Students have joined hundreds of other activists from across Britain and the world to take part in the blockade-busting Viva Palestina convoy.
The third convoy of its kind, the Viva Palestina convoy will be travelling for three thousand miles over the coming weeks, aiming to break the siege on Gaza on 27th December – the one year anniversary of the start of Israel's brutal war on Gaza.
Students have played an active role in raising thousands of pounds and collecting vital aid to be sent to Gaza with the convoy over the past few weeks. A number of students are joining the convoy itself and plan to meet with students in Gaza to foster links for further solidarity work.
Professor Noam Chomsky has wished students on the convoy well:
"What Viva Palestina have achieved on their previous convoys has been incredible. Not only did they break the siege on Gaza, but they brought much needed aid and solidarity on a massive international scale. The efforts of everyone from right across the world who took part in the previous convoys by giving up their time to drive to the stricken region of Gaza should be fully commended."
"To everyone taking part in the third Viva convoy I wish you all the very best of luck, and your efforts for the people in Gaza just warms my heart. You bring hope, solidarity, peace and love from right across the world. I am with you all the way in spirit."
The NUS Black Students' Campaign has enthusiastically supported the convoy, bringing Black students together nationally to discuss how they can contribute towards it at their annual Winter Conference. Bellavia Ribeiro-Addy, NUS Black Students' Officer commented:
"The Black Students' Campaign strongly supports this convoy. Our brothers and sisters in Gaza have had their education destroyed by Israel's war and brutal siege. We wish the convoy all the success in breaking the siege. Viva Palestina!"
Fiona Edwards, Viva Palestina Student Officer, explained the importance of students getting involved with the convoy:
"It is very important that students play an active role in challenging Israel's inhumane and brutal siege on Gaza."
"Students in Gaza have been particularly hard-hit by Israel's war and ongoing siege. Hundreds of young people were killed in Israel’s assault on Gaza last January and countless schools, universities and colleges were completely destroyed. The ongoing siege has caused a severe shortage of vital educational supplies for Palestinian students – paper, ink, books, desks and more."
"This convoy is an important and practical way in which we can help students in Gaza and also raise awareness about the consequences of Israel's aggressive policies against the Palestinian people."
Students at Bradford University
, with the leadership of Palestinian Sabbatical Officer Khaled Al-Mudallal
, have played a leading role in fundraising for a vehicle to go on the convoy and have also brought together students from across the North to discuss how they can support the Palestinians' right to self-determination.
Students at Warwick University have raised thousands of pounds to buy a van filled with aid which Fred Stevens-Smith and Nora Hassasien will be driving from London to Gaza over December. They said:
"We think it is very sad that we have to go to Gaza and deliver basic necessities which the Palestinian people have to go without day in day out all because our own government has failed to take a stand for justice and human rights. But we are very excited to meet our brothers and sisters in Palestine!"
After weeks of fundraising and campaigning on campus, SOAS student Ian Drummond is joining the convoy. He said:
"If we succeed in breaking the siege on Gaza we will not only be able to donate the much needed aid we have collected for Palestinian students, but we will also help to break their sense of isolation - an inevitable consequence of the siege which equals being cut off from the rest of the world. We also hope that by visiting Palestine, and meeting up with students over there, this will provide a basis for students in Britain to link up with students in Gaza for solidarity work in the future."
Mesrob Kassemdjian, a student from City University has raised £1,500 pounds and is also a delegate on the convoy. Explaining his motivations for joining the convoy he said:
"The people of Gaza really need the international community to support them and students in Britain have an important role to play. The Viva Palestina convoy is a truly unique way of contributing to the Palestine solidarity movement. Not only are we offering practical assistance but we are also highlighting the devastating impact of the siege."
Students from Kings College London have led a highly successful campaign on campus for the University to donate more than 30 boxes of surplus educational aid to students at the Islamic University of Gaza. Students at Essex University raised £2,000 in less than 3 days.
The Viva Palestina convoy has helped to inspire new layers of students to get involved with Palestine solidarity campaigning. The recently established Palestine Solidarity Society at Queen Mary has raised hundreds of pounds for the convoy.
Aleena Iqbal, President of the society, said:
"The Viva Palestina convoy demonstrates the courage and hard work of individuals striving to free Palestine. At Queen Mary we have been eager to show our support for the convoy by fundraising to sponsor a vehicle that will deliver aid to the Palestinians, as well as being used by schools and hospitals. Our Palestine Solidarity Society has been recently established, and we have been raising awareness on campus about the convoy and illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine. We want freedom for Palestine. We want justice for the oppression and dispossession suffered by the Palestinian people. We want to restore the lives of the millions of children who have been victims by chance."
The convoy's progress can be followed online at:
www.palestinecampaign.org or www.vivapalestina.org.uk
You can also follow the convoy’s progress on Twitter @Pal_S_Campaign or @viva_palestina
Students are planning a speaking tour of universities and colleges across Britain when the convoy returns in the New Year.