memri
January 19, 2010 Special Dispatch No. 2756

Reactions in the Arab Press to British MP George Galloway's Viva Palestina 3 Aid Convoy

January 19, 2010
Palestine, Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 2756

The Viva Palestina 3 humanitarian aid and solidarity convoy to Gaza, organized by British MP George Galloway, arrived at the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza on January 5, 2010.[1] The convoy, 163 meters long and carrying 590 tons of humanitarian aid, departed from the U.K. on December 7, 2009, and made its way from Europe through Turkey, Syria, and Jordan. The organizers asked Egypt to permit the convoy to sail from the port of Aqaba in Jordan to the Sinai port of Nuweiba on the Red Sea, from which it would proceed to the Rafah crossing. However, Egypt decided that it must enter its territory via Al-'Arish on the Mediterranean coast. This forced the convoy to retrace its steps to Latakia in Syria and from there to Al-'Arish. When it arrived in Al-'Arish, clashes broke out between convoy members and Egyptian security forces, who would not permit some of its vehicles to continue on to Gaza.

Egypt has been the target of harsh criticism, both at home and abroad, because of the convoy's forced wanderings and also because of its construction of an underground barrier along its border with Gaza aimed at blocking the smuggling tunnels into the Strip. In effect, it is being accused of tightening the siege on Gaza. Among the critics was Galloway himself, who accused Egypt, which he called a dictatorship, of strangling Gaza, and called on Britain to reexamine its relations with it.

In response to the criticism against Egypt, senior Egyptian officials attacked Galloway, and also said that Egypt had not tried to prevent the convoy from entering into Gaza, but had only insisted that its entrance be in accordance with guidelines and accepted security arrangements. In fact, the Egyptian authorities declared Galloway a persona non-grata and announced that he would not be allowed to re-enter the country. [2]

On the other hand, opposition elements in Egypt and some writers in the Arab world praised Galloway's efforts for the Palestinians, contrasting them with the Arab and Muslim helplessness in the matter.

The following are excerpts from interviews given by Galloway to the Qatari Al-Jazeera TV and to Iran's Press TV, as well as translated excerpts from articles in the Arab press about Galloway's Viva Palestina 3 convoy.

· To view the MEMRI TV page for George Galloway, visit http://www.memritv.org/subject/en/615.htm.

George Galloway: The Egyptian Regime Is Building a "Wall of Shame" Around Gaza; "Britain's Relationship with This Dictatorship Should Be Reviewed"

In a January 8, 2010 interview on the Iranian Press TV channel, George Galloway said: "...As long as the Egyptian government is building this 'wall of shame' [i.e. the steel barrier] around Gaza, and as long as its whole policy in fact, is a wall of shame – so far as the Palestinians are concerned – I cannot myself see any more visits to Egypt...

"I'm sorry to say that Egypt is deeply implicated in this siege [on Gaza]. That's the reason for the revenge on me, and I hope not on the rest of the convoy. I hope they will stop at me. They hate these convoys because they expose the existence of a siege that Egypt denies...

"I think Britain's relationship with this dictatorship should be reviewed, because all dictatorships fall, and their dungeons are cleared, and their victims released, and then the dictators run away with what they can steal, and their torturers hang from the highest trees...

"The [Egyptians] are building a wall – a wall of shame – around Gaza, a wall of shame to help to strangle the people of Gaza, for political reasons. And why? Because the people of Palestine voted in free and fair elections – something which the poor Egyptians don't often have the opportunity of enjoying – and they voted for a party which Egypt, Israel, Britain, and America don't like...

"That's why they are strangling the people of Gaza – and now the whole world knows. The wall of shame is not just a wall they are building, with the assistance of the United States military, to strangle the people by blocking the tunnels. It's a wall – a total wall of shame – of their policy of collaborating with Israel, and of starving the people of Gaza, hoping that they will surrender...

"So, I personally will never again negotiate with any member of the government of Egypt. In fact, it's very unlikely that after I leave here tomorrow, I will ever set foot in Egypt again, whilst this wall of shame, and this policy of the wall of shame, surround this whole subject..."

On January 12, Galloway told Al-Jazeera TV: "I think all Arabs, actually, and all Palestinians are with us – other than those in the government houses, who have sold themselves to the devil. Some of them are belly-dancing with the enemy, with the people causing this siege. So what can you expect from them?!"[3]

· To view this clip on MEMRI TV, visit http://www.memri.org/legacy/clip/2343.

Editor of Egyptian Daily: Galloway Was Supported by Saddam Hussein, Iran

Muhammad 'Ali Ibrahim, Egyptian MP and editor of the Egyptian government daily Al-Gomhouriyya, criticized the way in which the convoy was managed and also attacked Galloway personally: "The Viva Palestina 3 convoy entered Al-Arish port yesterday, January 4, 2010, prior to transferring the food and [medical] supplies that it brought to the Gaza Strip. But the media uproar and protests surrounding it, and what was written [about it in the press] caused many to think that Egypt was trying to prevent the convoy from entering Gaza, even though the opposite was true.

