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Viva Palestina: Morocco and Algeria Opens Their Border for the Convoy

Posted by on Feb 20th, 2009 and filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

By YVONNE RIDLEY

WAR-mongering politicians across the world who have used their country's superpower status and might to bully others into submitting to their demands will be watching the Viva Palestina convoy in disbelief tomorrow.

The mile-long convoy of 100 plus vehicles and 315 drivers and peace activists will drive through the border in what is supposed to be a low key event, but the significance of that small journey can not be over estimated.

Although there are still thousands of miles separating the convoy from its end game of delivering aid to Gaza, Saturday's border crossing is the one which will be recorded in the history books.

Morocco and Algeria agreed to put aside their differences to open their land border for the first time in 15 years for the sake of Palestine.

Palestine has often been described as the key which can open the door to Middle East peace, but tomorrow it will open a door in the Maghreb which has been tightly shut since 1994.

This wonderful gesture is something Condaleezza Rice failed to persuade the neighbouring countries to do - her last attempt before the departure of George W Bush was made in September.

But the peace mission and genuine humanitarian nature of the Viva Palestina convoy has melted the hearts of those on both sides of this vital land border which, when opened, will ease the passage of those carrying more than one million pounds of aid for Gaza.

Relations between the two countries have seen no significant improvement since the border closed in 1994 and in view of the severe socioeconomic and security challenges facing them and the Maghreb region at large, the cost of their antagonistic relationship has never been greater, according to some analysts.

The border was first shut as a consequence of the Sahara war, and remained closed into the eighties. In 1994, it was shut again, after a terrorist strike on a hotel in Marrakech.

Although Algiers quickly offered condolances, Rabat accused Algerian secret services had directed the attack. Crisis followed, and visas were imposed, borders shut, and thousands of Algerians tourists expelled.

Recently, however, Morocco began publicly asking Algeria to reopen the borders, which Algeria refuses to do, and, indeed, generally avoids to even comment on.

But both sides have stepped aside for their mutual love and affection for the people of Palestine and, in particular to show their solidarity to the people of Gaza.

It is an astonishing gesture and both countries are to be congratulated on this generous move.

Another fine example of when people lead, the leaders will follow.

Now the big question is, will Viva Palestina's mascot and symbol make it through the crossing tomorrow? Fes mechanics are working hard as I write, to get the lead Fire Engine from Lancashire back on the road after a breakdown.

* Yvonne Ridley and film-maker Hassan al Banna Ghani are part of the Viva Palestina convoy making a documentary recording the historic journey

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