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Monday, December 28, 2009

Approaching Gaza

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Yesterday, December 27, 2009, marked the one year anniversary of the beginning of the Gaza onslaught by Israel, purportedly in retaliation to Palestinian cross-border rocket attacks. The operation, which lasted for approximately one month, claimed the lives of more than 1,300 Palestinians, many of whom were women and children.

The UN Fact finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict released their report last September, in which they found that in many instances, Israeli forces were in violation of established rules of war conduct, and UN humanitarian guidelines and laws. The continued blockade of Gaza has made the territory one humanitarian nightmare.

All that you probably already know.

Image taken from The Star, hosting by PhotobucketThe convoy crossing the Syria-Jordan border
(image from The Star)

What you may not know about is the London to Gaza Convoy (via RantingsbyMM), organized by Viva Palestina, an organization that organizes convoys to Gaza to deliver food, medicines and other essential stuff.

But they’re facing a problem – not from the Israelis, but from the Egyptian government, which has not allowed them to use a closer route. 
(what you can do, and more, in the full post)

Walski received this in the mail last night, and it details the difficulties being faced by the convoy.

Dear all,

It has been one year since Israel's attack on Gaza that left 1,400 people dead, 400 of which were children.

Currently 250 vehicles laden with foodstuff and medical aid are on their way to Gaza. They started our their journey in early December from the UK, crossed Europe into Turkey, then Syria and now Jordan. In the convoy are 9 Malaysian vehicles - 4 from Viva Palestina Malaysia (formerly known as COMPLETE) and 5 from the Perdana Global Peace Foundation.

They are 4 hours away but are currently stuck at Aqaba, Jordan, as the Egyptian government wants to travel 500 miles back to Syria so as to approach Egypt from a different route and ask Israel for permission to cross from Egypt into Gaza through the Egyptian controlled Rafah crossing.

Tomorrow Malaysians will be handing over a letter of appeal to the Egyptian Ambassador, asking for safe, easy and quick passage of all vehicles through Egypt into Gaza.

Please show your support by joining us.

When - 12pm
Where - Egyptian Embassy, 12 Jalan Ru, Off Jalan Ampang Hilir, 55000 KL

Please pass this on to as many people as possible. Let not our efforts be in vain.


Shazeea Banu

Medicine III, Monash University
Clinical School, Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Ph. +60166514543

The convoy in Amman Jordan, awaiting clearance to proceed
(image by @juanajaafar, via RantingsbyMM)

And in case you were wondering, yes, there are Malaysians taking part in this interfaith international convoy, among them, Walski’s Twitter-friend Juana Jaafar, who’s participating as a representative of the Perdana Global Peace Organisation (driving an ambulance, Walski’s told).

There are a few ways you can lend your support – apart from attending the letter hand-over today – blog about it (if you are a blogger), Tweet and re-Tweet anything to do with the convoy (for example, you can follow @juanajaafar who’s been updating her experience since earlier this month. Other Tweeterers you can follow: @ramgk, @pgporg & @GazaFreedom), or simply raise awareness by highlighting this to your friends & family. Or, you can write to the Egyptian government – politely.

While the Egyptian government is not outright disallowing the convoy to pass, what Egypt is asking is for the convoy to take a much longer route, adding another 500 miles to the route, approaching the Egyptian border a different way.

The convoy at the Jordanian border earlier on
(image by @juanajaafar, via RantingsbyMM)

Because of the many other things that have been happening, including Antares’ illness, Walski’s really been neglecting this very important and symbolic international effort for Gaza. This post is his attempt to make amends.

Equally as important is that it’s not about religion, being anti-anyone or pro-anyone-else – the Gaza disaster is simply a humanitarian disaster. Just ask former South African Constitutional Court judge Justice Richard Goldstone – himself not only a Jew, but a Zionist:

We accepted this Mission because we believe deeply in the rule of law, humanitarian law, human rights, and the principle that in armed conflict civilians should to the greatest extent possible be protected from harm.

We accepted with the conviction that pursuing justice is essential and that no state or armed group should be above the law. Failing to pursue justice for serious violations during any conflict will have a deeply corrosive effect on international justice.

We accepted out of a deep concern for the hundreds of civilians who needlessly died and those who suffered injury and dislocation of their lives.

We accepted because we believe that the perpetrators of serious violations must be held to account.

We do not claim to be immune from error. After the release of the report we have received a number of comments from people who are sincerely interested in the truth.

We have considered them and where relevant redressed inaccuracies in the final version of the report which is today before you.

We regret that the response to date of the Government of Israel avoids dealing with the substance of the report.

(source: Richard Goldstone's address to the UN Human Rights Council on September 29, 2009)

Humanitarianism transcends creed, culture and political ideology – remember this simple fact, and everything else will be nothing but useless noise.

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