"First of all, we must know and understand who British MP George Galloway, who has been organizing this convoy for some time, actually is. He was born in 1954, and was an MP for the British Labor party. He was expelled from parliament in 2003, after it was proven that he had received funds from Saddam Hussein during the blockade [on Iraq], and returned to parliament after founding a new party. Unfortunately, he received these funds in the framework of the [U.N.] Oil for Food program...

"After Saddam Hussein's death, Galloway received support for the Viva Palestina convoys 1 and 2 from Iran, and I don't know whether he received the same support for the No. 3 convoy. During the first convoy, which went by land via Morocco to Rafah, Iran provided Galloway with first-class round-trip airline tickets to London from every country that the convoy passed through, so that he could go back [home] to attend to his affairs. In addition, [only] two television channels – the Iranian channel and Al-Jazeera, [also controlled by] Iran – had the privilege of filming the convoy en route."

Galloway Is Trying to Discredit Egypt

Ibrahim added, "Galloway made a big fuss in the first convoy, which reached Egypt last March; he created a crisis in an attempt to show that Egypt was preventing the Palestinians from getting fed – something which has never happened.

"Since he left Britain [on his first convoy], Galloway has been determined to cause damage to Egypt and to the other Arab countries. What happened with Egypt in the third convoy happened before, when the first convoy went through Tunisia. [This country] set a route for [the convoy] along the coast, but they disregarded the instructions. The Tunisian authorities were forced to arrest them and to warn them that if they did not travel along the established route, they would be asked to leave...

"This man [Galloway] does not aspire to feed the Gaza residents as much as he aspires to stand in front of the cameras, to embarrass the Egyptian government, and to distort Egypt's image. He did the same thing before with Lebanon, for Hizbullah..."[4]

Saudi Columnist: Galloway Is Brave – The Arabs Have Lost Their Manhood

In contrast to the Egyptian criticism of Galloway, the Saudi daily Al-Watan published an article praising and supporting him. Columnist 'Abd Al-Latif Al-Dhuwaihi wrote: "Oh honorable British MP, why do you agree to sleep night and day on the sidewalks of the border crossings, and persist in overseeing the Viva Palestina convoy's travels from Britain through France and Spain, and then through Morocco, Algerian, Tunisia, and Libya, and from there to Egypt to Gaza, the epicenter of the global disaster? How can you suffer what you suffer in order to prepare and equip this convoy and set it in motion?

"Mr. Galloway, where do you get your courage to try to break the siege on the Palestinians, disregarding the decisions of the 'international community' and the 'U.N. resolutions?' Why do you lead convoy after convoy, once to break the siege on Iraq and at other times to break the siege on the Palestinians and other peoples?

"Does your conscience not stir when you see the Israeli children sleeping in shelters because of the Palestinian martyrdom operations? Will you be satisfied only after 'Israel,' the only democracy in the Middle East, collapses? Don't you pity the Israelis when you see the racist separation fence that prevents the Israeli tanks from reaching every village in the West Bank?...

"Why do you adopt the problems of peoples that neither benefit you nor harm you, and come out against the policy of your country's government – whose colonialism is the reason for the misery of the peoples and of the catastrophes [faced by] their governments? Doesn't Britain have any remaining internal problems, that you are devoting over 30 years of your life to supporting the Arabs and Muslims and to the resistance against global Zionism?

"Why don't you leave the Palestinians to deal with their problems by themselves? Don't they have a national authority established in accordance with the Oslo Accords? Don't the Palestinians have Arab [support] and even greater Islamic [support], [and don't the Arab and Muslim countries], together with the countries friendly [to them], constitute a majority in the U.N. General Assembly?

"Mr. Galloway, why do you want to embarrass us Arabs in our own eyes, with your positions in support of the Palestinian people?...Why do you insist on reminding us of our Arab manhood, Arab might, and Arab pride? Why do you insist on restoring to us our conscience, which we sent on holiday in accordance with the forged medical certificate [from the ] Oslo [Accords] and from the [accords] that followed? Why do you insist on reminding us of the crimes carried out against Gaza and Lebanon every time that we forget or pretend to have forgotten these sights?

"Mr. Galloway, you have called several times on the Arab countries to implement the Arab unity plan... Mr. Galloway, tell us, are you [in fact] an Arab hiding behind green eyes? To what Arab tribe do you belong?"[5]

Endnotes:

[1] The Viva Palestina 2 convoy arrived in Gaza in March 2009, accompanied by hundreds of political activists marking solidarity with the Palestinian people. It brought the Hamas government money and equipment, including electricity generators, ambulances, fire trucks, food, medicines, medical equipment, and more.

[2] Al-Gomhouriyya (Egypt), January 9, 2010.

[3] For excerpts from the interviews, see MEMRI TV Clip No. 2343, "British MP George Galloway: Britain Should Review Its Relations with the Dictatorship of Egypt," January 8-12, 2010, http://www.memri.org/legacy/clip/2343.

[4] Al-Gomhouriyya (Egypt), January 5, 2010.

[5] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), January 1, 2010.

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