I was able to shadow the Delegation somewhat when my own personal schedule allowed, and covered as much as possible from the press area at some of their events. Additionally we will post a few individual diaries on some of the members as well from their personal blogs and added to what we saw ourselves on the trip. We have also been working on a post about the orphaned refugee children, it is highly emotional and hard to write about, but that post will be up Wednesday Morning and it will break your heart into pieces. But for now, we cover the beginning of the EU Delegation at their press conference before the trip into Gaza. If you are not interested in this part, then skip past the two videos to the report on the PLC building and meeting the parties inside Gaza if you wish.
Get to know the Delegation leader, Sir Gerald Kaufman: In the first video you will view, the beginning speaker is Sir Gerald Kaufman, who was the leader of the Delegation into Gaza. Sir Gerald is a Jew whose grandmother was murdered by Nazis. He is a harsh critic of the State of Israel and its policies. Some of you may remember covering his speech in the House of Commons where he compared the actions of Israeli troops in Gaza to the Nazis who forced his family to flee Poland and urged the British government to impose an arms embargo on Israel. Additionally he said this:
"My grandmother was ill in bed when the Nazis came to her home town a German soldier shot her dead in her bed.If you live in England near Manchester, you can hear Sir Gerald speaking about his trip here:
"My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza.
"The present Israeli government ruthlessly and cynically exploits the continuing guilt from gentiles over the slaughter of Jews in the Holocaust as justification for their murder of Palestinians."
He said the claim that many of the Palestinian victims were militants "was the reply of the Nazi" and added: "I suppose the Jews fighting for their lives in the Warsaw ghetto could have been dismissed as militants."
My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza.
He accused the Israeli government of seeking "conquest" and added: "They are not simply war criminals, they are fools."
Kaufman called for a total arms ban on Israel.
“It is time for our government to make clear to the Israeli government that its conduct and policies are unacceptable and to impose a total arms ban on Israel.”He also branded the Israeli PM, the foreign minister and defense minister as war criminals.
“Is it not an incontrovertible fact that Olmert, Livni and Barak are mass murderers and war criminals?”
In a BBC interview Kaufman said about the rising Palestinian death toll: "Four Jews against 1,000 Palestinians - that is Nazism."
Kaufman, 64, called Israel's actions "not only barbaric but also stupid" because, he said, terrorism could not be defeated by force of arms.
"It failed in Lebanon and it will fail here," he said.
Mr Kaufman, whose Gorton constituency includes Levenshulme, will be speaking about his experiences in Gaza at an evening which is open to all.Part 1 The Beginning Press Conference
It will take place on Thursday, January 28, from 7pm at Whalley Range Cricket Club on Kingsbrook Road, Whalley Range.
PART 1 Beginning Press Conference before going to Gaza. Speakers: Sir Gerald Kaufman British MP and outspoken critic of Israel, followed by Dr. Arafat Shoukri, European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza and the Palestinian Return Centre London. He was the organiser of this Delegation and he stresses the need to move things on to a political solution to the siege and hope this EU delegation will be the beginning of a new movement. Then there are questions from the media followed by British MP Claire Short who resigned from Tony Blair’s Cabinet over the Iraq war. Next is Lord Ahmed Nazir at 7:25 and the video ends with Colin MacKenzie Low, a blind Member of Parliament who on the trip to Gaza visited with other blind people. He had some heart felt words for them.
PART 2 Beginning Press Conference before going to Gaza. in order: Richard Howitt, MEP, Baroness Jenny Tonge one of the most outspoken Brits on Palestine. She has made this cause a priority, excellent words form her. Next someone special to us in Ireland MP Jeremy Corbyn, he was right on Ireland and he’s right on Palestine, a true and good man who has been to Gaza 4 times. You can hear him at 5:18 on the video
ARRIVAL INTO GAZA AND VISIT TO PLC BUILDING AND MEETING ALL PARTIES IN GAZA: Next some photos of the arrival into Gaza and greeting Press Conference inside Rafah along with some commentary of what I saw when they arrived:
After the EU delegation got off the bus they were greeted by a long line of officials from Gaza. At the end of the line each member was given a small bouquet of Palestinain Carnations with a small card that said "Welcome to Palestine"
Upon arrival everyone was taken into a processing centre where they were all given a cold fruit drink and bottled water. Sir Gerald Kaufman said a few words and also members of the government of Gaza spoke breifly and welcomed him and the other Parliamentarians to Gaza. Sorry for the jumbled photo (below) but it was chaos inside with people both tired and elated at the final arrival onto Gazan soil. AS I was not part of the delegation I was unabel to get close to Kaufman when he was speaking. You can just see Sinn Fein MEP Bairbre DeBrun on the right hand side sitting down. She was one of the first to enter Gaza after the war and was returning to assess the current situation.
