Tuesday, 13 January 2009

GETTING INTO GAZA : REFLECTIONS

Back in the peace and safety of my Strasbourg office questions come to my mind.

How did we get into Gaza given that the Israelis had made clear that they would not let us in? Who knows, but I imagine it was all down to the UNRWA people. In effect we were smuggled into Rafah to take the briefest of looks at what was going on, with the risk being taken that the Israelis would not stop a UN convoy. We also had great assistance from the Eygyptian authorities, again for unknown reasons but given the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt it must say something.

Why did I not emphasise how desperate journalists are to get in too? Israeli aggression would have long since been forced to a halt if they were reporting what they saw each day. I did not mention in my account that every journalist standing around at the Rafah crossing compound tried to get into our UN minibus when it was realised it might cross the line. They had to be shouted at and pushed out before we could proceed.

Why did I not make the point that the Palestinians in Gaza are trapped? Israeli civilians facing Hamas rockets can flee if need be, but the Palestinians are like fish in a tank with no means of escape. There is a wall around the Gaza Strip and Palestinians will be killed by the Israeli Defence Force should they try to cross it. (And don't imagine they can get out by boat either).

And with the benefit of hindsight why did we not think through how we might better have communicated our thoughts? All 8 MEPs have given accounts to their national media, but we did not have the equipment with us to give them pictures. And instead of travelling back to Europe why did we not go to Israel, hold a press conference in Jerusalem, and challenge the Israeli version of events? It would have had so much more impact.

E-mails have poured in thanking me for the account and congratulating my 'bravery'. But I am not in the least brave. The brave ones are the UN people. I look at the pictures on the news of Gaza being blasted and blasted, and I think of the fear I felt when explosions took place hundreds of metres away. The Palestinians in Gaza are no more brave than me, but for them there is no escape.

2 comments:

GGL said...

Chris, could you please post any links on any interviews you have with the press here on your blog? I'm very interested to see/hear them. I'd love to hear more about your experience. You are one of the very few who managed to get it!

Once again, I hope you can push hard for an embargo on Israel. Millions of people have set their hopes on you and other MEPs!

Luna said...

Great speach, Thank you
The current military action has created huge support for Palastinians. We all are shocked and disturbed by the horrific images of those children and the evil killing of many civillians in Gaza. UN buildings were also targeted, even the one with relief supplies.
People of Gaza must have gone though terrible physical and psychological damage. I do not expect any of them to shake hand with Israelis anymore.
Israel military solution will not achieve Middle East peace but will create more trouble in the region as well Europe and the rest of the world. Violence will produces more violence.