Sunday, 10 October 2010

Living with the refugees

The next few days are spent in the refugee camp at Lattakia whilst our team negotiates with the Egyptian government. We are (of course) a thorny problem. Blockage busting is not anyones idea of a holiday. Only last May the Israeli government in typical inhuman fashion murdered nine people on the Mavi Marmara. Some had bullets put through their head at point blank range, some were shot 4 and 5 times. I have spoken to people who were on this ship - women like me. The Israelis were trying to put an end to future convoys with sheer brutality, yet they already have failed. We are here and we are growing.

Over the next few days I meet Palestinian families. Those whose grandparents were born within the confines of Gaza still have no passports, no freedom of movement. They have been in limbo since 1948 when they were terrorized into fleeing their homes by Zionist-backed Jewish gangs. Since the fair and democratic election of the Hamas Government 4 years ago the position of Gazan refugees has been even worse than other Palestianian refugees. A great irony is that penalised for the outcome of the elections as they are, not one can cast a vote. How the West hates democracy.

I meet Enez and her family who live in on the of the shambolic concrete blocks in the camp, but looks are deceptive, inside it is little short of palatial. The family are well educated and speak beautiful English. Her grandmother cries to me, her whole life imprisoned in a refugee camp - her crime was to be born on a piece of land which was hers, in Palestine - whilst those with their full quota of human rights prance across the globe pretending to hold peace talks, impervious to the suffering their empty postulations fail to alleviate. I promise to pick up a handful of Palestinian soil, take it to Wales and then mail it to Enez.

We clean up the camp a bit - especially the showers and loos- and settle down to a kind of routine. The Jordanians arrive in a swish convoy, some all girl groups, 125 more people drive in from Algeria. From time to time there is a curfew as our vehicles are now loaded with millions of pounds worth of aid and security has to be stepped up. There are those who would sabotage our efforts and we must be vigilant.

I am invited by local Syrian women out to lunch. The good Syrians have been loyal always to the Palestinians, giving them shelter, food and a home, as they do for us. Our camp of now 400 people is fed three times a day by the generosity of the Syrian government.

The coach is filled and the singing and clapping and swaying takes us all happily out into the green countryside of olive groves and lemon trees for a memoral banquet. We feast on vine leaves and roasted nuts and vast quantities of salad. There is plenty of meat for those so inclined - the Syrians, like the Turks, have very basic carnivorous appetites.

After lunch we are treated to a phone call from the wife of Kaled Meshal, the Hamas leader in exile. On speakerphone her rousing voice travels across the garden, thank us all and each send a greeting, me included. These are days I shall never forget.

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