Monday, 27 December 2010

Mavi Marmara returns, Gaza massacre anniversary

It is very appropriate to me that today, on the second anniversary of the beginning of the three week long murderous military attack by Israel on Gaza I am currently sitting in the IHH offices in Istanbul wıth colleagues, friends and veterans of flotilla and convoys.  As we all know the situation in Gaza has not been eased substantially since the flotilla and 2011 will be a major year for the region given the breakdown of talks and Freedom Flotilla II .  I am completing some administration after yesterday's huge event where I was reunited with shipmates from Mavi Marmara and the ship itself returned where it will be docked for a week to be opened to the public.  It was spectacular and emotional.  There were thousands of people in the crowd that assembled to remember the dead and welcome the ship home.  Not everyone from the internationals onboard has been able to make it but some wonderful suprises wıth people coming from many countries to be here.

I landed at 4.30am Boxıng Day in Istanbul from London straight from Christmas Day at home with family.  I'm carrying a Christmas present from my family - a new holdall to replace the battered and torn one that has travelled on the convoy and the flotilla.  I'm going to keep the old one it is a special bag having been through Israeli hands in June.  Durıng the Israeli raid they removed a mobile phone from the bag as well as all my paperwork, notebook, receipts to the value of 700 pounds none of which has been returned. The new bag goes straight into action and is loaded with books and reading I need for essays due in early January for Uni.

On arrival ın Istanbul aırport a taxi firm in arrivals calls me over to try to persuade me to hire a cab from them, during the conversation they ask me what I'm doing in Istanbul and I say I'm here to visit the Mavi Marmara and see friends from IHH.  Instead of charging 110 lire for a return journey (approx 40-50 pounds) they take me to my hotel free of charge.

I get up at 10am eat at the hotel buffet which reminds me of the summer - best breakfast I can think of: hard boiled egg, cheese, fresh tomato, cucumber, fresh bread, honey hot tea.  IHH minibus picks us up at 11am and we head to the event.  I am very happy to see friends from previous journeys including Fatima Mohammedi, Kevin, Nabil, Sheza, Sakir, Laura Stuart, Parveen Yaqub, Babu, Ahsan, Ebrahim, Arif Shah.  On the way we also collect Audrey Bomse and Mohamed Salwa and his wife.

On the way we get an idea of the scale of the event.  A huge column of coaches is lining the route to the event with waves of people walking towards the site on foot in addition.  We head through the crowd to an area separated by barrier from the main crowd, next to this area is a platform with seats for the families of the martyrs and VIP speakers.  I see Manuel and Laura from Spain, they have been very active in Spain campaigning ceaselessly since the flotilla and the Spanish public have responded, you can see info about their work at http://www.rumboagaza.org/ , as well as raising money for a ship to add to the Freedom Flotilla II they have started a schools activity programme, erected a statue in memory of the Mavi Marmara, have had theır case against Israel opened by Spanish prosecutor in Spain and continue to engage with the media.  Incidentally their lawyers in Spain are the same ones that took the case of Jose Couso, Spanish cameraman killed by U.S. forces in Iraq.  It turns out that wikileaks documents reveal the Spanish government bowing to U.S. pressure to drop the case against their soldiers while they were asssuring Couso's family they were fighting for his interests, this may re-open the case.  It is also wonderful to see Fatima from Belgium, she tells me about the fundraising they have been doing there for a boat to Gaza for Freedom Flotilla II next year.  The wonderful familiar faces of our IHH family Nalan and Gulden as well as many more who were all onboard Mavi Marmara and looked after us so carefully.  They have all worked hard to prepare for today's event and to restore the ship to working order.

The event unfolds in spectacular fashion with thousands of people arrivıng, flags, fıreworks, speeches, music, whistles, scarves, banners, balloons, tv cameras.  The Mavi Marmara arrives with huge banners depicting the names and photographs of those shot dead hanging from the sides.  She is accompanied by many other small vessels to the dockside.  There are even some champion swimmers who take part in the proceedings by swimming to accompany her for the fınal 5000m.  I take part in a brief interview by a TVNET reporter, just as we are about to begin I see Farooq from Al Fakhoora Foundation who has come from Qatar with his wife to take part in the event, I ask him if any of the 60 or so laptops they had purchased for Gaza students had been recovered after the raid.  He said in contrast it was some of these laptops that were found beıng re-sold by Israeli soldiers after they looted them from the Mavi Marmara which has led to prosecution in Israel.

We are at the event for several hours, the families of the martyrs and brother Bulent from IHH as well as some passengers manage to get through the crush onto the ship where memorial photographs and plaques have been erected.  I decide there are too many people today and I will return at a quieter time to visit.

I head back to the hotel and we make our way to IHH offıces at around 6pm to get to dinner at another location.  I have brought some cards and presents for the families which my mother and I have bought - only small things but my mother said she wanted to thank them in some way for keeping me safe on the ship.  I need help with writing cards in Turkish and wonderful angel called Zeynep, daughter of a flotilla veteran, helps me do this.  We all have dinner together and at the end Brother Bulent addresses us.  He says IHH are launchıng '9 projects for 9 martyrs', this is an initiative to develop a project in each of the home towns of each of the men killed on the ship.  This includes sports, music, health, student dormitories a different project ın each place to be co-produced with an international partner, to reflect the international nature of our journey.  We will be actively seeking partner charities or trusts to take part in the initiative.  IHH would like all of our feedback about what we think Mavi Marmara should do now and he offered the chance for the ship to visit our countries for events.  He says IHH have not finalised any plans for 2011 with regards to returning to Gaza by sea but that we will be among the first to know.

After dinner a group go to the ship to visit in peace but I head back to the hotel with Parveen, Sheza and others and we stay up for several hours talking, my friend Mehmet comes to hang out as well.

IHH has been assisting the Asia Gaza Convoy on its Turkey leg, they are still waiting to reach Gaza.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Month of activity - part 2

November 13th I attended the Jewish Cultural Centre to hear Peter Beinart and Mick Davis (chairman if United Jewish Israel Appeal) in conversation with journalist Jonathan Freedland.  The event was called 'Hugging and wrestling with Israel' and aimed to allow participants as Jews who don't live in Israel but support Israel and the audience to talk about a conflicted relationship with Israel critically and raise issues relating to Israeli policy and voices of opposition to it amongst liberal Jews.  The room was packed out, sponsored by the Jewish Chronicle UK paper.  Peter Beinart caused controversy in US recently when he reported the divide between liberal young American Jews and Zionism in an article the Failure of the American Jewish Establishment .  The event was interesting, well organised and the panel were articulate - the numbers attending suggest there is a sense of urgency in the topic at present and indicated UK Jewish community are interested in discussing about what Israel is doing in Palestine and are concerned about its policies.  Peter Beinart gave the impression that in US it is very difficult for young liberal Jews to express critical views of Israel within the Jewish community, harder than in UK, however voices in the room how they too felt pressure to conform, such as an ex-student from Durham as a member of Jewish student association she was expected to provide unwavering support for Zionism within the group.  On 8th November however Jewish protestors in New Orleans managed to disrupt Netanyahu's speech there, there is a website articulating the position of these protestors and the phenomenon described by Peter Beirnart http://www.youngjewishproud.org/ .

Mick Davis expressed concern about the implications of the direction of Israel's policies towards the Palestinians and there was a tangible sense of running out of time in terms of what is happening there with settlement building and expansion, human rights abuses against Palestinians.  For his position he has sparked controversy being reported in Haaretz for his comments at the event - for while stating categorically that he did not believe Israel was an apartheid state that in the current direction the majority would indeed be ruled by the minority - as it was in apartheid South Africa.  A question from the floor suggested that democracy and Zionism are incompatible - the panel believed not.  When it came to discussion of a bi-national state they expressed preference for two-state solution - but the atmosphere in the room suggested a growing awareness of the unlikelihood of this and the urgency of the situation - its too late for that now.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Month of activity - part 1

November 2nd is the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration of 1917 where then foreign secretary Lord Arthur Balfour wrote to Lord Rothschild declaring Britain's support for a Jewish national homeland in Palestine. 



