Palestinians are not adverse to internecine violence (as noted previously 539 Palestinians were murdered by their own people between November 2000 and August 2008, and that before the Gaza War when we saw footage of Hamas members pushing Fatah activists off the the tops of high buildings with their hands cuffed behind their backs). But now they are murdering other Arabs.
The Viva Palestina convoy of 500 people and 200 vehicles bringing aid for the Palestinians was left stranded in Aqaba in Jordan for five days having been turned away from Egypt’s nearest crossing point into Gaza. Then, inexplicably, the convoy was forced back up through Jordan to Syria from where flights were boarded and ferries taken to get the convoy back to El Arish on Egypt’s Mediterranean coast at a cost of $300,000.
Well, the convoy has now arrived. And guess what, it still isn’t being allowed into Gaza!
To be exact 59 of the 198 vehicles are not being allowed into Gaza via the Rafah, Egypt crossing and have to go to Gaza, if at all, via Israel now.
The distinction seems to be that the vehicles required to go via Israel contain “pickup trucks, sedans, generators” and, more worryingly, “other equipment”. Only medical aid and passengers are allowed via Rafah, Egypt into Gaza.
The simple explanation could be over worries that the trucks, generators, sedans and other equipment could have a sinister use and if Israelis, or Egytians, get killed from a Kassam rocket or suicide bombing manufactured by this equipment then the Egyptian government doesn’t wish to be blamed.
But negotiations are carrying on as we speak to get the whole convoy into Gaza via Rafah, Egypt.
Sadly, a life has been lost. After Hamas called for protests at the Egytian blockade it then tried to disperse the crowd by firing shots. Soon after an Egyptian border guard was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper. There is no suggestion that the border guard was behaving aggressively.
Many others have been left injured after violent scuffles and stone throwing by Palestinians.
The Viva Palestina campaign has put out an emergency call. People are being asked to boycott Egypt and protest to Egyptian officials at Egyptian Embassies worldwide. Kevin Ovenden, the convoy leader, said: “We have now blocked the entrance to the port and we are now faced with riot police and water cannons and are determined to defend our vehicles and aid”.
And Dr Hanan Chehata, who is travelling with the convoy and who is director of public relations at the Middle East Monitor (MEMO), asks: “Why is Egypt adding to the suffering of the Palestinian people?” “Why are the Egyptians not helping their Muslim brothers and sisters – aren’t they part of the Muslim Ummah (community) as well?”
I have tried to answer those questions above but more interesting is Dr Chehata’s lack of interest in Gaza’s Christian community. Gaza has Christians too! Palestinians constantly remind us that Gaza’s Christian Arabs are a quickly diminishing community and blame Israel. (Christians are generally financially better off and so are more able to leave the poverty, unemployment and radicalism of Gaza. It has nothing to do with Israel).
We wait with bated breath as to when the Viva Palestina convoy will enter Gaza and from where. The convoy has been long complaining about the lack of publicity for its charitable gesture of travelling thousands of miles over land, sea and, now, air to support the even longer suffering people of Gaza. But with violence erupting, one dead and many injured there will be no shortage of publicity.
And an Egyptian family begins to mourn its loved one.