By Yvonne Ridley
Dream to Reality
FIVE weeks ago Viva Palestina was a pipe dream and now it is a reality
as more than 100 vehicles and 300 volunteers snake their way through
France heading for Gaza.
Last night the show-stopping convoy rolled off a freight ferry in
Ostend to embark on a historic mission of mercy to help the Palestinian
I spent the ferry crossing getting to know my fellow passengers
and discovered they come from all walks of life from students to
pensioners, estate agents to accountants, engineers, mechanics,
housewives and doctors.
This morning I expect many of us are bleary eyed as the convoy heads
for Bordeaux - I know I am, after a sleepless night trying to find
a comfortable position to sleep in a car seat.
My eyes feel like sandpaper every time I blink.
You see this 5000 mile trip from London to Gaza isn't a jolly or
five star vacation for any of us, although some are more organised
than others with regards to finding a comfortable nook or cranny
in which to sleep.
Press TV is very much part of the convoy and the only TV station
to be there from start to finish. Regular reports will be filed
from our SNG vehicle along the route, and there's already been some
dramas and hitches.
A group who were carrying aid from communities in Blackburn were
stopped by police shortly after they set off from their homes in
the North of England but despite hysterical headlines in the tabloid
media most have now been released and we're told there are efforts
by Manchester police to reunite the group with the convoy.
The news was relayed on board the freight ferry bound for Ostend
last night by one of the organisers Kevin Ovenden amid great cheers
by those who had set off from Hyde Park in London after a rousing
reception. Sporting a green Viva Palestina t-shirt he gave the opening
introduction before the assembled travellers.
There were more cheers in store when we learned our convoy of 100
plus vehicles would double in size by the time we reach Libya next
week - news has just come through that 100 large lorries are waiting
to follow us into Egypt carrying even more aid.
Meanwhile, back in the UK charities like Islamic Help and the Al
Khair Foundation are continuing with TV appeals and fund raisers
to swell the coffers of Viva Palestina which will buy even more
aid in Egypt before entering war-torn Gaza.
The convoy carrying in excess of £1m aid is already a record-breaker
and will be the largest British land convoy to cross North Africa
since the Second World War. Led by a bright red fire engine, the
convoy has more than a dozen ambulances, countless vans and trucks
plus a whacking great big generator brought along by the Bolton
Massive (my nickname for the men from the Lancashire town). The
generator will have enough power to supply a small hospital or school,
so I'm told.
When you consider Viva Palestina was nothing more than a pipe dream
five weeks ago, the achievement of pulling together the convoy has
been nothing short of staggering.
The brainchild and initiative of Britain's best known politician
RESPECT MP George Galloway, Viva Palestina has already motored its
way into the record books and it is set to get even bigger. Not
a man usually lost for words, the Bethnal Green and Bow MP looked
overcome with emotion as he greeted and then waved off every single
Much of the last few weeks have been spent travelling the length
and breadth of Britain appealing for funds, support and volunteers
From the tears and anger of communities outraged by the humanitarian
crisis unfolding in Gaza, thousands rallied to his call for aid
and help in whatever way they could, and the efforts were open for
the world to see on Saturday in central London.
Well George, I also counted the vehicles out of Hyde Park and counted
them all in again at Ostend. But from my pit stop on France's Autoroute
A10, I must sign off now and try and catch up with my fellow travellers.
They shouldn't be too difficult to spot, that's for sure.
- see Press TV report here