One of the problems with this pledge of support is that Britain promised the same land three times.  Prior to this declaration in 1915 letters between Sir Henry McMahon, representative of the British Government, and Sherif Hussayn of Mecca show that Britain had also promised independence to Arab nations in return for assistance in overthrowing the Ottoman empire because Turkey had allied with Germany.  In 1916 the Arab Revolt had indeed resulted in the overthrowing.  Not only did British government representatives 'promise' the land to both Arab and Jewish nations they also entered into the Sykes-Picot agreement with France in 1916 in secret decided Britain and France would carve up the area between them after the Ottoman empire collapsed.  The seeds for so many years of colonisation, conflict and suffering are laid.  Please note the sentence of condition of support which says "it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing communities in Palestine" ummm...did anyone else notice that this part appears to have been overlooked?
November 5th was annual fundraising dinner at Grosvenor House Hotel for Al Quds Medical education foundation.  This is a dinner and auction attended by many doctors, surgeons and medical professionals some of whom are Palestinians training and working in UK and some are British doctors who have volunteered, trained and travelled in Palestine.  There was an auction at the end of a good meal and speeches with art work, furniture, traditional clothing sold off to raise funds.  The Foundation pays for Palestinian med students to finish specialist training and for international doctors to travel to Palestine to take part in examination procedures.

Speaking was Haneen Zouabi who was one of our shipmates on the Mavi Marmara and a member of the Israeli Knesset.  It was good to see her with her bright indomitable spirit - within the previous two weeks she had been shot at and hit with rubber bullets during a peaceful demonstration in Umm Al-Fahm against a far-right Jewish march of supporters of the banned Kach party that advocate driving Arab citizens out of all of Israel and the Occuppied Territories.  She stood up and spoke about how despite being an Israeli citizen she is Palestinian and this is what was not expected of Palestinian-Israelis.  Israel she said expected that Palestinian citizens of Israel might forsake or forget their relationship with the Palestinian diaspora, West Bank and Gaza Palestinians and that this is not the case.  This is why she said she was on the Mavi Marmara - expressing solidarity with her people in Gaza.  She said it was a strange feeling to be standing in the opulent surroundings of the Grosvenor Hotel having come from deprived areas of Israel where Palestinians live.  She mentioned the discriminatory laws of Israel against the Palestinian minority who live there and said that the Palestinians were asking only for their civil and human rights - most recently the idea of requiring all citiziens to swear allegiance to a Jewish state .  Palestinians she said were willing to accept the colonisers in Palestine in peace but that they must have their rights and the rights of those Palestinian refugees who want to return.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Absolutely anything can happen and it usually does!

This afternoon I heard news that the boat meant to be transporting the Road To Hope convoy vehicles - currently numbering around 30 - had abandoned Derna port in northern Libya after some sort of incident and has sped away with one of the vehicles and 7 non-crew members across the Med pursued by Libyan authorities. It had half loaded one vehicle onto the vessel when there was an argument of some description, yet to be clarified, the captain tried to close the doors of the vessel and departed without untying the moorings, against the permission of Libyan port authorities, damaging the port side and carrying with it several Libyan police officers and the port manager as well as a few of the Road to Hope members.
Only two days ago Road to Hope convoy had appealed to supporters for emergency funds because the Egyptian authorities refused to allow them to enter Egypt by land and they had thus had to raise money, £37,000 for a ship to carry them to the sea port of Al Arish . The group amazingly managed to raise the money in a lightning quick period of time. At first look it seems the shipping agent and the captain have fallen out about payment and now the boat is half way to Cyprus or Greece. I have now rung the convoy phone and spoken to Road To Hope members who are currently camped up in the port. They are in fine spirits and are happy to know their colleagues are unharmed. It appears Libyan naval vessels and aircraft have been despatched after the ship. Road to Hope members do not intend to go anywhere from the port until they get transport arranged to Al Arish and on to Gaza so are currently politely refusing any invitation to leave Derna port and will remain where they are until they are on their way to Gaza. They have tea but apparently no biscuits which one member Tom Baker says may lead him to desperate measures ;).
The entire episode is completely avoidable if Egyptian authorities had allowed the peaceful aid workers to cross Egypt by land.
Meanwhile last week it was interesting to see that William Hague has experienced ambush and humiliation at the hands of the Israelis. I wrote him a letter of sympathy. His apologetic response to Israel when he visited last week in calling UK universal jurisdicition laws an 'unacceptable situation' is a reminder of how pathetic this country's leaders are when it comes to Israel. As I explained to him - there is little point in kow-towing to Israel over a strategic security meeting - what is the of the value of their security intelligence? I have just seen the report they produced about Mavi Marmara passengers and it is hilariously scant and innaccurate. So now I'm officially listed on their terrorist intelligence website, very funny. Add to this the fact that Israeli officers instruct their soldiers to breach international warfare rules as a matter of course - I don't see we have much to learn from them. We are perfectly good at telling our own soldiers to commit war crimes.
Electric Circus members have now completed their visit to Gaza and left the strip after a number of performances to children in Gaza - check the diary.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Some recent breakthroughs.... with reservations

Getting into Gaza is still tricky and uncertain but it is worth making the effort if you want to get in - determination and persistence, press and paperwork. I am trying to find out why policy has not changed in terms of Foreign and Commonwealth office assistance to people travelling to Gaza because Electric Circus did not get the paperwork they needed from UK embassy - this was their main hurdle. British citizens have to obtain a waiver letter from UK embassy which Egyptian border control want to see that effectively says "I've been told by my government not to go to Gaza but I'm going anyway". UK Foreign and Commonwealth office in Cairo told them they were not humanitarian aid (despite a letter if invitation from Red Crescent) and said they would not supply the required paperwork. The FCO is thus effectively maintaining the blockade of people through the border into Gaza from Egypt. Despite this the group travelled to the border with letter from Red Crescent and British Council - who supported them after their recent participation in Circairo Festival - and after being refused, waiting, asking again, hanfding over all paperwork they had they somehow were eventually allowed through. Unfortunately the group had to leave one German member behind because he was not British.

Good news is that Viva Palestina convoy Lifeline 5 got through into Gaza one or two days prior after departing London 18th September travelling overland through Europe into Turkey and Syria to put vehicles on a ship to Al-Arish. The group was kept waiting in Syrian port of Lattakia for two weeks while negotiations took place to get them into Egypt and on to Gaza and even then 17 of the participants were banned from entering Egypt so could not complete the journey. They succeeded in entering with 150 vehicles packed with medical and educational aid entering from Rafah border in Egypt. Well done Viva!

I can see from some of the video and photos that are coming out showing the warm reception the successful members received there, Yousef's report:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOWjvPplwAU


Another small group who returned recently from a 10-day trip were architects and engineers working on a joint project with UN-HABITAT from University of Westminster, I attended their feedback event on 12th October. Under the theme 'Green Gaza, Sustainable Neighbourhoods' they launched Palestine Regeneration Team (PART) . They are going to work jointly with Palestinian neighbourhood planners to develop an area in Gaza, this is the launch so it is very early days yet.

The event featured a singer Basel Zayed who sang beautiful songs.

Road to Hope convoy have made great progress on their exhausting journey from UK to Gaza - their route is through Spain and Morocco and across North Africa. I can see from pictures put up that great friends made on VP convoy and flotilla are taking part in this such as Richard Viner - childrens' entertainer and performer and Ken O'Keefe world citizen. One of the most admirable members of the convoy has to be Laura Stuart. On the first Viva Palestina convoy she by herself drove a vehicle to Gaza, she also took part in VP3, the one I went with December 09, was on the Mavi Marmara where she was treating the injured as a first aider and now is with Road to Hope. Go Laura!

On other matters we had an email from FCO in London - apparently the Turkel enquiry - the Israeli-led enquiry into the flotilla may be interested to hear from passengers now! They informed us on a Friday and gave us until Monday to let them know what we would do - another example of the contempt of the victims. After brief discussions with other members of the group we agree that we would cooperate in the interests of justice but if the playing field is flat - i.e. we want our belongings back, our media evidence, the soldiers to be interviewed, for our testimony to be heard in public - then we will cooperate. Haaretz covered this news.

