03 March, 2009

Long live Palestine - and the Arab regimes

I just read this report by Hossam al-Hamalawy about George Galloway's "ass-kissing carneval": "The “red carpet” welcome, planned by Egyptian activists and opposition parliamentarians, to receive George Galloway’s “Viva Palestine” caravan, has been canceled. The activists learned tonight that Mr. Galloway has made arrangements with Mubarak’s NDP, and will be received by Ahmad Ezz, steel industry monopolist, senior NDP henchman, and the target of several anti-corruption campaigns."

A quick online search reveals that the Egyptian regime isn't the only one courted by Galloway. He recently met with the prime minister of Tunisia and hailed the government's support for the people of Gaza. Meanwhile, The Tripoli Post reports that "Libyans at the public and official levels are preparing to welcome the convoy with cheers and support for their noble undertaking.. Leading the welcome preparations of the convoy is the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation (GICDF) which said it is to join the Gaza Aid Convey with its own convey of medical aid. ... According to GICDF, the pro-Palestinian British PM George Galloway, the force behind the aid initiative, has been in contact with the foundation and coordinating with it."

Arguably, coordinating with the regimes in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt is probably the only way to have such a caravan pass through the North African countries, and to ensure its entry into Gaza from Egypt. But if Galloway hadn't designed this campaign in order to ensure the maximum possible media attention for himself, he could have considered other ways to support Palestine - without becoming a propaganda tool for authoritarian regimes. This is particularly offending in the case of the Egyptian regime, since it was widely criticized in the region for its stance during the war, its participation in the blockade, and the heavy crackdowns on pro-Gaza demonstrations.

I'd like to draw attention to another initiative recently launched in Sweden: "Ship to Gaza." The idea is "to send a ship from Scandinavia to Gaza via ports in Europe and the Mediterranean with humanitarian assistance, from human to human. The voyage draws attention to an issue that must have a just solution, and sends a clear message to the people in Gaza: you are not alone." Behind this campaign stands solidarity movements, trade unions, religious groups, and European Jews for a Just Peace. Thus, it's a real grassroots initiative, and I would be surprised if the organizers allowed it to be used as internal propaganda by Arab dictators.

UPDATE: Sarah Carr spoke today with Sabah El-Mokhtar, a British lawyer and one of the organisers of the Viva Palestina convoy, who told her: "With the greatest respect to him, none of us know who this Ahmed Ezz is. We are not involved in the domestic politics of Egypt and categorically deny that we have coordinated with political parties. We have to deal with the state's authorities in order to get through Egypt and our coordination has been with these bodies only. If a state wants to send representatives to greet the convoy that is entirely a matter for that state. In the states we have passed through already like Algeria we were greeted by many people and sometimes we didn't know who they were – whether they were official figures or not."

In other words, if any autocratic regime wants to use the convoy as a tool for domestic propaganda, they are most welcome to do so, because the campaign is not involved in "internal politics," and the organizers are too naive or careless to find out who they are dealing with.

Note that I'm not condeming the participants in the convoy or suggesting that their initiative is not a "noble undertaking," as the Libyan state-controlled media put it. I'm just saying that activists in Europe should work harder to find ways to support Palestine without alienating the oppresed opposition in Arab countries, as the struggle for a just solution in Palestine must be linked to the struggle for democratic reform and justice in the Middle East.

1 comment:

  1. Håller med dig till fullo Per. Vad som försigår i huvudet på Galloway kan man bara gissa sig till. Han har ju varit en öppen kritiker till alla korrupta regimer i arabstaterna.