Saturday, 30 October 2010

Return from Gaza

The good people of Gaza could not support us for more than 3 days. They had given us their food, but our hotel had run out on the third day. Although I knew that Israel was only allowing the Gazans enough food through this cruel blockade to keep them just above malnutrition level, the truth of how precarious existence is in this place was driven home. My translator was ambivalent about it 'This happens often in Gaza' she said in her matter of fact way.

So, having said goodbye to the trusty Little Van which had been bought with the donations of so many well wishers, and had carried me safely the 3500 miles from Wales, we were loaded onto coaches - mine was for women only, and taken once more to the gates of Rafah where delays and the sad goodbyes eventually saw us herded onto different coaches for the 6 hour journey to Cairo. We had no choice. The Egyptian government were going to see us 'off the premises' so to speak in their own time, in their own way, and so we drove once more past the scarred remains of what one day will be a very fine city resting on the bright golden sand of endless beaches on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

Forever etched in my mind will be the face of Alla as we parted. I could leave, and she could not. The Viva Palestina convoy had brought hope, but the warplanes of Israel were already screeching low overhead,17 we counted, to renew the threats and intimidation and terror, even as we were leaving.

Due to the ever present nausea I was suffering, it was only a matter of time before I threw up - in a carrier bag as it happened- and groaned and grogged my way through the journey. At one stage we stopped, but our guards said only men could get off and relieve themselves. I do not take kindly to this sort of attitude, and forced my way off the coach, closely followed by most of the women present, to find a private place in the sand, in the dark.

At Cairo airport they attempted to kettle us. Again I do not take kindly to this sort of attitude and refused to be kettled. The airport police retaliated by seeking us out wherever we were and banging loudly on metal chairs to wake us up every hour or so. It was a fine revelation to hear that the bartender at the airport had been one of the Egyptians demonstrating against his own government in the streets of Cairo for our passage to Gaza. We were on our way home, mission accomplished. All that remained was to plan the next convoy. The siege of Gaza has to be lifted, the governments of the West are starting to listen to the voices of reason, and we cannot give up now.

1 comment:

DV said...

Dear Pippa,
My daughter, an avid blogger, told me about your blogspot! Though brief, 19 days in my case (I parachuted into Syria:) it has been an extreme pleasure knowing people like you who truly have hearts of gold. Whilst in Lattakia, North Syria, I developed my 10 golden rules for all future convoys. In Rule Number 4 I wrote: “Do not stay cooped in your dormitory or your sleeping bags:) Lots of wonderful people around, chat them up and you'd find out how extraordinary these ordinary convoy guys are. Brotherhood, Sisterhood and Robin Hoods:) is in the air. Breathe the air of the camaraderie of humanity. For these guys to be here they must be unique and ultra special. I just had a breakfast chat with an Irish bloke and he among others said: peace is a much abused word, because peace without justice is meaningless! This coming from the legacy of discord and warfare between the Irish Protestant and Catholic communities and the overbearing hands of Downing Street.”
VP5 was very much a nostalgic journey, a déjà vu of sorts! It was reminiscent of my 2 years whilst with 300 colleagues from 60 different nations under a single roof in St. Donat’s Castle, Llantwit Major, Wales. The buzz word in our Welsh campus was “International Understanding”. Fast forward 35 years, and I am yet again blessed to be in the company of 400 volunteers from 30 nations on the VP5 convoy en route to Gaza. Another humanitarian piece in the complex jig saw to end the siege on Gaza, to mainstream the rights of the Palestinian to equity, justice and self determination and the ultimate prospect of peace in the Middle East.
Yesss! The Gaza invasion is yet one more tragic story in a long, sad tragedy that has befallen a people whose story has been denied and distorted.
Nelson Mandela sums it well when he said, it is the worst moral crisis of our times. Thus making it a humanitarian crisis; a colossal failure of our collective humanity.
Joshua Heschel adds “few are guilty but all are responsible”
VP5 and all similar efforts that preceded it has mainstreamed the international character of efforts to end the longest military occupation in modern history, people driven out of their homes never allowed to return and dispossessed of all their property.
It is the collective and sustained disgust at such irrational violence towards an entire people that has seen the dismantling of the apartheid regime in South Africa and the end of genocide in Rwanda.
Yet again, civil society must take charge, where super-powers have failed the Palestinian people.
Let us together up our efforts to end the siege of Gaza; and change the tragic course of history in Palestine.
From the mountains to the sea, Palestine will be FREE!
BTW is registration opened for VP6?

Dr. Musa MN (Malaysia, VP0099)
Alumni UWC of the Atlantic 75-77