This week our legal team travelled to Doha where they met with legal representatives of the other nationalities from the flotilla. They are all together forming the international Flotilla Justice Group that aims to co-work on the legal aspects of the incident and plans to improve coordination and support for future actions.

I have been keeping in touch with our circus group in Gaza and Ruth says it is 'full- on'. They have already completed several performances. They are trying to adapt the show and clothing so they can minimise exposing flesh so that the more conservative audiences in Gaza are more confident.

The amount raised in profit at the Electric Circus was just over £8K - an amazing achievement down to the hard work of volunteers. 25% of this is going to Fairtunes and rest to purchase items to take to Gaza and support the group's immediate expenses. Last Friday I went shopping with Tom who has now departed with the second group joining Road to Hope in Libya so he is loaded up.

I am very sad not to be joining them this time but Uni won't allow it.

Last night I went to Hackney Palestine Solidarity Campaign film night where the film made by Reel News of the assault on the Mavi Marmara was shown - seeing the dead and injured again brings back memories and makes me feel renewed energy and commitment.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Road To Hope Convoy departs...

Over the past few weeks aid has been gradually deposited in St Johns crypt and on Friday I finally manage to go through it and pack it into plastic boxes for protection during the journey with Road to Hope. I am not going with the convoy this time sadly because the commitments of studying are too much to do both. Instead I have donated £600 of funds raised to support Hasna and Laura to buy a vehicle and I have more to use to buy items to join the next leg of the convoy. We received lists of equipment wanted in Gaza - items like C-arm operating equipment allows X-rays to be done during operations I think - these are urgently required but we don't have time to source or fund one to go on this convoy.

On Friday I spend all day sorting and packing the aid - ideas of study time are out of the window for now. I take the boxes up to Chingford and have the new experience of hiring a streetvan. Its pretty convenient once you have registered. Its amazing how quickly the company's system has customer info ready - I registered at 7.15pm and was picking up the vehicle at 7.30. It was easy to get the delivery done within two hours. Then back to meet Anwar and Walid who have made me an iron-on transfer image for the costume I want to wear for the fundraiser tomorrow night. They are on their way to pick up their vehicle from Chingford as well so I give them a lift up in the car to where Tox's friends and supporters are having a football tournament - raising more money for the trip. They don't get done until 1am. Tox has been sold a 1956 Green Goddess fire engine amongst many other vehicles for the trip!! But it is going to be too expensive to run the vehicle all the way so instead it may be sold on after some publicity work. It is frustrating I still do not have a camera since Israeli forces removed such items from Mavi Marmara.

On Saturday it appears the drains at home are blocked for the whole building. I cycle to town to a friend's home and get ready for a wedding in the afternoon. This involves travelling to Bromley and back with my bike on the train. Very tight for time because the big fundraiser event at Scala is tonight yeeeehaaaa!! Theme is 'Lunatics have taken over the Asylum' and has 150 volunteer performers and producers involved. I got to So High Soho to get a piece of costume - a straitjacket. This is white cotton and when I get home I iron on the transfer requested which says "Lunatic State" with an Israeli flag formed from guns a barbed wire. A bit of time to make some calls about final arrangements for the convoy such as news that a paint shop in Bethnal Green has donated 150 paints for use in graffiti work in Gaza. Funds raised to be shared between Fairtunes and Circus to Gaza .

Anwar and Walid arrive and pick up the paints and trainers and drop me at the venue. At 10pm the queue is growing and I work on the door with two other girls and Steve B. It's a long busy night with people flowing through the doors and we are still admitting people at 3.30am. The performances are amazing, a massive effort has gone into areas of the event such as the Slumbarave Sanitarium where people are being strapped to beds and given treatments, face and body paint etc by charming and slightly crazed nurses...great music and fantastic dancers doing stage shows. Its a great night by all accounts and we have succeeded in raising several thousand pounds (final figures and destinations tbc).

This morning the Road to Hope convoy converged and then departed - carrying many people and items for Gaza including 15 boxes of medical aid, graf spray paint and Public Nuisance trainers collected by us. See short video report:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_hDKSqWu6w&feature=autoshare

I can't make it to the departure location because I left Scala at 8.30am and need to sleep. I am later told that 30 or so vehicles set off. They have a massive task as they are travelling through Europe to Northern Africa then across North Africa to Libya before joining further vehicles there around 23rd October.

In the evening I can see Hasna has updated Facebook to say the convoy have reached France - well done crew...wish I was with you.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

...totally unneccessary and incredible violence

Guardian report

BBC Report

Sky News Report

News24 Report

UN Report 56 pages long...
UN Human Rights Council initial unedited report has just been published of "the international fact-finding mission to investigate violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, resulting from the Israeli attacks on the flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian assistance" please see http://bit.ly/FlotillaReport . The report will be debated by the Council on Monday 27th September.

We are engaged with our legal advisers regularly and supported by Human Rights Legal Aid Fund . The lawyers have provided great support to the flotilla participants and worked with us on all aspects of the fact finding mission just carried out. We have several more irons in the fire on the legal front as well. Some states are above the law thought aren't they?

Other news... Viva Palestina 5 set off over land leaving the Embankment in London on Saturday. It was a bright sunny morning and we heard short speeches by Kevin Ovenden, Zaher Birawi, Ruqquya Collector and George Galloway. The convoy members were determined and optimistic. George said he was appealing to Egyptian authorities to let him pass through to Gaza but would not try to insist and would not come with the others if he was not able if it would jeopardise the mission. An Egyptian spokesman has said he would not be allowed in and he has again appealed through issuing a statement.

Meanwhile work is steaming ahead on the Road to Hope convoy. People are busy buying vehicles and getting organised. I have picked up around a quarter of a van load of aid including patient monitors, peripheral equipment such as tubing, masks, syringes, physiotherapy aids, crutches, tracheotomy pipes, sutures and more. I have also been helped in pricing music recording and performance equipment that we hope to use to set up a Fairtunes project.

Road to Hope is departing from the UK on 10th October with a further delegation leaving on 16th October to join them in Libya for the final week of travel to the Gaza Strip.

I hope to join Road to Hope now as I have been accepted on to a law masters degree in International and Commercial Dispute Resolution Law so I will be busy studying this year.

In the past two weeks I have attended meetings in Ipswich, Southend, Devizes and Birmingham to talk about the flotilla and Gaza. For three of them I was accompanied by Sameh Habeeb who returned from Gaza a couple of weeks ago. He has been able to describe the conditions in Gaza which have not changed positively despite the arrival of some more Israeli consumer goods in the strip. Part of the effect of this has been to undermine some of the market for the few locally manufactured goods with no significant change to the living conditions, opportunities or economy in evidence. Sameh describes how some of the people attempting to leave the strip are being refused unless they bribe the Egyptian immigration officials, sums ranging from $1000 to $3000 in some cases.

At the moment there is an exhibition of photographs taken by journalist Pennie Quinton in Freedom Gallery (Above Freedom Books next to Whitechapel Gallery). Highly recommended. It runs until 5th October and if you can catch Pennie there you will get a great talk and a recital of her poem.

Pennie introduced me to members of CAMPACC (Campaign Against Criminalising Communities). It was fascinating to learn about campaigns by Baluchistani people whose tribal area spans across the borders of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan and whose people are politically oppressed at present. I also learned about the current campaing for peace and justice for Kurdish people and about activities of those supporting individuals in Britain who have been subjected to conditions and actions under the UK terrorism legislation - control orders, house detentions on bail without charge, cases fighting deportation to countries with human rights abuse records. Some families under detention at home are being placed in sub-standard accommodation, moved often and controlled under curfew for extremely long hours. I am interested to find out about these sorts of cases.

Good news is that the 9th October fundraising event is gathering momentum and there are many wonderful people getting involved, so come on down - if you're mad enough to the Electric Circus, Scala Kings Cross, 9th October, info follows:

The Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum...
......
9th October 2010
10pm-6am
@ SCALA Kings X, London: www.scala-london.co.uk

Tickets : £10 advance LIMITED!! £15 otd
www.wegottickets.com/event/91555

or... haggle with us! we accept circus kit as payment... !!

Oh my goodness….The Electric Circus is back in town…..

After intrepid exploring we have found the murky world of the Asylum that lurks below the Scala... and it looks like the Lunatics have taken over; so extract and dust off your most mental personality and run away with the circus...