After this press conference the delegation boarded two busses and headed for Gaza city with a stop long the way at the bombed out PLC building to meet the Gaza MP's from all political parties. Here everyone was treated to a take away picnic like lunch. I say it was "like" an outside picnic, because we ate in the bombed out area of the building, the chamber where the politicians would have met to govern Gaza. This room, what remained of it, was exquisite. It was easy to see how beautiful it once had been. The entire experience was surreal, a beautiful gold coloured chandelier with thousands of cut glass droplets hung above us on what was left of the ceiling, the outer walls were gone as you can see in the photo below behind the people eating.
Anyone with any intelligence what so ever could clearly see what we were witnessing. Just witness the surgical strikes at certain buildings and areas. The attack on the PLC building speaks for itself. This was a war crime and an attempt to kill off the entire Gazan government in order to create a situation where Gaza would become ungovernable and lawless in the aftermath, thus making it simple for Israel and the US to install a government they had better control of. What does this say about Democracy? People hated George Bush, when he ran the first time he stole the election from Al Gore, yet no one bombed the Whitehouse and made calls to de-legitimise his war mongering illegal invasion of Iraq government. Yet in Palestine, there was a Democratic election that George Bush himself hailed as the first Democratic election. That was until the selection made by the Palestinian people was revealed and Israel and the West suddenly decided they no longer supported Democracy. Serious duplicity exposed.
Although luckily only one person was killed in this war crime, however, many of the Government are sitting in Israeli jails.
This was a topic of discussion and the Delegation was asked to help free the Politicians so they can return to governing their country. The point was not lost on the delegation, as fellow elected politicians with a mandate from their own electorate, all democratically elected politicians should be protected from being murdered and illegal internment. Otherwise what is the point of entering into politics? Democracy and the vote must be protected in all countries, even the ones Israel and America don’t like. That's the problem with upholding Democracy and Democratic principles, you have to accept the will of the voters, otherwise you are exposed as a hypocrite!
The Delegation then moved outside where it was now getting dark. In an area set up for speakers and an audience, Sir Gerald Kaufman opened the discussion with a small speech and then he was given an award. Then members of both governments and all parties spoke, including one Palestinian woman MP who was brilliant. I think the European women MEP's and MP's were quite interested in hearing a woman MP's perspective:
As this entire event lasted for a few hours, and myself being a political junkie to the extreme, I spent my time having the most incredible political discussion with this man (below) who noticed me standing off on my own:
Sayed Salem Abu Musameh
Member of Parliament – National ListHe spoke very good English and the time sped by as we discussed politics, the siege and how important it was for the international community to get to know Gaza via cultural links and other ways, and that Gaza's hand was stretched out to the world. And that all politicians of the world should talk to each other and uphold the Democratic process, all politicians should be allowed to govern if they are democratically elected. Today it is Gazan politicians under attack, tomorrow it could be another country, maybe yours. This is one fundamental thing I agree fully on, the results of a Democratic election should be respected worldwide; all politicians must be protected from being murdered, imprisoned illegally or marginalised by powers who don’t like them for whatever reason. We have experienced this very same thing in Ireland for a great many years, we understand this completely. It took a US President, Bill Clinton to be courageous enough to shake the hand of Gerry Adams, and to engage in talks with all parties in Ireland. And the result of that historic moment was the birth of our own peace process. Who will be brave enough to repeat this with Palestine? Silence from the Obama Administration who said they would talk to all leaders of this world. This particular evening at the PLC building was one of my best experiences of my own personal trip, and I loved every minute of that experience.
#23 on Change and Reform list
From Rafah, Gaza
Bachelor Degree in Sharia from Faculty of Da wa
Bachelor Degree in Fundamentals of Religion from Islamic University in Medina
Former editor of Palestinian newspaper al-Watan
Worked at the Islamic University
One of the founders of Hamas.
Considered a moderate and close to Ismaeel Haniyeh and Sheikh Hassan Youssef
1991 Arrested by Israel
1995 Arrested by PA, sentence to 5 years imprisonment for political activities that
"undermine the Palestinian Authority"
The Preventive Security Forces shot on his car on May 9, 2006 and detained him for few
Consultant to Ismail Haniyeh