Gaza's 'Robbie Fowler moment' lightened up dark days
ALTHOUGH not much of a football fan, I have enjoyed a few matches, or at least their endings, lately on TV. I watched "my" team hammering Arsenal 4-0 in the FA cup on February 16.
Then I saw the last half of Liverpool v Inter-Milan the other evening, and shared some of my scouse mates' joy.
Earlier, on February 9, I just happened to turn on the telly and found myself watching Egypt defeat Cameroon in the last fifteen minutes of the final of the African Nations Cup. You didn't have to be a supporter to enjoy the excitement , the exuberance, the infectious atmosphere emanating joy, even over the box.
Yet I'm sorry now I missed an earlier game, when they beat Sudan 3-0. Because that's when Mohammed Abu Trika, the midfielder who scored in both matches, raised his shirt to reveal a tee shirt underneath with the simple words, in English and Arabic, "Sympathy for Gaza". It earned him a yellow card, and a warning from FIFA, which has apparently had a rule against showing messages on under-shirts since 2002. But as much as his winning goal it has also earned him a place in the hearts of his countrymen and fellow Arabs; and I think he deserves our congratulations too.
Reading about it reminded me of course of that other magic moment, in 1997, when Robbie Fowler scored his second goal in Liverpool's 3-0 win over Bran Bergen in the European Cup Winners Cup, then raised his shirt to reveal a tee shirt supporting the 500 sacked Liverpool dockers. He was fined by UEFA, and bitterly denounced by those media heroes who had been doing their best to keep the British public in the dark about what was happening in Liverpool.
While Abu Trika, like Fowler before him, was showing that footballers can remember their humanity and sense of decency after governments and media hacks forget theirs, the Egyptian government was responding to Condeleezza Rice's bidding to help cut off Gaza again. For almost a fortnight the barriers between the Gaza strip and Egypt had been down. Some Egyptians and Palestinians living in Egypt had tried to travel to El Arish with supplies to break the blockade and show support, -and Egypt's doctors' committees sent a convoy with 50 tons of food and medical supplies.
But despite President Mubarak having initially urged civil society to send aid to Gaza, the Egyptian authorities began impeding deliveries, and clamping down on any organised show of support for the people of Gaza.
On February 4, Egyptian security forces resealed the border, even preventing Palestinians in northern Sinai and Egyptians in Gaza from returning to their own side of the fence. Palestinian civilians seeing the gates close on them again clashed with the Egyptian troops, throwing stones. Eventually shots were fired, leaving one Palestinian dead, and six wounded, and 38 Egyptians were wounded.
As their police arrested Muslim Brotherhood supporters and others who might be supporting Gaza, Egypt's leaders struck a patriotic pose. "Anyone who breaches the border will have their legs broken," declared Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit on February 7. On board an airplane en route to the United Arab Emirates, President Mubarak told newspaper editors, "Egypt's borders are sacred and we will not allow any assault against them." Not even by mothers with empty shopping bags, and hungry children to feed. No wonder Egyptians would rather take their pride in Mohammed Abu Trika.
There was better news from the Sufa border crossing between Gaza and Israel a few days ago. After two and a half weeks of obstruction and delay by the Israeli military, supplies brought by the people's peace convoy finally got through. Here is the report from the Coalition Against the Gaza Siege:
Press Release February 18, 2008
At Noon today, there at last arrived in their Gaza destination the goods carried in the supply convoy of the Israeli Peace and Human Rights organizations, two and a half weeks ago. After the authorization was given after long negotiations with the military authorities, some fifteen activists arrived this morning at the warehouses in Kibbutz Kerem Shalom and the Bedouin town of Rahat, where the goods had been stored, loaded them and decorated the cargo with enormous banners reading End the Blockade of Gaza!
The Israeli activists accompanied the cargo until the entrance of the Sufa Compound on the Gaza Strip border, where it was unloaded and transferred to Palestinian trucks and delivered to members of the Palestinian-International Campaign to End the Siege, based at Gaza City. The cargo consisted of five tons of basic foodstuffs purchased by the organizers from donations collected from Israel and all over the world, as well as water purification filters for the highly polluted water in the Strip.
To these were added two tons of personal aid
packages, prepared by many Israeli families
as a a goodwill gesture to the Gaza inhabitants.
Members of the Palestinian Campaign intend to give the highest priority in distribution of the water filters received today to the Gaza Strip hospitals,where the need for clean water is particularly acute. The entry of water filters today follows many months when the Israeli siege caused a severe shortage of this item, indispensable for basic health,as of many other vital goods. The organizers hope that from now on,inhabitants of the Gaza Strip would be able to use the precedent created and import as many water filters as needed, without restrictions.
“Under conditions of the strangling siege of Gaza, the simple act of transporting a few tons of cargo some dozens of kilometres required two months of intensive effort by dozens of people in Israel and the Gaza Strip,with considerable help from peace seekers all over the world. This siege should be terminated forthwith. It is a manifestly immoral, gross violation of International Law which causes Israel nothing but damage. The suffering caused to the inhabitants of Gaza in no way benefits the inhabitants of Sderot.
