Wednesday 9 November 2011

Amid war threats, December’s Gaza convoy is postponed

by Grant Morgan
co-organiser of Kia Ora Gaza
4 November 2011
UK charity Viva Palestina, lead organiser of an international aid mission to besieged Gaza in late December, today announced the convoy’s postponement for several months.
Hundreds of convoyers from around the world were scheduled to gather in Cairo next month, link up with the huge democracy movement which overthrew the dictator Hosni Mubarak, then drive their aid vehicles through Egypt’s Rafah crossing into Gaza.
Six weeks ago, Kia Ora Gaza selected a four-person Kiwi Team to join Viva Palestina’s land convoy: Roger Fowler, Gibran Janif and Hone Fowler from Auckland and Tali Williams from Wellington. (See the sidebar of kiaoragaza.netfor their photos and biographies.)
A central aim of the convoy was to get international convoyers and Egyptian democrats joining forces for a permanent opening of the Rafah gateway to Gaza. That would start to collapse Israel’s blockade of the tiny Mediterranean enclave where 1.5 million Palestinians are illegally imprisoned.
But now the timeline has been set back by circumstances. Viva Palestina explains:

The first democratic elections since the fall of Mubarak are due to take place on 28th November. In addition to the uncertainties raised by the election campaign and outcome in Egypt, Israel is now clearly preparing major military operations against Gaza and may launch an attack on Iran in the next few days and weeks. In this context, we have decided to postpone the VP6 convoy until the situation has become clearer. We still intend to take a convoy in as soon as possible, which we now believe will be at some point in the first three months of the New Year.”
Over recent days, the Israeli media has been filled with reports about prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his defence and foreign ministers pushing for a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities and a collateral assault on Gaza.
UK newspaper The Guardian revealed that America and Britain are also planning missile strikes on Iran, while Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak told Washington that if the US doesn’t bomb Iran, Israel will.
Yesterday, US president Barack Obama said America and its allies would exert “unprecedented pressure” on Tehran to keep Iran from making a nuclear weapon.
Yet an authoritative report published Monday by the British American Security Information Council points to nuclear weapons proliferation by Washington and Tel Aviv. The US is spending ten times more than any other power on upgrading and expanding its nuclear arsenal. And Israel, which refuses to sign the International Non-Proliferation Treaty, is extending the range of its nuclear missiles and expanding its nuclear missile submarine fleet.
The Israeli air force announced on Wednesday the completion of weeklong exercises with Italy’s military, testing operational capabilities in conditions that don’t exist in Israel. In other words, wargaming against Iran.
On Tuesday, Israel’s vice-premier, Silvan Shalom, warned that Tel Aviv is nearing a “dramatic decision” that would put an end to rocket fire from Gaza. Of course, Shalom made no mention of Israel’s blockade of Gaza, nor the preceding six decades of Zionist armed occupation of Palestinian lands, inevitable breeding grounds of resistance by the dispossessed.
A day earlier, Netanyahu had told parliament that Israel “cannot rely on defence alone”, but must also go onto the “offensive”. Within hours, the meaning of his words became clear. The Israeli prime minister ordered a speed up in the construction of Jewish-only house construction in Palestinian East Jerusalem and the West Bank. He also ordered Israel’s military to prepare for a ground offensive in Gaza.
Israeli politicians routinely demonise Hamas, the elected government of Gaza, for being “terrorists”. Yet Tel Aviv is now targeting Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, described yesterday by Israeli journalist Gideon Levy as “the most moderate Palestinian leader there will ever be”. Any why? Because Abbas has appealed to the United Nations for recognition of a Palestinian state after nothing came from years of “negotiations” with Israel, labeled by Levy as “the enemy of freedom”.
Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister, twice this week called for the “removal” of Abbas. His call was condemned by a senior Palestinian official as “a clear threat against [the president’s] life”.
A poll commissioned by Israeli newspaper Haaretz yesterday revealed that 80% of Israel’s citizens believe an attack on Iran would “likely” lead to war with Hamas in Gaza and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah.
Their belief is shared by Bruce Riedel, former special assistant to the US president, who said Wednesday that “an Israeli attack on Iran could ignite a regional conflict from Afghanistan to the Gaza Strip”.
This fevered atmosphere of military threats by Israel and America against Iran and Gaza constitutes the backdrop to Viva Palestina’s postponement of December’s convoy to Gaza.
Viva Palestina intends to marshall a convoy as soon as possible, which they believe will be during the first quarter of 2012. Kia Ora Gaza remains committed to this convoy, while our four Kiwi volunteers are still keen to go.
Kia Ora Gaza requests all supporters to continue donating towards our $50,000 Gaza Appeal, since this money is needed to fund our Kiwi contribution to the 2012 convoy.
Right now, we are 58% of the way towards the $50,000 target. If the remaining $21,000 is donated by Christmas, then Kia Ora Gaza will be able to move swiftly in 2012 when circumstances favour the convoy.
The executive of Kia Ora Gaza thanks everyone who has contributed to our $50,000 appeal and/or assisted in other ways. Together we are helping to deliver justice for everyone within historic Palestine, and thus building a stronger base for a world where people care for each other.

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