Monday, January 4, 2010

PACE Press Statement - 5 January 2010

For Immediate Release: 5 January 2010


PACE registers great disappointment with the position adopted by the Egyptian government which clearly contravenes universal humanitarian principles when it blocked the passage of the aid convoy initiated by Viva Palestina destined for Gaza. The convoy, the effort of British lawmaker, George Galloway, which is the third of its kind, consists of 240 ambulances and trucks laden with medicines, food and other basic humanitarian aid, contributed by ordinary citizens from many countries, departed London on 5th December 2009 and was scheduled to arrive in Gaza on 27th December. The people of Malaysia through PACE, FIMA and individuals under the banner of VPM (Viva Palestina Malaysia) has contributed 4 ambulances. Tun Dr Mahathir himself, through his anti-war initiatives has contributed 5 ambulances to this effort.

Regrettably, when the convoy reached Aqaba, Jordan, the Egyptian government denied permission for the convoy to enter Egypt through Nuweiba port at the Sinai peninsular. Nuweiba is a major port and suitable to handle such a large number of vehicles. However, the Egyptian authorities came up with preposterous excuses forcing the convoy has to turn back to Syria and enter Egypt via al-Arish port through the Mediterranean. Since al-Arish is a smaller port and cannot accommodate the large traffic volume, Viva Palestina has to hire three boats apart from having to engage chartered flights to ferry volunteers into Egypt. This incurs additional cost that runs well over USD 500,000, a huge sum to be borne by Viva Palestina.

Egypt also set two other conditions for the convoy, one to channel the aid through UNRWA; two, to apply for permission from Israel to enter Gaza. It is indeed a humiliation to ask permission from the Zionist entity which imposes the debilitating siege in the first place.

It is incumbent on the international community to pressure the Egyptian government to support the people of Gaza in the name of decency and universal humanitarian principles. The people of Gaza now live in abject conditions from the economic blockade and border closures which now runs into its third year. The blockade imposed by Israel is in contravention of the Security Council Resolution 1860 which calls for the unimpeded supply and distribution of food, medicine and fuel to all of Gaza without hindrance.

The economic paralysis was worsened by the massive attack launched by Israel on 28th December 2008 and continued for 22 days until January 2009. The attack or more fittingly described as a massacre on civilians has cost the lives of 1,417 Gazans, half of these were women and children. More than 5,000 people suffered serious injuries from the Israeli military ensemble, comprising of the remotely control pilotless ‘predator drone’, missiles, tanks, bombardment from warships and the banned white phosphorous bombs. The people of Gaza faced the Israeli onslaught without having the options to leave and seek refuge in neighbouring Arab countries. Egypt even closed her borders at Rafah, preventing the injured from crossing over to seek treatment and stopping medical assistance converged from all over the world from treating the wounded in Gaza. The inhumane acts mirrors the true face of the Egyptian government. Are they serving the interest of Israel and the US at all cost even if they have to shirk their responsibilities in protecting the people of Gaza.

Now, the Egyptian government acts in a more appalling manner by planting steel plates 20 to 30 m deep to block the myriad of tunnels dug into Gaza, the only life-line for the imprisoned Gazan to gain access to food, medicine and other basic requirements. All these behoove many questions on the role of Egypt. Is Egypt so desperate to serve the interest of Israel and the US that they without any iota of guilt turned their back against the people of Gaza.

In the light of these developments, PACE urges the Egyptian government to fulfill the following demands:

1. We demand on the basis of grave concern for the sufferings of the people of Gaza for the Egyptian government to facilitate the movement and passage of the convoy into Gaza. They must look into the logistical needs of the convoy for a smooth deliverance to the people of Gaza.

2. We demand that volunteers from all over the world who are now converged in Cairo to be allowed to march peacefully into Gaza as a gesture of support and solidarity with the people of Gaza.

3. We demand a stop to the planting of steel plates to block the tunnels into Gaza, the only life-line that assures the people of Gaza access to food and other basic necessities. We also call upon the Arab League and the OIC to play their part to stop this heinous crime on the people of Gaza.

4. We condemn the Egyptian embassy to Malaysia for their preposterous excuses and resorting to lies in order to justify the failure of the Egyptian Government to give clearance for the convoy to enter Egypt at Nuweiba.

PACE would also take this opportunity to call upon the citizens of Malaysia and the international community to:

1. Register their protest against the Egyptian government and urge them to show solidarity with the people of Gaza by facilitating the passage of the convoy into Gaza and to halting the sealing of the tunnels.

2. Come out in full support of any initiatives by any quarters in urging the Egyptian government to yield to the demands of the international community to end the siege on Gaza.

3. To support the Viva Palestina convoy by financial contributions as a result of the additional cost incurred from the detour imposed by the Egyptian government. The public can contribute to the Palestinian funds through Maybank account 562209608847. Cheques are payable to Pertubuhan Jamaah Islah Malaysia. Please specify that the contributions are for Viva Palestina 3 and fax the bank-in or deposit slip to 03-41071754. Any questions can be directed to En Nasir Tampol at 03-41089669.

Dr Hafidzi Mohd Noor
PACE (Palestine Centre of Excellence)



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