We bring you THE indoor festival of (L)unity……..

This is a musical MASH-UP event - leave your preconceptions at the door!

All the treasure our clowns and badgers gather from you will be used to support a circus mission to Gaza! We also support grassroots projects in Gaza too:)

We do not give our money to a third party, we deliver directly to the people; its the only way...

We will also be giving a portion of the money to Fairtunes.org - check out the wicked stuff they do!

Basically, get involved.

***************************
On the Operating Table for your aural delight…….

The Main Theatre;

www.Fairtunes.org, Skandalous! & Fluorotrash + lots of our mates...

*THE FREESTYLERS SoundSystem*!!!
+ TENOR FLY + MC SURREAL
www.freestylersmusic.co.uk/

*ATOMIC HOOLIGAN*
www.atomichooligan.com

*MOLOTOV JUKEBOX* (Live)
www.myspace.com/molotovjukebox

*FLUOROTRASH* Psychedelic Acrobatic Cabaret (FULL SHOW)
www.fluorotrash.org.uk

*SUBSOURCE* (Live)
www.subsource.co.uk

*HIGH TALES AERIAL*
www.hightales.co.uk

*MC XANDER*
www.myspace.com/mcxander

*RUBY BLUES* Angle Grinding

*ATOMIC DROP*
www.myspace.com/atomicdropmusic

*LOSERS* (Live)
www.myspace.com/losersuk

*THE EQUALIZERS* (ATG)
www.myspace.com/theequalizersuk

hosted by: *BASS6* (5th Element)
www.myspace.com/rhythmandbass

*yasSon + Maria* (beatbox + vocals)
www.myspace.com/yasson

*LIQUID ROSS*
www.liquid-records.com

*FERRET POLE DANCING*
www.FerretWelfareSupporters.org

Random Acts of Lunacy from:

*HERNANDEZ****VIRGINIA* - Coffee Enema!

*CAN CAN***HIGH TALES AERIAL

Boylesque:Freakery!

***************************
Upstairs in the Attic: The Peppermint Hippo Rehab Clinic

The original *ELECTRO SWING CLUB*
www.myspace.com/electroswing

*LAZY HABITS*
www.lazyhabits.co.uk

*NEW GROOVE FORMATION*

PLUS:

*DJ MOODIE*(REGGAE ROAST)
www.reggaeroast.co.uk/

*NOEMIE*

MC WILDEYE, ENRESET & DJ MUSKUT (BASSLINE CIRCUS)
www.myspace.com/mcwildeye

*DICK TREVOR*
www.myspace.com/dicktrevor

*THE SPANGLEBOOTH*

*DJ BASHMENT BISH*

Badger Racing

+ MORE MORE MORE!

***************************

The SLUMBARAVE SANITARIUM:
www.myspace.com/slumbarave

Lie back and try to relax on our bespoke beds whilst our team of entropic beauty technicians preen and polish you in the unlikeliest of ways...

Physco-theraputic treatments include:
Manic-cures, Foot & Hand Relief and Fakeovers.

Supplying a musical medley of lobotomised lullabies fused together with rare disco gems will be...

*CHARLIE McFARLEY*
www.charliemcfarley.com

*MR NEEDLE & GROOVE*

*NACHO*

*D'JUNSEI*
www.djunsei.com

*MARY MISS FAIRY VS SIMON PIEMAN*
www.marymissfairy.com

***************************

In the Padded Cell:

KOLLEKTIVE DUBS
www.musickollektiv.org

with:

*BOYSON* (VAGABONDZ)
www.myspace.com/boysondub

*THE DUB ZONE*

N.D.E. Subtek & The mighty HIGH GRADE ROCKERS SOUND SYSTEM
www.myspace.com/subtekrecords

*WINSTON DREAD* (Earthquake Studios) LIVE SET!
*DUBZONIC* (live) with Sarah Kay-Live vocals,
*ROCKET HI FI* [Liverpool ],

*NICK MANASSEH* - Highgrade Rockers ,
www.myspace.com/manassehsound

*DARYL* - Highgrade Rockers,
*Tiny Tim* - Northampton

SUBTEK RECORDS SHOWCASE (free CD's!):

*N.D.E*

*JAK A TRON*
www.myspace.com/jakatron

*LIAM LOGIK*
www.myspace.com/logikaudio

*LUSHMAN*
www.myspace.com/lushmanbeats

*MR BRISTOW*
www.myspace.com/mrbristowdj

***************************

Around the various Consulting Rooms we have……

*THE DRUM MONKEYS*

THE REALITY TEST (first implemented at Secret Garden Party, tweaked and modified specially for us)
www.urcollective.org

PSYCHEDELIC KIDNAP EXPERIENCE

LOCKS OF FUN BEAUTY SALON

BADGER RACING

***************************
Last year we sent half the money with Lorty on the convoy, the other half we attempted to send via egypt, and then via the flotilla, and we all know what happened there...

The good news is we have Lorty, and the money, back and we will add it to all of your treasure my lovely lil nutters (not Lorty, the money)………and then we'll be taking it to Gaza - along with a Circus. Yippeeeeee! Boarder regulations have relaxed a little, so we have a much better chance….

SO you see……

YOU WOULD BE CRAZY TO MISS IT! YOU MUST BE EVEN CRAZIER TO COME……

Dress Code: Straight Jackets, Lobotomies: The Lunatics have taken over the Asylum…


AND HAVEN'T THEY JUST……………………………………..


peas n love
the Skandalous crew

www.skandalous.org
www.fluorotrash.org.uk
www.myspace.com/electriccircusforgaza
www.fairtunes.org


Saturday, 28 August 2010

Its been a busy couple of months and I have been bad at updating so... sorry! There are a few bits of news now...

In the past month or two I have taken part in events in a few different places talking about the flotilla. These include Kendal, Gloucester, Cambridge, Lewisham, Waltham Forest, Milton Keynes. I've also met with the David Icke London group and have planned visits to Wiltshire, Southend and Ipswich.









In Lewisham the event was co-delivered by Frank Barat of Russell Tribunal and Paveen Yaqub (Flotilla survivor)

I went to Slough to a fundraising dinner where the party raised £3K!!! Well done Hasna.






In Kendal there is a new branch of PSC, I travelled from London to Bolton where my friends Babu and Imran picked me up and we drove the next hour in the pouring rain to speak to a Labour Party group.

In Cambridge there was another speaker called William Parry and he has recently published a book about the art on the separation wall in West Bank - Against the Wall - The Art of Resistance in Palestine. It turns out he and his wife live not far from me in London - by pure coincidence I bumped into him while going to meet someone else, this is great as we arrange to meet up again to talk.

In Gloucester we were lucky enough to attend on a day when there was a local fair and fireworks. The event was held in a theatre and a Conservative MP Richard Graham attended. This week David Cameron also visited Turkey where he publicly condemned the flotilla attack and described Gaza as a prison camp. So now we have potential allies in surprising places.










We spent some time in Gloucester with the gang and saw some spectacular fireworks and laughed our heads off when Hasna's hijab became unravelled on a fairground ride and wrapped itself around Yousef - the funniest thing I have seen in a long time.











After the event in Gloucester I was lucky enough to take Yousef al Helou and Rada Stojanovic home to meet my parents. Yousef is a Gaza reporter for Press TV, Rada has returned from six months spent inside Gaza where she describes people are living 'in suspended reality'.

I was interviewed by online magazine London Street Art Design Issue 5 about the Flotilla and convoys, you can read the article here and also see lots of amazing street art and interviews. I also wrote a piece for the Social Work Action Network but today it had not yet been published.

Milton Keynes have a new PSC branch and have started out with much enthusiasm and a large group of around 50 interested local members. I was privileged to be able to join a show on Ramadan FM on Wednesday.

