Press TV has conducted an interview with Kevin Ovenden, organizer of the Viva Palestina Arabia convoy to Gaza, to further discuss the issue.
The following is a transcription of the interview.
Press TV: Tell us please what lies behind it; where it is now; where it left from. Tell us the story.
Ovenden: Well, what lies behind it is that 6 years on from an election taking place across Palestine as a whole, let’s not forget, which the Western powers and Israel did not like, a siege and embargo remains upon the people of Gaza, the 1.5 million people in Gaza.
This is despite the so-called relaxation of siege by Israel, which they allowed tomato, ketchup and mayonnaise through.
Despite something even more substantial, which is the overthrow of Mubarak in Egypt, there has been some change; but the essence of the embargo remains which is that there is no free movement of people and free movement of goods without which the economy of Gaza cannot recover from the devastation it has faced. So that is what lies behind it.
In addition, as you said, George, the name of the convoy is the Right of Return Convoy, and that is for three reasons. Firstly, Viva Palestina in the form of Viva Palestina Arabia is returning to Gaza for the sixth time, bringing much needed humanitarian aid.
Secondly, it is the call for activists and the people of good will around the world to return their minds to Palestine, to return their minds to Gaza. There are many changes happening in the Middle East, many good, some not so good, but there are those who in the course of those changes would like us to turn our minds away from the fundamental issue for everybody in the Middle East and indeed for hundreds and millions of people, Muslims and others, around the world, and that’s Palestine.
And the third reason is to emphasize the right of return of the displaced Palestinian refugees. More than half of the Palestinian people are refugees. 10 million Palestinians now driven out of their homes in the Nakba of 1948, and so we aim to be in Gaza on the 15th of May, which is Nakba Day, to commemorate that with the people there and highlight the fact of the right of return exercised by the Palestinian people. There will be no solution to the Palestinian question.
Press TV: There are two important questions that arise from that. The first is, because there is no point in discussing Israel’s relaxation of the siege, that was a sick joke, the extent of their relaxation, as you say, being that they allowed mayonnaise, tomato and ketchup to go through the siege barriers, though why they were ever banned in the first place is mind-boggling.
But two important things emerged from it. The first is that notwithstanding the overthrow of the Mubarak regime, the duo power which seems to exist in Egypt now with the military still on their horse and the parliament elected but no president yet, does not seem to have yielded the kind of access for the people of Gaza that one might have expected.
The second and perhaps more problematic, with oil hovering at around 120 to 150 dollars a barrel, some of these Arab oil producers having doubled their amount of income that they had budgeted for, surely Gaza should be like the south of France by now. It’s only 1.6 million people, why are these oil producers not pouring money in to relieve the suffering of the people of Gaza?
Ovenden: I entirely agree that those are two of the most salient points. Firstly, the situation with the Egyptian government or Egyptian regime is, as you say, a dual power situation with the remnants of the “Mubarakism”, one might say; the SCAF, the generals, trying to hold unto or delegate to themselves as much power as they can in defiance of the great democratic awakening which is taking place in Egypt.
Exactly how that plays out remains to be seen. It will play out in one form of another in the course of the presidential election. It does mean that there is a gap in Egyptian society between the feeling of the mass of people which remains very strongly for the Palestinian people as a whole and particularly their neighbors in Gaza – we remember it was the Egyptian people who stormed the Israeli embassy protesting at the very presence of that embassy in Cairo – a gap between that and the powers that be at least at the moment.
I think it’s an unstable situation and I think that our convoy will be well received by the people of Egypt. I think that the most patriotic and most far-sighted presidential candidates who’ll be campaigning while we’re aiming to get into Gaza will also receive it well.
In combination with that, as you say, the case is irrefutable. Most of the Persian Gulf kingdoms are budgeted for oil to be around 80 dollars a barrel; they’re a break-even budgets are around 90 dollars a barrel, which is leaving aside that’s in the sovereign well funds which invested in the US stock market and other gambling, and so on.
The amount needed to reconstruct Gaza was estimated two years ago to be in the region of 1.8 billion dollars which is not an awful lot of money.
Press TV: No, it’s pennies for them.
Ovenden: Absolutely. It’s small change for these princes and kings.
The coastline of Gaza, the 26 miles of it, should look like Cannes or Nice. It has natural attractions and so on, and there should be no barrier to construction and other aid getting in for that to take place. This is also something that we’ll be highlighting.
There’s lots of talk from the most surprising of places about democracy and progress inside the Middle East and North African region, and also, I must say now, quite a lot of hiding behind people in Gaza – they weren’t there to help them when the bombing was happening three years ago, and now they’re trying to hide behind some of the political leaders in Gaza to claim that they stand with the Palestinians.
Well, actions speak louder than words and we know that the emirs and so on are not very good at acting but they’ve got money and they could spend it.
Press TV: I don’t want to press you too hard on this; and if you want to diplomatically decline it’s up to you. Qatar, for example, is pouring money and weapons into various Arab-Arab conflicts but could solve in an instant the entire suffering of the Palestinian people in Gaza.
Ovenden: Qatar is an extremely good example as is Saudi Arabia and Bahrain which is under the partial occupation invited in by the Bahraini government of the Saudis.
One thing I’d like to make clear in reference to what you’ve just touched on, this fueling of Arab-Arab conflict so even Arab-Persian conflicts or Arab-Kurdish conflicts and so on, which is of course all in the interests of the Western powers; this is what Baker and Hamilton sat down and planned as a renewed Sykes-Pico in the dying days of the George W. Bush administration.
We are carrying the flag of Palestine from the north of England, from Baghdad through France, through Germany, through the Balkans, into Turkey, down through the Lavan, through Syria, into Jordan, across the Sinai and into Gaza, we hope.
One flag, the flag of Palestine, which we know and the peoples throughout all of those regions and countries will respect. We ask all of the appropriate authorities to respect that flag as well.
Press TV: Tell us, where is the convoy now and how can people support it?
Ovenden: The convoy’s currently in southern Germany. It’s moving between Stuttgart and Munich, two cities which have a great history of support for the Palestinian people so we’re very pleased about that.
It’s heading on route that I just mentioned earlier.
People can support it by going to the vivapalestina.org website and you’ll be guided there to the appropriate web pages for supporting the convoy.
The other thing you can do is sign up to the mail and Twitter so that should it be necessary to call upon the wider community of support for the Palestinian people to act in support of the convoy if it faces any difficulties then you’ll have the information and be able to act.
Press TV: So, you’re going through Syria because that’s the road to Palestine. It doesn’t imply any side in any Arab conflict. But you’re not going to avoid a country because some people think that you oughtn’t to be going through it. After all, when we took convoys to Palestine, we drove through many brute dictatorships across North Africa. The mere act of doing so did not imply that we were with any of those.
Ovenden: Indeed. We were driving through a country which is not a brute dictatorship – I’m talking of Turkey – but does have its own internal problems and political divisions and so on.
Press TV: Muslim-Muslim conflict in Turkey.
Ovenden: Muslim-Muslim conflict in Turkey, a Kurdish conflict within Turkey, none of which is the business of a convoy delivering aid to Palestine. Palestine is the business.
Palestine is the key, ought to be the bridge, ought to bring everybody together, and I hope that everyone watching this keeps that in mind.
(www.presstv.ir / 25.05.2012)