There is only one way to bring about the end of the shooting of Quassam Missiles at Israeli communities: a positive response to the many offers by Hamas leaders, to a complete and mutual ceasefire on both sides of the Gaza Strip border" said former Knesset Member Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom, who was among the activists accompanying the aid cargo to the Sufa Crossing. Dr. Eyad Sarraj of the Palestinian campaign spoke with the Israeli organizers on the phone and warmly thanked them.
He said that the stores of goods brought into
the Gaza Strip during the two weeks when the
Egyptian border was open are in the process of
running out, and that the feeling of siege and
suffocation is reasserting itself.
"We in Gaza greatly appreciate the manifestation
of solidarity in the convoy of today. We hope
that this is the start of a common struggle by
the two peoples, to ensure peace and liberty
Convoy news and Joel Beinin report from Cairo:
For more news see:
For more on Egyptian side -Muslim Brotherhood site has factual news reports:
And now some news from the European Parliament:
EP re-calls for the end of the blockade in Gaza :
the policy of isolation and collective punishment has failed
Strasbourg 21st February 2008
Today the European Parliament approved a resolution that calls once again, after a previous resolution already voted on 11th October 2007, for the lift of the Israeli blockade on Gaza Strip.
"Now, European Union has no more excuses - declared Luisa Morgantini- We must immediately take effective actions to implement these resolutions and stop the illegal and collective punishment of civilians in the Strip, where 98 Palestinian patients, including 17 children, already died for the lack of medicines and treatments due to the siege: the MEPs delegation visited the Shifa Hospital in Gaza and saw at least 30 premature babies still alive thanks to the incubators but that will die if generators would stop for the lack of fuel due to the cut off of refuelling supplies and to the closure decided by the Israeli Government. That’s unlawful and inhuman”.
“The resolution voted today, calling on Israel for an end to the blockade, for a controlled re-opening of the crossings in and out of Gaza, for guaranteeing the movement of people and goods at Rafah, Karni and other crossings, clearly affirms that “the policy of isolation of Gaza Strip has failed both at the political and at the humanitarian level"- she added. “Reminding that “civilian population should be exempt from any military action and any collective punishment” through this resolution, the EP strongly urges Israel to fulfil its international obligations, as an occupying power, guaranteeing “a continuous and sufficient flow of humanitarian aid, humanitarian assistance and essential goods and services, including fuel and power supplies” condemning at the same time the Israel's decision to introduce progressive five per cent per week cuts in power supplies to the Strip not enough for a minimum humanitarian needs and welcoming the petition from 10 Israeli human rights organisations against fuel and electricity cuts in the Gaza Strip”.
“Finally- concluded Luisa Morgantini- today resolution reminds to Europe that it must be able to be more effective not only in condemning all violence, all military actions killing and endangering civilians and extrajudicial targeted killings actuated by Israel, as well as all Qassam rockets fired on civilians of the Israeli town of Sderot, perpetrated by some extremist Palestinian groups, but also through its deeds and commitments. The time of empty words and of betrayed promises is ended: all the Palestinians and the Israelis who want the peace deserve our support and efforts to work concretely for guaranteeing the respect of the international humanitarian law, for the resumption of all inclusive peace negotiations, including also the Arab League, based on the freezing of all illegal Israeli settlements in West Bank and in East Jerusalem, the end of the military occupation and for the establishment of a free, sovereign, united Palestinian State, composed by the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on ‘67 borders in coexistence , security and peace with the Israeli State”.
Yesterday 20th February Luisa Morgantini, Vice President of the European Parliament (GUE/NGL), and General Philippe Morillon (ALDE) organized a press conference titled “Coming Back from Gaza and Sderot” with the participation of Members from different political groups of the European Parliament who took part to the fact finding mission to Israel and Palestine, 2-7 February 2008, in order to expose the results of their mission and report the situation found on the ground, in particular focusing on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza Strip. MEP Jill Evans (GREEN), who participated to the mission in Gaza and Sderot affirmed that "The situation in Palestine is reaching breaking point. The siege is an inhuman and illegal collective punishment of the people in Gaza and is causing huge suffering. It has to be stopped. There has to be international action to lift the siege, end the occupation and resume peace negotiations". MEP Richard Howitt, Vice-President of the European Parliament's Human Rights Sub-Committee and also in the delegation who went to Israel and Palestine added: "This is a state of siege imposing medieval conditions on the people of Gaza, and is today identified by the European Parliament as a clear breach of human rights. European countries should take the lead to secure support from all sides in their UN Human Rights Council to seek enforcement of international humanitarian law".
“In Gaza, there is a humanitarian crisis building and an economic breakdown happening which can only benefit the violent, the lawless and the zealots on all sides: we have to support those who want to live "normal", peaceful lives before that becomes impossible” - declared MEP Jean Lambert (GREEN) who also visited with the delegation Gaza and Sderot- “Both sides are hostages of their own extremists. That's why the International Community should enforce a sustainable peace both on Israel and Palestine: it's the basic interest of the peace-loving Israelis and Palestinians as well”- added MEP Gyula Hegyi (PSE) another participant to the mission.
Further information Luisa Morgantini 0039 348 39 21 465 or Rome Office 0039 06 69 95 02 17
Another international day of demonstrations for Gaza
There's another international day of solidarity with the people of Gaza, against the siege, with actions planned in London, Washington DC and other cities.
LONDON DEMO Tomorrow, Saturday February 23,
WHITEHALL opposite Downing Street 5pm-7pm