clear that we have no wish to create problems for the people or government of Egypt and wish simply to transit with much needed medical supplies worth millions of pounds.
What you can do
Please do one of all of the follwing -
contact your elected representatives and ask them to raise the issue with the foreign office (or its equivalent in South Africa (pete))
Go on the VIVA Palestina Website for more informaion ( I hope its working now) for updates - Pete there is a new branch in South Africa as of last week
Organise a letter writing campaign to the Egyption embassy in your country - polite and respectful letters please. On this note you may note that George Galloway reported last night that in a meeting with the Egyptian Consul in Aqaba, the consul let slip that we would have to negotiate entry into Egypt with the ISreali Government - it may be worth asking in the letters whether this means that the Egyptians have sub contrated their national sovereignty to the ISrealis on this issue - but politely !!!!!!!
Contact the forein office duty desk by phone, e-mail, etc to ask them what they are doping aboput this and ask them to ensure that the foreign misister raises this with the Egyptiona government at the firsat opportunity
Write to and e-mail your national embassy in Egypt - do not assume they are aweare of what is going on - and ask them to intevene to allow the people of the donor nations to be allowed to donate their aid directly to the people of GAZA
Forward the text of this blog to anyone you know who may be willing to support us in these ways and ask them to help - get this informaion cascaded out as widely as possible
This has all the makings of a long one - The key factor will be to focus international attention on the situation and to expose the fact that the Egyptians are colluding with the siege of GAZA and are doing the bidding of the ISreali state . There is a growing media presence here - Al Jazeera is now committed to staying with us until we get inot GAZA (their coverage is excellent)- if you have any contacts in the British media use them to try and raise the profile of the issue - we need Britsih media coverage - it doesn't seem to be happening at the moment.
PErsonally I am committed to staying here as long as I can and have at least till the 4/5th January but will negotaite longer with my employer if I can - In the meantime life is good - am getting over a bit of a chest infection which has been with me for 10 days or so - Aqaba looks like a lovely place to explore. My only concern at the moment is political - some of the turkish convoy are very miltant islamic activists and their chanting is (so I understand) sometimes extremely anti semitic - a group of us are going to raise this with the convoy leadership later on - I haven't spent my adult life as an anti racist to sit quietly whilst the convoy allows these men (inevitably they are men!) to hand a huge propoganda tool to the ISrealis, and I don't like racsists full stop.
It looks like I'll be able to blog regularly for the next few days so will keep you all informed -
All love to everyone - if anyone opens my presents before I'm there, there will be words - I have got presents haven't I!?
All love to all
Break the siege !!!!!!
(PS don't worry am still a lovable cuddly militant - not a militant militant!!!)