On Tuesday evening there was a PSC organised event with Gideon Levy and Jon Snow - it was packed and interesting. I invited a new person I've met from an organisation called New Routes. He is Jewish and we discussed briefly the importance of effective campaigns and ways forward in helping to bring about a peaceful solution to Israel-Palestine conflict . If we don't include everyone there will be more trouble. Which is the same message that Gideon Levy tried to make about the upcoming 'peace talks' that U.S. is brokering. He is worried that failure of the talks, likely, to will bring about more bloodshed. Representatives are not being included i.e. Hamas - and that Hamas needs to be engaged in dialogue. The usual disruptor - Jonathan Hoffman from the Zionist Federation is there and shouts out 'they want to murder you Gideon' to which he replies 'and boycotting them will make them less likely to murder me??' - no response. It seems however that Gideon is saying that change will not come from within Israel, that there is little incentive to address or change the situation from there - pressure will have to come from outside. He says he cannot support a boycott of Israel because he is a patriot and speaks out about Israel because he loves Israel and hates to see it going down this path. I feel that he would be unable to speak out about a boycott or sanctions against Israel because of the new laws they have introduced there making support of a boycott illegal .

So now it is time to prepare for the next convoy.

I have not been able to say definitely what I am doing. I've been keeping in touch with Tom from Slough and he is working hard on the aid side of things for Viva Palestina.

Plans are afoot to fetch the truck back from Bulgaria and fit it out with equipment so it will become a mobile recording studio. This would be done with the help of Fairtunes and Strummerville . I have tried to contact Hoping Foundation to see if they can support us as well and we are speaking next week.... I hope so. The British DJ and MC academy have offered us one of their vehicles to take now but we would need to replace it for them and this would cost in region of £40K. Anyone feeling generous??

There are two groups planning land convoys at the moment - Viva Palestina and Road to Hope.

I have a feeling that Viva Palestina may have a better chance of getting in because of the route - but I'm not 100% sure. VP plan to go by land through Western Europe into Turkey and Syria then by sea to Al Arish. R2H plan to go via Italy to North Africa then through Egypt. Despite the challenges of the previous convoy I've opted to try to go with VP again - if I do end up going. Also flotillas are being organised but not much news on those yet. There is a bit of news about a boat Mariam from Lebanon full of women that has been stalled in its bid to continue peacefully to Gaza.

Also in the last month we have had the Human Rights Council Fact Finding Mission who came to interview witnesses to the Mavi Marmara. They have to report back on their findings in September.

On 16th August Panorama broadcast a programme called 'Death on the Med' which was inherently flawed on a number of levels. The best deconstruction of the programme I have found so far is found at:Analysis of bias: BBC Panorama "Death on the Med" - 16 August 2010

Understandably the Israeli military would not have permitted interviews if they had not been assured of the propaganda benefits of taking part.

Guidance for how to complain if you watch it and agree is given by the PSC, also if you did complain but received an unsatisfactory response more guidance here.

This week I also had an interview for a job with the PSC as Campaign Assistant on the End the Siege of Gaza campaign... unfortunately did not get it but did a good presentation so... onwards...

I'm helping my pal Ruth is working on a fundraiser for 9th October called Electric Circus . Circus acts, DJ's, semi-naked people, costumes, noise, lunacy - Hamas's favourite line-up ;). Also involved is Fairtunes .

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Trip to Derry in Ireland

Last weekend I travelled to Derry a town in Ireland with a history of conflict, violence, colonisation and reconciliation.

Derry has a walled 'city' in the centre but is much bigger now although it feels like a town and can be walked around easily (the place is a city technically as it has a cathedral). The fortifications were built by settlers from England and Scotland in the early 17th century in order to defend themselves against the indigenous population. There is much history there as can be researched at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derry,_Ireland so I won't go into it here. However there are parallels with Israel-Palestine conflict in the struggles in Derry and people look to the peace process in Ireland and progress for clues as to solving conflicts. In Derry here was the Anglo-Irish war or War of Independence between 1919 and 1921 where there was much sectarian violence before partition happened in 1921 and Ireland was divided into North and South.

In the sixties the Catholic community began a civil rights movement in order to address discrimination against the Catholic community and members of the Bogside community and demonstrations were violently attacked by Royal Ulster Constabulary, and ultimately by British Forces placed there, which resulted in the Bloody Sunday killings of 13 civilian demonstrators in 1972. Just last month the final verdict came out into that incident finding the actions of the military to have been unlawful and the quote 'unjustified and unjustifiable' used by David Cameron.

The killing of civilians in a demonstration by military forces is precisely what happened with the Freedom Flotilla. We hope it does not take 38 to get justice for the Mavi Marmara.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Responding to Freda Keet Israeli broadcaster

this is copied from Israel Defender, my response below:

By radio journalist Freda Keet, who responded to a letter by the father of one of the Gaza flotilla participants, published in the Jerusalem Post


To read the letter by Lt Col Lort-Philips go:

http://www.2nd-thoughts.org/id286.html


The Editor,
Jerusalem Post

Dear Sir,

In his letter to the Jerusalem Post, with its spirited defence of his daughter Alexandra, a member of the recent so-called “aid flotilla” to Gaza, Lt Col Lort-Philips, describes her as a woman of “maturity, “compassion”, and resolve”.

May I, with all due respect, through your column and with the kind help of the Lt Col, address to her the following few questions.

1) Has she ever organized, helped or encouraged any form of aid-convoy/flotilla to, for example, the Eastern Congo, where the agony of its people is beyond words. Where the rape of women is constant and brutal, and tens of thousands of women are left mentally and physically torn apart? Children live in terror and any aid is either sporadic or non-existent? True it is a dangerous place to go to, but surely for a young woman and her co-workers of such deep “compassion” and “resolve” this should not be a problem.

2) The same for Darfur where the violence and deprivation have been going on now for years with the full knowledge of the world and its compassionate “aid warriors” When the men are asked why they don’t go out of the relative safety of the camps themselves to collect the firewood instead of sending the women ( a ludicrous idea in view of the general attitude to “men’s work” and the place of women in African society ), the men reply: “If we go out we are killed, if the women go out they are only raped”!

3) On the border between Somalia and Kenya is one of the largest refugee camps in the world, well over 300 thousand people, desperate refugees who have fled the savagery of Somalia, living in total isolation squalor and deprivation. There is little or no aid for them, and they are the abandoned, the “Le Miserables” of the world, with no hope and just a few brave aid workers trying fruitlessly and helplessly to offer support.

Could any of the Gaza/ Flotilla aid-workers even find these countries on the map??

And then contrast this with the problems of Gaza. Yes, life is difficult and yes they live under siege and with a repressive Hamas regime, and yes there are shortages and frustrations. But the population of Gaza receives, per capita, more international aid than any other group on earth. They inspire more love devotion and compassion, (that word again!) than any other community. The eyes of the whole world focus protectively upon them, and Gaza has become the darling of the Western world and its favourite cause and passionate rallying cry.

Israel sends through to Gaza regular aid convoys of food and medicine. The UN is a constant presence, as is the Palestinian aid organisation UNWRA and a multiplicity of other international support groups are also present providing aid and help. And still, around the world the protest marches are organised for the “starving” in Gaza. And aid flotillas line up to come to the rescue.

May I finally ask the following questions, addressed to all these “keepers of the world’s conscience”

1) Do you actually have some kind of point system to grade suffering and worthiness for aid convoys/flotillas? If so what is it based upon?

2) Does Africa appear on this list in any place at all, even at the very bottom? Because just as your heart seems to go out to the Gazans so does mine, painfully and passionately go out to the abandoned of Africa!

3) Is Palestinian/Gazan blood considered more valuable, Palestinian “suffering” more worthy than that of ordinary black women and children of Africa?

4) Could it be that there is a reluctance to go to these forsaken places, because it would all be done well off the world stage, without a world audience, well away from the brilliant spotlight of the media , no teams of TV reporters flocking to the scene, no heroic images in newspaper interviews, no moments of fame and glory ? No chance for defiance, no opportunity to galvanise the “troops”?

And perhaps it is just as well that they don’t go to Africa!. They might encounter conditions that would make them really really “cross”, instead of just plain “cross” which we are told was their reaction to the “flotilla” episode. “Cross”, mind you, in a world gone mad with violence!!!

5) And this question really puzzles me. What is it about the Palestinians/Gazans that has so captivated your devotion and self righteous indignation Alexandra? Could it have something to do with the fact that their “enemy” is the Jews? Such a convenient and well tested scapegoat!

