No column in The Independent again this morning, as they weren’t overly keen on the issue I was writing about, which is connected to the Viva Palestina convoy of trucks, that left London on February 14th to deliver food and medicine to Gaza.
The convoy was financed by collections throughout the country, which were enough to fund 110 vehicles on a journey to across the channel, through France, Spain, across North Africa and hopefully through Egypt into Gaza. This, you might imagine, is the sort of charitable venture that would be publicised across the media as a chirpy feelgood tale, perhaps involving a regular feature on Blue Peter and at some point resulting in Cat Deeley squealing ‘The response has been AMAZING, you’ve been ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC’.
But in the tradition that anyone’s permitted to carry out crazy wacky acts as long as it involves charity, the police decided to contribute to the event with a spectacular lark. Early in the morning, on the day the convoy left, they arrested nine people on the M65 under the Terrorism Act, who were on their way to Hyde Park, where the journey was due to begin. They blocked off an entire section of motorway, and grabbed their suspects with what was described in the local newspaper as “Dozens of police cars, vans, 4×4 vehicles and a helicopter.”
The first I knew of this episode was from that afternoon’s BBC news, on which it was the main item. Which is as you might expect, with nine suspected terrorists being pounced on by an operation that included a helicopter. To be fair, the BBC journalists didn’t have to work too hard to find the story, as the police informed them in advance, and in addition, by a splendid coincidence, a press photographer happened to be on hand to record this successful swoop.
Maybe this is how the police plan to fund themselves from now on. They’ll follow the practice of celebrities and stage their events so they can be sold to OK and Hello. Major criminals will find themselves lying on the floor in handcuffs, while a photographer claps his hands and calls out “That’s lovely, now can we do the arrest one more time while the Inspector stands just behind kissing his wife, and then have a profile of the murderer’s assistant on a sheepskin rug in front of a coal fire.”
The news reported that the terrorists were on the way to join the Viva Palestina convoy, which straight away seemed a little peculiar. Why would terrorists be on the way to join such an event? What would they be planning to attack? The convoy of trucks heading for Gaza? And what sort of Jihadist terrorist would say “I know how we’ll move around without being noticed – we’ll drive down the motorway in three vans with Palestinian flags flapping from the windows and a f**king great ‘Viva Palestina’ logo painted on the side.”
The story was reported in almost every Sunday paper, with headlines such as “Galloway’s Aid Convoy linked to three terror suspects”, in the Mail on Sunday. And they had the effect of reducing contributions to the charity by eighty per cent, as the astute might have been able to predict. But the nine men, six from Blackburn and three from Burnley, were questioned, and the lorries, which were full of children’s toys, were searched. And presumably the head of the anti-terrorist squad stood there throughout saying “Check that Bratz for semtex.” By the next morning six were released without any charges, and a few days later the other three were released as well, the police appearing to be duly embarrassed to the extent they’ve paid the fares so the wrongly arrested men could catch up with the convoy, which by now was moving into Algeria.
The local councillor for the arrested men in Burnley is Wajid Khan, described how they were “Well respected men in the community, seen in a positive light.”
Presumably then, all the broadcasters and newspapers who considered it a major story that the police had successfully pulled off this anti-terrorist operation will now make it an equally prominent story that the arrests had no validity whatsoever. Apart from anything else there must be many people who saw that story, and are wondering why they’ve heard nothing about it since, assuming a bunch of terrorists have escaped and are running round on the loose. They may even indulge in some investigative work, which will show that three of the arrested men are defence witnesses in a separate trial, which may, or may not be a coincidence.
So you can’t help be suspicious that the arrest of people volunteering for charity may be connected to them being Muslims, and being associated with Palestine. If not it’s going to mean Comic Relief this year will be chaos, with Richard Hammond and Lenny Henry spending the whole evening making announcements such as “Now we’re going to meet the wonderful children of St. Josephs junior school in Kidderminster, who’ve raised two hundred and sixty-four pounds with a sponsored cartwheel race. So here’s Alan Titchmarsh to speak to them from their high security cell in Belmarsh.”
First Published on 26th February at the Mark Steel blog
Clive at Viva Palestina
Viva Palestina Email Alert
21.30 GMT Wednesday 25th February
Early this evening the convoy crossed into Tunisia to the tears and cheers of the massive Algerian crowds who waived them off at the border crossing.
The Algerian consul as well as some officials wished them all the best for the remainder of their long journey.
The convoy will not be travelling via Tunis. The next stop for the night will be in GAFSA where hotel accommodation has apparently been arranged. They are driving under police escort and everyone is doing well, reflecting on crossing Algeria – the second largest country in Africa.
I have just received a first hand account of the massive public support the convoy received from its crossing the borders to the town of Gafsa where people have lined the streets and greeted the Viva Palestina convoy with cheers, flags, water, juice, dates, food…
Even at this time of the night, the town is buzzing as it receives the heroes who are a symbol of hope to a just cause.
The next stop will be the borders with Libya unless the convoy decides to take a well deserved day off.
