Viva Palestina Convoy Update #2 with IAC Delegate Report

Viva Palestina Convoy, July 12, 2009, 2:45 am Cairo
Contact the Egyptian embassy and tell them to immediately allow the Viva Palestina Aid Convoy into Gaza. Call 202-966-6342 or 202-895-5400 fax 202-244-4319 or 202-244-5131 and e-mail
The 100 Viva Palestina humanitarian volunteers have decided to stay the night in their buses at the Mubarak Peace Bridge over the Suez Canal despite pressure from the Egyptian security officials to return to Cairo.

The official reason given at the checkpoint for refusing to allow them to cross is that the officials there did not have a list of the names of the members of the convoy. Such a list was, however, at the request of the Egyptian authorities before any of the convoy members set foot in Egypt sent to the Egyptian ambassadors to Washington, D.C., and London.

The US Embassy in Cairo has now stepped in to forward a newly provided list of those convoy members aboard the buses at the bridge to the Egyptian foreign ministry to clear the way for the convoy's passage.

Nancy Mansour Leigh, a spokeswoman for the Viva Palestina delegation at the Suez crossing, says, “It's going to be an uncomfortable night, but it's nothing compared with what the people of Gaza must live through every day. We've already succeeded in securing internet access and are negotiating other necessary facilities. But whatever facilities are provided or not, our determination will see us through the night and all the way to Gaza.”

New York City Councilman Charles Barron is on the scene at the Suez Canal and acting as chief negotiator with Egyptian security officials. “The Viva Palestina movement has had a great success this morning with our stand at the Suez crossing. We've now got an agreement for us to stay until the list of our convoy members reaches the foreign ministry. It shows what can be achieved with the determination and commitment of a collective body of people. We are determined to cross onto Gaza, and no matter what happens next, out of this first small confrontation, we've achieved a success for the movement in support of the Palestinian people. The convoy is going to move on, and we ain't gonna let nobody turn us around.”

British Member of Parliament George Galloway offered these words of encouragement for the delegation being held up at the crossing:“This is an American convoy. And Americans are used to refusing to give up seats on buses in the struggle for justice. I regard everyone who's putting themselves on the line tonight at the Suez Canal for the success of this humanitarian mission as nothing short of a hero.”

Kevin Ovenden
Viva Palestina coordinator

Report from John Parker, West Coast Coordinator of the International Action Center.

Parker is one of four IAC activists participating in the Viva Palestina delegation to Gaza.

A delegation of about 200 people left for Cairo, Egypt from July 4th to July 7th, en route to Gaza to make the political demand of breaking and defying Israel's illegal and genocidal siege of Gaza and to provide much-needed humanitarian aid to the people--wheelchairs, walkers and medical supplies.

We are currently split up into two groups. One group is made up of the drivers of the vehicles that will transport some of the aid from Alexandria, Egypt, through the border of Gaza. I am part of this group. The other group is gathering and organizing other medical supplies in Cairo, and they will meet up with us at the border.

New York City Councilmember Charles Barron has already joined the group in Cairo and will also be at the border for the crossing. Former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney will also be joining us at the border of Gaza before we cross. McKinney was released only a few days ago from an Israeli jail, where she and 20 other activists were held after being abducted by the Israeli navy from the Spirit of Humanity boat which was carrying aid to Gaza.

I am proud to be a part of building and participating in this tremendous effort to expose the horror of Israel's war against the Palestinian people, which the media tries to hide from the world. As Ron Kovic, one of the initiators of this campaign in the U.S., along with British MP George Galloway said, "We are going there to offer a hand of friendship and solidarity, not bombs and terror."

Israel's bombing of Gaza for 23 days starting last December caused an immense and terrifying amount of damage. At least 20 percent of the children there suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of the bombing. Half of the hospitals in Gaza and 47,000 homes were damaged.

However, one thing wasn't damaged--the will of the people of Gaza to survive and to strongly demand self-determination. This is what inspires us to do all we can.

Judging from the reaction we receive here in Egypt from people who see our Viva Palestina USA T-shirts, many of the Egyptian people are proud and inspired by the courageous people of Gaza. For example, a young woman who spoke English asked Judy Greenspan, another IAC organizer on the trip, what her T-shirt meant. After Judy told her, she replied that a family member of hers works in a pharmacy and she wanted to donate medical supplies for the convoy.

This delegation is the second such convoy initiated by British MP George Galloway. He organized the first in the UK. The second one, which left from the U.S., was organized in collaboration with Vietnam veteran and anti-war activist Ron Kovic, author of "Born on the Fourth of July."

However, in the U.S., this effort is the result of the work of many in the Arab community, in the Mosques, in organizations like Al-Awda and others, in addition to anti-war and social justice organizations. On the delegation are members of CAIR, Middle East Childrens Alliance, Cuba Coalition, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, MECHA, International Action Center, International Socialist Organization, Workers World Party, ANSWER Coalition and many more. All of the organizations participated in making this campaign possible. However, along with the UK team of Viva Palestine, the lion's share of the credit must go to the Arab and Muslim communities in the U.S., which raised much of the funding for this effort.

Media coverage of our trip has been good. Photographs here are from the most recent press conference in Cairo. The press conference held on July 9 was covered by Al Jazeera and by one of the largest media outlets in Egypt. In addition, there have been many interviews of individuals on the trip. With Cynthia McKinney joining us at the border and the presence of Councilmember Charles Barron, that coverage will increase.

I should also mention the very impressive showing of support by members of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement represented by four Black youth. One of them, Brandon, is shown here holding a red, black and green African Liberation flag. He began his remarks at the press conference by giving a "shout out" to the people of Africa on the continent and referenced the people of Africa on the U.S. delegation, who were showing their solidarity with Palestine. He made the links between the racism and repression faced by Palestinian people and the occupation of Gaza with the repression faced by Black people in the U.S. by police brutality and occupation of their neighborhoods. He said he was inspired to come on the delegation by the actions of Cynthia McKinney.

Delegates here in Alexandria are anxiously waiting to load up and decorate the vehicles and begin their journey to Gaza. These vehicles will be donated to the people of Gaza.

*Click here to follow Viva Palestina's updates from the convoy.
*Click here to donate to Viva Palestina USA
*Click here to donate to help with the costs of the International Action Center's delegation.

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