Of course if any of the “flotilla fraternity” have in fact been to African countries offering their compassion and aid, then my apologies and I personally would dearly love to hear about their experiences. And they owe it to the rest of the world to show us that their compassion is genuinely and whole-heartedly for the whole of suffering humanity and not just for Gaza, their own “pet project” with its dubious justifications and questionable motivation.

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    The Editor Jerusalem Post

    Dear Sir,

    In response to questions in a letter you published from Freda Keet questioning me and fellow Gaza flotilla members on our concern for Africa’s humanitarian needs I would like to address her questions directly. Perhaps you could assist through your column.

    1)Yes I have volunteered in Africa spending six months there first at a bush school in Zimbabwe providing teaching assistance then travelling on to a mission in South Africa that provided gardening tools donated in UK to pre-schools in the townships of Empangeni, Natal. It is shame that Ms Keet has not checked out the work of IHH with whom I travelled this year. IHH run numerous humanitarian projects in Africa including Congo where food distribution takes place during Ramadan and Qurban periods. The African countries IHH have completed substantial project work in include Ethiopia, Somalia, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Chad, Cameroon, Sudan Darfur, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Rwanda, Tanzania, Niger, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Kenya. 2)In Darfur region alone IHH had completed 44 water wells, one school and five cultural centres. In addition to this in terms of emergency disaster relief five projects in Darfur Sudan have reached more than 100,000 beneficiaries. The total number of wells across 12 African countries is currently 633, with 40 cultural centres and 16 schools also being constructed. In addition to this in the past two years IHH have completed more than 50,000 cataract operations and undertaken more than 200,000 health screenings in African countries. 1580 orphans are supported across eight African countries. Since 2000, in Africa, during Ramadan more than 1 million beneficiaries receives food each year from IHH across 30 countries and during Qurban more than 2 million each year across 40 countries. 3)In Somalia IHH have completed 276 water wells, 13 cultural centres and four schools. In terms of disaster relief in Somalia six projects have reached a total of more than 100,000 beneficiaries.

    Ms Keet mentions UN and UNRWA, I am glad she does so, then Director of Operations in Gaza John Ging called for the international community to respond directly with aid because not enough aid had been getting through for him to be able to conduct his work. Speaking at UN in New York on 22nd April 2010 he reiterated the words of Ban Ki Moon in saying “the increases in access are a drop in the bucket” in relation to Gaza, see video at http://vodpod.com/watch/3481843-unrwa-john-ging-a-drop-in-the-bucket-for-gaza. He states “We are not able to accommodate thousands of children seeking a UN education… who by UN resolution have a right to a UN education, all refugees in Gaza have a right to education….we have not been allowed to build a school in Gaza in three years.” His comments are backed up by United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs special focus report May 2010, “UNRWA reports that it has had 24 construction and infrastructure projects, totalling some $109 million in donor funds, frozen as a result of the blockade.” p. 2, ‘Impeding Assistance: Challenges to Meeting the Humanitarian Needs of Palestinians’, May 2010, OCHA, http://www.ochaopt.org The report goes on to say that “sweeping import restrictions imposed by Israel since June 2007 have either prevented the implementation of planned humanitarian projects or resulted in significant delays….restrictions on the import of cement make impossible the reconstruction of 12,000 Palestinian homes damaged or destroyed by Israeli military operations in recent years, as well as a further 20,000 homes needed to accommodate natural population growth in the Gaza Strip.” p.4

    The report presents the fact that despite the high influx of donor aid to the region the operations are restricted to basic food and cash support which are inadequate to address the causes of humanitarian need creating greater reliance in future. In addition to the inefficiency this presents to donor countries also reported are additional blockade-related costs including lack of clarity on the goods allowed, restrictions on the number of crossings, restrictions in the containerising of goods and the lack of flexibility in terms of permits and vehicles. Let us not also forget that during Operation Cast Lead on 15th Jan 2009 the main UNRWA compound in Gaza City was shelled resulting in the destruction of hundreds of tonnes of food and medicine despite information on all UN locations being shared with IDF. The Board of Inquiry commissioned by Ban Ki Moon found that the Government of Israel was responsible for the death and injury of civilians in seven incidents during Cast Lead and as a result Israel paid US$10.5 million to the UN in January 2010.

    In regards to Eastern Congo I must admit I have not travelled there. Working as a supervisor of social workers in within the local authority in North London for youth offending services within children and families services I have worked with a number of Congolese boys whose childhoods had been disrupted there and who now live in UK. What drives them to join or form gangs in London, such as one gang named ‘Dem Africans’ due to the number of African boys identified as members? Could it be the disruption of their childhoods and the need for identity and a twisted sense of safety? Does this situation not sound similar to that experienced by the children of Gaza who end up joining brigades? Could Ms Keet perhaps direct me to some academic research that shows that reducing the life chances and opportunities for children helps them to become more moderate and better-tempered young people? As John Ging stated, again in his report to UN on 22nd April 2010, “This should be about the people, its time to put the people before the politics. If we do prioritise the people.. focus on the needs of the people…that will make the politics easier moving forward. Ignore the people, abandon the people, leave the people to despair and desperation and that will make the politics more difficult moving forward.”

    In relation to Ms Keet’s final questions: 1)No, there is no points system for grading suffering – we rely on UN resolutions and reports to indicate where problems may need resolution. 2)In relation to Africa please refer to the projects undertaken by IHH indicated above and see their website 3)No, there is no consideration of Palestinian blood above that of African – however when looking at statistics indicating at least 6,348 Palestinians and 1,072 Israelis have been killed since September 29, 2000, it would seem to indicate the value of Palestinian blood appears less than that of Israeli http://www.ifamericansknew.com/stats/deaths.html#source. 4)There is no reluctance to travel to Africa, I have done and so does IHH – I have however been working in my own community in London with disadvantaged groups for the past eight years 5)In suggesting that Jews are my enemy I am very puzzled – considering I work and socialise with Jews regularly in London and particularly in Palestine solidarity efforts where my co-driver on convoy in December 2009 was a Jewish woman – no, simply lawbreakers and human rights abusers are my concern

    Finally it is very kind of my father to describe me as compassionate however everyone seems to be missing my selfish motivations – I personally want to live in a safer world. And with Israel carrying on in the ways it does in persecuting the Palestinians with the complicity of Arab, US and UK governments alike, I certainly won’t be. May I also suggest, as she has such clear concerns over the plight of Africans, that Ms Keet seek out the IHH website volunteer application form and complete it offering her services, just as I did.

    Yours faithfully, Alexandra Lort Phillips

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Is that the best she can come up with?

The article at the bottom of this page was published in Jerusalem Post and my father responded with the following letter, see below...

To: The Editor, Jerusalem Post. 19 June 2010.

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing in reply to Julie Burchill’s article in the Jerusalem Post of 18 June and must declare an interest here since I am the father of Alexandra Lort-Phillips, she of the hyphenated surname present on the Mavi Marmara when the vessel was sailing with the Gaza aid flotilla and boarded by Israeli Special Forces.

Linking the way people behave to the names they have been given – over which of course they had no choice – displays the sort of xenophobic bigotry which can eventually lead to disasters like the Holocaust. Although Miss Burchill’s article may have been written with tongue in cheek, it will bolster many with more sinister and blinkered views of the state of the Middle East at the moment.

Millions deplore the plight of the ordinary Palestinians who live in Gaza at the moment, but unlike most our daughter was inspired to get off her backside and try to do something about it. When she became aware of the appalling deprivation that is going on in the strip, her fury was not only with Israel but also with Hammas, with the political bigots of every hue in the region and with the wider international community’s failure to do anything about it. Her eyes were open to the faults on all sides and it was only her passion to help that led her to find the organisation that appeared closest to taking practical action. On account of this she helped with the Viva Palestina aid convoy over Christmas and New Year last year during which incidentally her co-driver was a Jewish woman!

The red tape and obfuscation that this aid convoy encountered both from Egypt and Israel hardened her resolve to help more with future aid deliveries, hence her presence on the flotilla and her encounter with the Israeli Commandoes. As the London Times following this event noted, ‘Ms Lort-Phillips refused to blame the Israeli commandos for the killings. “They got on board the ship and behaved like soldiers behave. It’s not their fault that they were put in that situation by someone in charge of military strategy,” she said.’ Such a mature take on an event in which she and her friends had been assaulted, killed, injured, abused, robbed and incarcerated is remarkable testimony to a balanced mind grappling with what seems to be an intractable problem.