Please check out the marvelous pictures, sent by Alegrian jounalists and members of the public, of the crossing of Algeria that are now available on the website at :-
The Border Crossing – 21st February (lots of photos of the momentous border opening between Morocco and Algeria)
A day in Tipasa – 22nd February
Journey in Algeria – 23rd February
Journey in Algeria – 24th February
Thanks to everyone who has sent photographs
By Dalila Mahdawi
Daily Star staff
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
BEIRUT: Lebanon on Tuesday renewed its demand that Israel pay compensation for damage inflicted during the summer 2006 war. Lebanon’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Nawwaf Salam, passed on an official letter to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon outlining repeated Israeli violations of UN Security Council Resolution 1701. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora demanded in the letter that Israel compensate Lebanon for inflicting “unimaginable losses” on the country’s infrastructure, which has not yet fully recovered.
Binyam Mohamed was held at Guantanamo Bay for more than four years without charge [Reuters]
Binyam Mohamed, an ex-UK resident held at Guantanamo Bay, has arrived back in Britain amid calls for an independent inquiry into allegations he was tortured by captors working in collusion with British intelligence agents.
by George Galloway – first published in the Daily Record
MY Winnebago would nae go, go and so if your columnist is walking with a stoop, it’s the result of nights spent sleeping in the front seat of car.
I’m in Algeria, a land which had to sacrifice a million martyrs to overthrow French colonial rule and which knows a thing or two about occupation and resistance, which will account for the mass welcome by thousands of well-wishers on the route so far.
The border between Algeria and Morocco has been shut since 1994 and has been opened only twice during those long years. The first time was for my big red London bus headed for Baghdad, and the second for our 110-vehicle convoy now powering towards Gaza.
Never thought of me as a diplomat, did you?
The reason for the freeze in the two countries’ relations is the Western Sahara – the mineral-rich Atlantic coast territory, which Morocco absorbed upon the collapse of fascism in Spain and the consequent withdrawal from its former colonies.
But I don’t get every diplomatic question right. The first thing the Moroccan authorities did on our arrival in Tangier was to strip our 300- strong crew of their Viva Palestina T-shirts on account of the fact that the map of our route imprinted on the back of our shirts depicted Morocco sans Sahara.
Algeria supports the creation of a new country of the Sahara, over which the two states are at daggers drawn.
For our ships of the desert, it hasn’t been plain sailing. Many of our vehicles are old and slow. Fan belts, tyres, batteries were, as in the case of my Winnebago, bought and donated by a well-wisher days before our departure and everything that can go wrong has done.
My would-be charabanc now sits, possibly on bricks, in a poor area of Bordeaux. I never even got to sit in it.
After this, it will be Tunisia, Libya – where we will try to visit the British war graves meticulously kept there by the Libyans, despite the long years of hostility between the two countries – then, of course, Egypt.
We’ll see the pyramids along the Nile, where we’ll be joined by a huge crowd from Britain, who could only make the last leg.
The Rafah crossing point into Gaza is open this week for the first time in years, so things are looking good for a triumphal entry into Palestine around the end of the first week in March.
Last week, I told you about the high-profile police swoop on vehicles from Blackburn carrying aid for Gaza and headed for our convoy’s departure from Hyde Park. Nine men were arrested under the anti-Terrorism Act.
All nine of them have now been released without charge; wholly innocent men shamefully traduced by police and press to whom the dramatic video of the raid on the M65 was fed.
I said at the time that the police had better have a case against these men because, if not, we will certainly have a case against them and those who gullibly reported their version of events.
We now have that case and my lawyers are on to it.
Anyone with half a brain would know that it’s in everyone’s interest to encourage young British Muslims into peaceful democratic political actions because apathy is not the only alternative.
By smearing these men and their community in this way, the police, or whoever directed them, have set back community relations by years and made easier the job of the Islamist fanatics, who seek to lure these communities on to the rocks of separatism, extremism and violence.
George Galloway MP
By NORMAN FINKELSTEIN
Anthony H. Cordesman, a leading military analyst from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has published a “strategic analysis” of the Gaza massacre.(1) He reaches the remarkable conclusion that “Israel did not violate the laws of war.” The report is based on “briefings in Israeli [sic] during and immediately after the fighting made possible by a visit sponsored by Project Interchange, and using day-to-day reporting issued by the Israeli Defense Spokesman.” Cordesman omits mention that Project Interchange is funded by the American Jewish Committee.
February 20, 2009: The first gamma-ray burst to be seen in high-resolution from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is one for the record books. The blast had the greatest total energy, the fastest motions and the highest-energy initial emissions ever seen.
“We were waiting for this one,” said Peter Michelson, the principal investigator on Fermi’s Large Area Telescope (LAT) at Stanford University. “Burst emissions at these energies are still poorly understood, and Fermi is giving us the tools to understand them.”
This explosion, designated GRB 080916C, occurred at 7:13 p.m. EDT on Sept. 15, 2008, in the constellation Carina. This movie compresses about 8 minutes of Fermi LAT observations of GRB 080916C into 6 seconds. Colored dots represent gamma rays of different energies: