- By David KennerDavid Kenner is the Middle East editor at Foreign Policy. He is based in Beirut, Lebanon, and has been with FP since 2009 (a long time, he knows). He worked for FP previously in Cairo, where he covered the early days of the Arab Spring, and before that in Washington. He has attended Georgetown University and the American University of Beirut and has reported from Libya, Egypt, Gaza, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraq.
As my boss Blake Hounshell noted this morning, Syrian activists are having a field day trawling through the hacked e-mails of officials in President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. One particularly interesting note was sent by former British parliamentarian George Galloway to Assad advisor Bouthaina Shaaban.
Galloway was writing to request the Syrian government’s help in organizing a convoy to the Gaza Strip. The plan was for vehicles to travel over land from London and the Gulf to the Syrian city Latakia, at which point they would board the Mavi Marmara – which had been the scene of a deadly raid by Israel Defense Forces solders only months earlier, as it tried to breach the Gaza blockade — and travel to the Egyptian port city of al-Arish. From there, they would enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing. While the convoy did complete its mission, the Mavi Marmara does not appear to have ultimately taken part.
In securing Assad’s help, Galloway recited the Baath Party’s own rhetoric back to Shaaban. "Syria is as I have often said is the last castle of Arab dignity," he writes.
Betreff: Fwd: IMPORTANT – private and confidential
Datum: Sat, 14 Aug 2010 06:03:38 +0300 (14.08.2010 05:03:38)
Your Excellency Dr Bouthaina Sha’aban
Special Advisor to President Bashar al Asad
President of the Syrian Arab Republic
Your Excellency, dear Dr Sha’aban
I hope this letter finds you well. Please be assured of my warmest fraternal greetings always. I am writing on behalf of Viva Palestina whose world-wide family of solidarity organisiations and registered charities will soon be setting out for beseiged Gaza again with our fifth convoy of aid. You will recall the outstanding assistance afforded us in Syria on previous occasions over the last period. I am writing once again to ask for Syria’s co-operation although I do not doubt it for one moment. Syria is as I have often said is the last castle of Arab dignity. My only regret is to have to ask for your help again.
This convoy sets out simulataneously on September 18th 2010 from London, from Casablanca and from the Gulf. The London and Gulf columns of vehicles would like to converge on Latakia and sail from there to Al Arish. The Casablanca column hopes to join us in Al Arish and we hope all three columns – hundreds of vehicles strong – will enter Gaza through Rafah without hinderance.
The aid on board the vehicles will be 50% medical equipment and 50% educational, construction and other aid. The organisers of the convoy are Viva Palestina UK, Viva Palestina USA, Viva Palestina Arabia, Viva Palestina Malaysia, Viva Palestina Ireland, the Turkish NGO IHH,the International Committee to break the Seige on Gaza, Kia Ora – the Viva Palestina sister organisation in New Zealand, Viva Palestina Australia, Viva Palestina South Africa, Viva Palestina Spain, Viva Palestina Italia, and Viva Palestina France.
It is intended that the vehicles and passengers should sail to Al Arish on board the Mavi Marmara, which as you know is owned by IHH. If His Excellency the President Bashar al Asad and his government can accept this proposal in principle perhaps you could nominate partner organisation(s) and individuals with whom my colleagues could liaise about the practical details? The liaison from our side would be Mr Kevin Ovenden and Mr Zaher Birawi of Viva Palestina UK (as we believe 2 is enough).
In any case please convey my respect and my admiration to His Excellency the President.
With all good wishes