The fifth Viva Palestina convoy from Britain is nearing Gaza. Human rights lawyer and socialist Jim Nichol reports from the convoy:
Kayseri, Turkey: School children at the Hisarciklioglu high school line up to wave as we pass by. This was the school of Furkan Dogan. He was only 19-years-old when he was killed by the Israelis on the Mavi Marmara when they attacked the Gaza aid flotilla. He was the youngest to be killed.
At the head of his grave is a poster with Furkan’s photo. He looks much younger than his 19 years. So much younger.
The grave is planted with blues, yellows, pinks, orange and whites, and a single red rose. There are tears. Furkan was shot five times.
Leaving Turkey: I’d like to get your sympathy by telling you that I am living on the baked beans that I bought in Tescos. But it would not be true. In every town we are feasted and cared for.
Young people are very noticeable. Last night perhaps two hundred 14 to 24 year olds formed a welcoming cordon.
We leave for Syria from the graveside of Getin Topguoglu. He too was killed on the Mavi Marmara. His wife Gigdem was by his side. She picks up a handful of earth from her husband’s grave and asks that it be sprinkled in Gaza.
The reception at the Syrian border is extraordinary. Hundreds of people swarm to meet the convoy. Many are Palestinians. A ten year old boy yells to me that he came from Haifa.
Everyone but everyone is looking after us. Breakfast this morning was provided by the Association of Lattakia Engineers.
Palestinian families come to the camp. “Come home with us”, they say. “We have cooked for you. Do you like fish? Do you like chicken? We have sweets. We want to go to Palestine.”
They tell of the town in Palestine from which they come like I tell about Newcastle. But I have been to Newcastle.
Monday 4 October: 9pm. We’re about to set off for Damascus. The Jordanians arrive. Like the cavalry but with lights and horns. Nose to tail they enter the compound—40 vehicles.
There is a huge refrigeration truck to keep some aid cool. It will be left in Gaza. It’s all very exciting.
We arrive and George Galloway is waiting for us. Press conferences, negotiations and a rally.
Tuesday 5 October: We wonder whether the Egyptians are going to let us in. They say that they will not let George in. The original sailing day was Tuesday. Today is Tuesday. Not a ship in sight.
I am part of a small press conference. I’m introduced as an international lawyer. I call for the prosecution of Israel for war crimes.
We hope to sail soon.
Friday 8 October: Near catastrophe. At 5am the sky opened. It poured. A deluge. The aid was under several gazebos. The bottom layer is soaked. The place is flooded.
Enter the Algerians. Eighty men. We work shifting to dry land. They start singing. Three beat out the rhythm on cardboard boxes.
The pace is strong and fast. It is powerful. Collective. Zabeer says it is a traditional song for those who toil with a difficult task that must be finished. It is to uplift the spirit. It did.
Saturday 11 October: Then came the winds. They howled. We lassoed tents to iron posts, lamp posts, flag posts, door posts.
Repackaging of wet boxes. But not before 40 brand new vans arrive. Bought by the Algerians.
From Algeria there are five MPs, three senators and the wives of three ex-ministers. One MP is the vice president of the Algerian parliament. The money was raised on the streets.
The level of aid is staggering. The vehicles must be worth one million US dollars. But there is also every kind of drug imaginable. The refrigerated vehicles are carrying chemotherapy drugs. I packed 100 good quality wheelchairs—new—into half a dozen ambulances.
No news on the negotiations.