Interview with Stuff on Kia Ora Gaza
11 July, 2010
Adrian Hatwell of Fairfax Media's net outlet Stuff has interviewed Grant Morgan, co-organiser of Kia Ora Gaza.
Kia Ora Gaza was launched some days ago to send Kiwi aid and volunteers to join the international land and sea convoys to Gaza this September.
Here are Grant's responses to Stuff. The interview should soon be up on Stuff.co.nz.
How did the public meeting on Wednesday go? Can you tell me about the mass aid convoy leaving from London on September 18? And how much money will you need to raise for the project?
Kia Ora Gaza was only one week old when we held our first public meeting on 7th July in Auckland. The meeting was a solid success. 80-plus people turned out on a freezing evening to support a Kiwi contribution to the international land and sea convoys setting off for Gaza on 18th September.
As co-organiser of Kia Ora Gaza, I gave an introduction which stressed the enormity and significance of these mass convoys.
There will be three land convoys, originating from London, North Africa and Doha, which are being coordinated by Viva Palestina in England. A sea convoy, coordinated by the Turkish humanitarian relief foundation IHH, will originate in London and travel port-by-port around the Mediterranean, picking up more ships, aid and volunteers along the way.
The three land convoys will converge on the Rafah crossing from Egypt into Gaza on the same day, at the very time that the sea flotilla is approaching the coast of Gaza.
The world will have seen nothing like this international grassroots campaign to deliver humanitarian aid and breach the inhumane Israeli siege of Gaza. Following the murderous hijack of the Freedom Flotilla on 31st May, when nine civilian aid workers were shot to death by Israeli commandos on the open sea, there has been a sea change in world public opinion.
Now the majority of people on all continents understand that the state of Israel has imprisoned 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza after stealing their homeland. The mass aid convoys setting off for Gaza in September, staffed by volunteers from scores of different countries, will enjoy the sympathy of the global majority. With that level of planetary support there is every chance the Israeli siege of Gaza can be broken forever, or at least fatally weakened. And that, of course, will ripple onto other good happenings. We may well help to bring about some world historic changes.
I informed the meeting that Kia Ora Gaza has a donations target of $100,000. We have only ten weeks to raise this money before the international convoys embark on their voyage into destiny. Upon reaching our $100,000 target, we will send a truck full of aid to Gaza, staffed by a team of Kiwi volunteers, as well as a volunteer on the sea convoy.
Can we reach this ambitious target? That is the problem, and the solution is people like you, I told the audience. If lots of Kiwis, for the next ten weeks, make sacrifices to help the suffering people of Gaza, we can reach or exceed our target. A motion to support Kia Ora Gaza's mission was passed unanimously.
Our six guest speakers gave 100% support to Kia Ora Gaza's contribution towards the international aid convoys. They were:
- Steve Phillips, representing Ngati Whatua, the region's premier iwi.
- Su'a William Sio, Labour MP for Mangere and a voice for Pasifika communities.
- Garry Parsloe, Auckland chair of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions.
- Dr. Anwar Ghani, president of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand.
- Khaled Amlah, a voice for Palestinians in New Zealand.
- Michael Lai, international affairs officer of Auckland University Students Association.
Our guest speakers, representing a cross section of communities in Aotearoa, indicate the broad spectrum support that Kia Ora Gaza has already gathered. In just over one week, we have received cash and pledges totaling around $20,000. That represents a very good start.
Yet we must keep a high wave of donations rolling in every week for the next ten weeks. Our appeal to all good Kiwis is to join our Ten Week Plan. We are asking sympathisers to fill out Automatic Payment forms so they contribute regularly to Kia Ora Gaza for the next ten weeks. All our accounts will be audited by a professional auditor (giving his services free) who is independent of our bank trustees.
"Our success is in your hands," I told the audience at our first public meeting. I make the same call to readers of this interview.
You can download our Automatic Payment form from kiaoragaza.net .
Or, if you prefer to make a one-off payment, you can do so by two methods:
- Make a direct payment to our account : Kia Ora Gaza, 03-0211-0447718-000, Westpac Bank, Onehunga branch.
- Or write a cheque to 'Kia Ora Gaza' and post to: Kia Ora Gaza, PO Box 59-007, Auckland.
How big do you hope the Kiwi contingent will be? Do you know who will be volunteering for the trip yet? And will the Kiwi effort be prepared to defend itself in case of military action?
Over a dozen courageous Kiwis have already put up their hands and said, "I'm willing to be a volunteer for Kia Ora Gaza." I expect there will be more Kiwi volunteers stepping forward over the days ahead as word spreads across New Zealand.
As soon as our team of volunteers is finalised, Kia Ora Gaza will inform the media of the identity of these modest heroes.
The more money we raise over the next ten weeks, the more volunteers and trucks with aid that Kia Ora Gaza can add to the international convoys. The strength of our Kiwi contingent is dependent on the generosity of spirit of Kiwi donors.
Going by the experience of past aid convoys to Gaza, we can expect various forms of provocation and attack by Israel and perhaps other states in the region. Our Kiwi volunteers may be putting themselves in harm's way because of their commitment to a humanitarian cause that has the potential to change the world for the better.
