Israeli critique of Londonderry humanitarians

A CITIZEN of Israel has criticised a group of Londonderry men who this week finally arrived in Gaza with an ambulance full of medical and humanitarian supplies after over a month on the road.

Jonathan Crockett, Danny Doyle, Eddie McBride, Derek McChrystal and Eanna O'Donaghaile - travelling with the Viva Palestina humanitarian convoy - crossed into the Gaza strip at Rafah at approximately 6.30pm on Wednesday.

The local men embarked on their mission before Christmas driven by a sense of outrage at the lot of the Palestinians in Gaza since an Israeli bombardment of the strip left over a thousand people dead last winter.

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Speaking upon their arrival Mr Crockett said: "We've travelled 5,000 miles from Derry in Ireland and it's great to finally be here to meet the people and we've come this far for a reason because they deserve it and more people should do this because we have to break the siege and I'd like to thank the people of Derry."

But in a letter to the local media Australian-born David Guy, aged 54 - who during Israeli Apartheid Week in March created a spoof Hypocrisy Week poster attacking Palestinian militants - criticised the local humanitarians claiming they were propagandists. Mr Guy lives in Rehovot, south of Tel Aviv.

Mr Guy wrote: "The four men from Derry have taken the least efficient, most expensive means to deliver aid possible.

"Whatever this mission is about it is not about mercy but about propaganda and the Palestinians come a poor second.

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"They came to deliver medicine in an ambulance. Why an ambulance, hardly the best vehicle to transfer large amounts of perishable goods, especially with four passengers?

"Gaza has no shortage of vehicles, including ambulances, but it does have a shortage of fuel. Had they sent the supplies to El Arish by plane or ship they could have sent twice the quantity but then four very misled men would not have had a chance, yet unrealised, to play hero. They also could have spent the money they save on plane tickets back to Derry on even more medicine."

Mr Guy argued that the border crossing at Aqaba - where the Londonderry men were denied entry to Egypt at Christmas - was open and that the convoy should have dropped its antagonistic stance towards Israel in order to secure a visa.

"The medicine would have been transported in one of the more than 2,500 truckloads of humanitarian aid to Gaza each month," he stated.

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"That must have been too embarrassing because they didn't bother asking. It's a case of, hang the Palestinians.

"It apparently is better that a few more die than acknowledge the reality of Israel."

The critique was particularly scathing of the one-time Celebrity Big Brother contestant and Respect MP George Galloway who headed the Viva Palestina convoy.

"George Galloway, who 'commanded' this and the previous failed mission to Gaza, let the cat out of the bag in an interview with al Jazeera.

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"He said, 'Our medicines are in a race against the time of their expiry date and are spoiling in the desert sun.'

"Nearly expired drugs, improperly stored and a bunch of do-gooders trying to make a political statement. Forget about mercy for the Palestinians. Mercy on the people of Derry who have to take these clowns back."

The arrival of the Londonderry aid convoy had been due to coincide with the Gaza Freedom March participants in which were to include Pullitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker and leading US legal advocate Michael Ratner.

But despite a failure to make that deadline the local contingent this week expressed jubilation at finally reaching the people of Gaza with their aid.

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High profile critics of Israel's actions in Gaza - Gore Vidal, Noam Chomsky, John Pilger and Naomi Klein - all backed the event.

But although hundreds gathered on both sides of the Israeli-Gazan border on New Year's Eve, as planned, to mark a year since Israel's three-week bombardment of Gaza, and to call for an end to the blockade of the area imposed by Israel and Egypt, hundreds more were confined to making protests in Cairo, Egypt having banned entry to Gaza.

The Egyptian foreign ministry said the march could not be allowed because of the "sensitive situation" in Gaza.

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