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