The only effective form of defence that our Kiwi contingent and all other volunteers will have is the force of world opinion as it bears down on the governments of all countries. Our mission is peaceful, our purpose is humanitarian. If state violence is directed against Gaza aid volunteers, international pressure must be mobilised in their defence. The eyes of the world will be on our convoys.
The eyes of New Zealanders, in particular, will be on our Kiwi volunteers going to Gaza by sea and land.
Our Kiwi volunteers and their banners and flags will be blessed by Ngati Whatua before setting out on their mission to the other side of the globe. This blessing will, I am certain, express the positive sentiments of the vast majority of New Zealanders. That is the mighty force going with our Kiwi volunteers.
Viva Palestina in England, IHH in Turkey and other Gaza aid organisations in the Northern Hemisphere are close to finalising an Operational Model that will govern all participants in the international convoys. Once this Operational Model has been signed off, probably within a week, Kia Ora Gaza will receive necessary information around selection criteria for volunteers and itemised costs and itineraries. Then, in terms of detailed planning here, it will be all systems go!
Part of our planning is to work closely with sympathisers all round New Zealand and, out of this process, form a National Committee of Kia Ora Gaza. Already we are getting active support from people in Dunedin, Wellington, Palmerston North, Hamilton and Whangarei as well as across Greater Auckland. We need the word to spread everywhere so that Kia Ora Gaza blossoms into a country-wide coalition. And we are on the way to forming strong partnerships with other national institutions who agree with the cause.
The banner of Kia Ora Gaza will cover every Kiwi who donates and gives support in other ways. If you would like to help us organise in your locality, email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or ring or text on 021 2544 515.
What sort of aid will be taken? And will Israel's easing of the Gaza blockade have any effect on your plans?
Part of the Operational Model will specify what types of aid we should fund. These types of aid have been requested by humanitarian groups within Gaza itself. That way, the people of Gaza get what they really need, not what we think they might need, which are often two different things.
Our aid and transport will be purchased by Viva Palestina in England with funds sent over from Kia Ora Gaza. That way, we enjoy the considerable expertise and purchasing power of Viva Palestina, while Kia Ora Gaza escapes transport costs and shipment delays from New Zealand.
Kia Ora Gaza has personal links with George Galloway, founder of Viva Palestina. In 2007 Ismail Waja and myself, the co-organisers of Kia Ora Gaza, brought George out to Auckland to speak. We had formed a coalition called Voices of Peace to counter a clique of professional Islamophobes from Australia who were fronting conferences in New Zealand. Their aim was to establish an anti-Muslim activist network in our land.
George spoke powerfully at a central city theatre whose 800 seats were all filled. We had to turn away half as many again. He also packed out one of the biggest lecture theatres at the University of Auckland. George's high profile mobilised mass media coverage and widespread public concern, helping Voices of Peace to roll back this threat from hard-line racists across the Tasman.
Voices of Peace was funded by over $30,000 in donations collected by Ismail and myself. We asked for our accounts to be scrutinised by a professional auditor, who gave his services free. Every cent was accounted for.
Now Ismail and I are once again fronting a big fund-raising drive. And we are once again working with George around an issue of social justice and human dignity.
Another organiser of Viva Palestina is Nicci Enchmarch, a Kiwi who was arrested on the Mavi Marmara soon after giving solace to Turkish aid worker Cevdet Kiliclar as he lay dying from a gunshot to the head. Our website kiaoragaza.net pays tribute to the nine humanitarian martyrs gunned down on the Mavi Marmara. Nicci is the liaison person between Viva Palestina and Kia Ora Gaza.
From inside Gaza, journalist Jonathan Cook writes sarcastically about Israel "easing" the blockade so that Gaza can "starve more slowly". His article, and others exposing the Israeli government's spin, can be found on Kia Ora Gaza's website.
Most imports that are most needed by the people of Gaza, such as building materials to reconstruct their shattered dwellings, remain on Israel's "blacklist". In addition, all exports from Gaza remain banned, thus ruining their economy and ensuring mass poverty. And the right to free travel is still denied to Palestinians in Gaza. They remain prisoners of Israel.
The much-touted "easing" of the siege may be 5% reality and 95% propaganda. Even that small blessing is entirely the result of international pressure on the state of Israel coupled with the gallant resistance of the people of Gaza.
The International Red Cross says the blockade of Gaza remains "illegal". A growing number of governments around the world are calling on Israel to completely lift the siege. They are reflecting the power of public opinion. The international convoys setting off in September will ratchet up pressure on the Israeli government.
We may be seeing the start of a process similar to what brought the internationally loathed system of apartheid in South Africa to its knees.
Do you think the expedition will have the support of the New Zealand government?
As our Kiwi contribution to the international convoys takes concrete shape over the weeks ahead, Kia Ora Gaza will seek a meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs. We want to inform him personally about the plans of Kia Ora Gaza, and also ask what assistance and protection his department and government can offer to our Kiwi volunteers.
After that meeting, Kia Ora Gaza will be better able to judge whether or not our humanitarian mission has support from the New Zealand government.
We will also seek to meet with foreign affairs spokespeople of other parties represented in the New Zealand Parliament.
The aims and activities of Kia Ora Gaza are transparent, and we want to transmit these personally to senior politicians in this country.