Treatment of the type described above has made her and millions of others around the world exceptionally cross. It has acted as a recruiting agency for Hammas and others who hope for Israel’s annihilation. She is not one of them. She wants justice, peace and quality of life for the deprived of Gaza whose hardship she has witnessed at first hand.

We her parents instinctively admire much of what Israel has achieved since its foundation and also the focus on culture, scholarship, objectivity and democracy that intelligent Judaism has given the world. The recent intemperate response to well-meaning idealists aided and abetted by articles like Burchill’s has lost Israel many friends. It will continue to do so until they open their eyes and treat those who disagree with them with the sort of humanity with which they have been generally welcomed into the community of nations and the sort of humanity our daughter displayed in the aftermath of the assault on the Mavi Marmara.

We share the pride in her shown by her great Aunt Frances Campbell-Preston, another great and much venerated humanitarian whose generation, and she personally, suffered greatly in the defeat of another ghastly dictatorship that so victimised its neighbours 70 years ago.

Patrick Lort-Phillips.


How the British media get their kicks

By JULIE BURCHILL
06/18/2010 16:38

In Britain, tabloids get excited about roistering royals, fickle footballers and sex maniac MPs. But broadsheet papers only really get excited about Israel.

Talkbacks (22)

Over here in Britain, the tabloid newspapers get excited about roistering royals, fickle footballers, priapic pop stars and sex maniac MPs, among other things. They get excited about celebrity love-rats, three-in-a-bed romps and cocaine hells. They’re pretty excitable all round, bless ’em! But some of the broadsheet newspapers only really get excited – really excited, parasexual excited – about one thing: Israel behaving badly!

Of course, one hack’s bad is another hack’s baaad, and of course my first reaction was, “Ooo, which part of ‘don’t mess with Israel’ don’t these bed-wetters understand?”

On the phone later with my equally philo-Semitic gentile friend, she predicted that “if there’s any English on board, one of them will have a hyphen. You wait and see!”

I must point out here that unlike the situ in your gorgeous country, having a hyphenated name here doesn’t mean you’re the proud son of someone, i.e. Ben-Whoever. Rather, it means that you’re an upper-class, peasant-exploiting, in-bred half-wit.

In some extreme cases of overcompensation for what is clearly lacking in other departments, a mere double-barrelled name is considered too, too common, and families will add yet another hyphen – hence the Cave-Browne-Cave (sounds like code for a a pervy sex act) and Vane-Tempest-Stewart (one of the daughters, Annabel, left her husband for a Jew – an exception to the half-witted rule). And imagine how tragic your sense of your own worth must be to actually bother with four surnames (Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax) or even five (Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Greville – you’d have nodded off by the time the introductions were done). For some reason (and while not implicating any of the above named), the spawn of the ruling class is often drawn to anti-Israel activity.

IF YOU read Agatha Christie’s stories from before she realized she shouldn’t call people names any more (pre-1950s, or maybe the year when her publishers decided that the next printing of Ten Little Niggers should instead be called And Then There Were None would be the watermark), you’ll find loads of dodgy stuff. There’s “men of Hebraic extraction, sallow men with hooked noses, wearing flamboyant jewelry.”

There’s “the long-nosed Mr. Lazarus,” of whom somebody says, “He’s a Jew, of course, but a frightfully decent one.” And Christie was a smart toff!

Jews are very clever and the English ruling class are very stupid, so naturally English Jews have taken from the poshos a bit of the wealth and property that once was theirs, snatched from the peasantry and bequeathed by robber barons long ago. Nowadays their thick, unemployable children can find an outlet for their inborn anti-Semitism in pro-Palestinian protest. And sure enough I turned on the TV the day after the flotilla was floored, and there was a man called Lort-Phillips, bewailing the plight of his sister, one Alexandra Lort-Phillips, late of the ship of fools, who was now hopefully getting what she deserved in Eretz Yisrael.

A few days later a piece turned up on the society page of the Daily Mail explaining that Lort-Phillips is the great-niece of Dame Frances Campbell-Preston, a woman of the bedchamber (not as fun as it sounds) and friend of the late queen mother of England, who inexplicably claimed, “I am very proud of her. She is standing up for her principles.”

Wow, from royalty-flunky to Hamas-groupie in two generations – that’s the spirit that made this country great! At least, though, the old broad has the excuse of being 91 years old to spout such twaddle. What’s everyone else’s excuse?

It was poor Mark Regev, your charming spokesman, who took most of the flak. On BBC’s Newsnight, the female presenter allowed the love boat cheerleader enough time and space to practically make the Gettsysburg Address on behalf of these savage clowns (they came off like a pair of those weird women who write offering marriage to serial killers, to be frank) before subjecting Regev to such a relentless interrogation that he had to plead to be allowed to make his point.

Over on Channel 4, Jon Snow (a respected journalist but rather strange man, who several years ago refused to wear a red paper poppy – the British symbol of respect for fallen soldiers – in the week approaching Remembrance Day on the grounds that doing so was “poppy fascism”) took up the war of words against Regev, becoming as overheated as a teenage fan of Justin Bieber on coming face-to-face with a supporter of Miley Cyrus, claiming that – ahem – the Turkish president might be about to order warships to accompany Turkish aid vessels headed for Israel.

“What are you gonna do, what are you going to do, eh? What are you going to do if Turkish warships show up?” Snow railed, basically doing a Chris Morris “it’s war!” routine which had Regev incredulous. Cut to the end of the show, when Snow had to make a grovelling apology. The Turks had obviously been on the blower; the president never ordered any warships. And Snow had used a heated exchange to provoke and promote some very dangerous propaganda.

Not once did I hear a British interviewer ask any of the so-called secular radicals participating in the flotilla why they are allied with Islamic supremacists who subjugate women, persecute gays, oppress non-Islamic minorities and seek to impose Islam globally. But Sarah Montague on Radio 4 was a breath of fresh air in her interview with a Gaza-groupie:


Sarah Montague: Are you saying that Israeli soldiers who boarded that ship opened fire and there was no provocation for it?

Sarah Colborne: That’s what I am saying, yes.

SM: You saw that. You saw them fire when there was no attack on them?

SC: I saw them, well, I saw them, what I saw was them coming down from a helicopter onto the roof, I saw them trying to board the boat via dinghies.

SM: Were they attacked by those on board?

SC: They – the people on board, as you can see, were trying to stop...

SM: Hitting them with metal bars...

A JEWISH lawyer I know, as level-headed and laid-back a man as you could find, told me that he has never seen the British Jewish community as frightened as it is now. With the honorable exception of people such as Miss Montague and the brilliant Brendan O’Neill on spiked.com (who doesn’t even support the State of Israel, but writes with sparkling contempt of the reason he despises the Gaza-groupies), the British media must take some responsibility for creating this climate of fear. When British Jewish children are beaten up on school buses, as has happened increasingly over the past few years, I hope they feel proud of themselves and their mission to inform and enlighten.

The writer has been a journalist since the age of 17 and an admirer of Israel since the age of 12. The television adaptation of her teenage novel Sugar Rush won an International Emmy in 2006.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Government, meetings, media

This week I went to try to do some practical work for the upcoming Glastonbury Festival. On Monday morning I get a call however from BBC New Channel They want to know if I can get to a studio and arrange a car to pick me up from the festival site to go to Bristol. I get there in time to make some short comments about the fact that Israel have announced they are undertaking an investigation. Well good for them. This is no good for us or the international community and we will not cooperate with it.

I get back to site after getting some wellies and manage to do one hour of work. Also put up the large tent for use during the festival. I also hear from BBC Radio Wiltshire who want to hear my views on the investigation so I make these over the phone. BBC Five Live were going to speak to me as well my but they call back to say the football coverage has taken over....

On Tuesday I am lucky enough to get a lift to the station and onto a train back to London. Osama and I are going to Sheffield today for a meeting with Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign. We get there in a couple of hours and during the journey work on statements of the incident for legal purposes - recording carefully and chronologically what happened to us onboard and during out kidnap and detention by Israel. We arrive in good time to get to the meeting and before this Mushir our host takes us to BBC Radio Sheffield for a short interview with their drive time presenter.

The PSC meeting is well attended and we both give our accounts to the group. It is great to see Waqar from Viva Palestina Convoy 3 there - it is a surprise! His friend H also gives us a lift to the station as the last train we can get is at 9.15pm. When we get there the train supervisor tells us we have Chesterfield tickets not Doncaster ones so should not get this train. I listen to her which is wrong. Them we are stuck having missed the last London train. This is a nightmare as Osama has a flight in the morning. In desperation I work out if we can get a lift to Doncaster we could possibly catch the final train. I ring Waqar and he and H return to get us - but instead of taking us to Doncaster they insist on taking us to London! Wow. Amazing wonderful people. So by 1.30am they have returned us home. During the journey I type up Osama's statement and talk about the next convoys with Waqar and H.

Wednesday I need to get to a legal meeting in the afternoon, then meet Paveen and go to Lewisham for PSC branch. I am gutted to find out that Paveen has been a victim of hate crime in her area - a websote has been defaming her, published her address and her tyres were slashed. These are the sorts of people we are up against.

We make it to the meeting and its great to see fifty or so people turn out as well as Frank Barat from Russell Tribunal on Palestine. This is a tribunal originally established by Bertrand Russell to consider the conduct of America in Vietnam with the following justification:

"If certain acts and violations of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them. We are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us"

The Russell Tribunal for Palestine was established in 2009.

Thursday

9.30 in the momrning morning a number of the UK volunteers meet up to attend an appointment with Alistair Burt the government's Middle East minister. I download the 15 minutes of footage from Iara Lee's Cultures of Resistance in the Snappy Snaps opposite the FCO to give to the minister.

We enter a large room in the building with a large long table and long windows. The atmosphere is grand and the air echoes slightly. There are a number of people with Alistair Burt, some from consular department, some from his office. The group ask me to go through the account of the attack. I have my notes of the timings and structure but I am not sure if I am able to get across the horror of the experience. After this we put our specific requests to him. We reject the Israeli-led enquiry - he states the government position is to accept it, we ask to see William Hague - he declines, we ask for clarity on what the government is doing about Gaza - he responds in a vague way 'everything that can be done is being done'.

It is a disappointing meeting - what is the point of hearing about our experience when the policy and decisions are already made and nothing specific is told to us about what the government is doing - oh apart from they do agree to publicly demand the missing passports back.

We come out and speak to the press and media about this afterwards.

I get a call from BBC Wiltshire - they would like my response on their Breakfast time show tomorrow morning.

Friday

Early call from BBC Wiltshire Radio - I state how disappointed we are with the government's response, how the blockade needs to be lifted not eased and how the investigation/ report into the incident will have no value.

I get up and see that Fatima Mohammadi has made a report - it is very good -see here.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Its been a hectic week. On the way back in the car I spoke to BBC News Channel for a couple of minutes he came out with a number of the absurd Israeli allegations which I think I was able to deal with. Managed to get some rest at home but this is in between numerous phone calls, going through lists of contacts that my brother has put together, checking email etc.

I can also see some of the reports in the papers that have been kept. The local paper in Wiltshire comes around to get a happy family reunited picture. I speak to Hackney Gazette who plan to publish a story as well. On Wednesday I get a lift with friends Julie and George up to London. I have to get to a legal meeting with the group at 5.30 then on to public meeting organised by PSC and Viva Palestina - again we provide eyewitness accounts (see the others' on the side bar on you tube).

On Thursday I get a couple of calls - one from BBC London 94.9 and the other from BBC Radio Wales. I'm booked in for short interviews. 94.9 Thursday 10th at 6.30 approx, BBC Wales Friday 11th morning.

When I get back I can see that some new footage has come out from Cultures of Resistance - its amazing.

I check my draft emails and I can see the following which is what I wrote at the time of the attack on 31st May that I was unable to send due to satellite jam:

"We are currently surrounded by Israeli warships and unidentifıed aircraft, 14 approachiıng according to most recent info.

We from UK opted to join this flotilla taking humanitarian cargo and people from more than 40 countries which has been organised and led by IHH because they are an international humanitarian aid organisation with more than 15 years experience in increasing the stability and security of areas of the world affected by conflict and humanitarian disaster. They support over 10,000 orphans in Gaza through a sponsorship programme and 16,000 worldwide, they work in 127 countries and are extremely well organised and safe.

The idea that such an organisation could be attempting to undertake a mission to make this area more unsafe or 'look for a fıght' ıs ludicrous.

There is no reason under international law why Israel should interfere, inspect or stop us in any way.

We brought with us from UK a truck load of donations of medical equipment that we put on the IHH cargo ship personally in Istanbul.

The cargo and passengers have all been checked by Turkish or Greek authorities - we know the Israeli government have racist polıcıes......."

I couldn't finish or send it due to the satellite jam.


Monday, 7 June 2010

Now in UK - final hours on MM to follow

I decided to take the flight offered by Turkish Airlines yesterday and come back to UK with the main group of Brits. I intend to return to Istanbul soon however as there are still things to be done in relation to testimonies, lost property and anything else IHH may need help with.
It was wonderful to see supporters, friends and family waiting for us all. There were some cameras and news channels there. I decided to go home with parents who have with my brother done so much to field the media interest and worry about my safety and care.
The days before leaving were something else. On Friday 4th we got up and went to IHH offices, they told us about press conference in another building a short cab ride away so we made our way quickly there. I sat with Nicci Kiwi, and some of the Brits on a stage while brother Bulent (IHH President) held a press conference for Turkish press and TV. He explained how the Israelis had dropped an item on board - this was a list of 16 people from our movement with their names and photographs and the instruction at the top of the page in Hebrew "to be confronted/ challenged/ provoked (not sure of the translation)". The list included the 88 year old bishop Hilarion Kaputce so it is hardly a list of organisers - what were they hoping for in confronting the individuals? After the press conference I walked back to the office and made my way to the funeral of Cevdet Kiliglar - another massive event. In addition George Galloway is here today and he makes a speech to the assembly before the walk of the cortege and crowd to the cemetery. I go in the afternoon to the internet cafe to try to go through the numerous messages. I hear from Mehmet who I met at the forensic centre on arrival back from Israel, he suggests coming out and meeting his friends. Its great to meet them and we have a good conversation about how Mavi Marmara could have done more to keep the lost and injured people safe or planned better - however there is no getting away from the fact that simply the Israeli military turned up and started killing people. I also leave a broadcast on Gaza TV news about my experience onboard here's the report: http://ipad.io/KVB . The guys I'm with are lovely and insist on getting food and drink for me, they are Kurdish Turkish, they say things have improved for Kurdish people under this government in Turkey. I'm given a lovely Kurdish scarf and they jokingly teach me the say "Bijee Kurdistan!" which means "Free Kurdistan". THey say this does not mean a new border needs to be drawn around Kurdistan but that peoples' rights and freedoms should be respected. Absolutely. When I get back to the hotel I am thankful to see that Ken O'Keefe has now arrived in Turkey. He was beaten up by Israeli officers after demanding to be deported to Gaza not Turkey and bearing the brunt of their displeasure, see link for his words directly after arrival, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGlnsIW3zJk .
On Saturday morning again we return to IHH offices. There is a legal team there to advise and assist and we all share our contact details. Next we travel to a police station to make testimonies. This looks like it is taking ages and we are late for a rally. Three of the men killed were from or supporters of the Saadet Party in Turkey, a political party that has arranged an event about the incident and to recognise and remember the men. I go along at the last minute and we are taken in a car that gets stuck in traffic along the way and the closer we get the more I realise this is a massive event. Luckily in the car I manage to scribble down some thoughts about the mission and the men. On arrival we are ushered onto a massive stage in front of a crowd of estimate 20-50,000. Within a few minutes I have been invited onto the platform clutching my notes and have the awesome experience of speaking to the crowd for two minutes - something I will never forget. Afterwards Bulent and then Parveen and other Turkish speakers also speak. We get away from the rally after around an hour with tens of people stopping us for photographs and hugs.