The Alternative Information Centre -  24 January 2011

Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad launched Viva Palestina Malaysia (VPM) on Saturday, a coalition of Malaysian non-governmental organizations dedicated to aiding the besieged Gaza Strip.

“We (Malaysians) must contribute all we can to give help to those in Gaza and help them in any way until this problem is resolved,” said Mohamad.

Speaking of the high need for water and food in the blockaded coastal strip, he said, “These are always in short supply for them and they depend on international concerns in providing them with help and aid.”

The NGO, formerly known as COMPLETE (Coalition of Malaysian NGOs Against the Persecution of Palestinians), currently has four ongoing projects in Gaza and recently participated in the Asia to Gaza Solidarity Caravan.

In addition to physical aid, Viva Palestina Malaysia will also be providing small loans without and work to develop the livestock and agriculture business in Gaza.

During the ceremony, Lauren Booth, a journalist, human rights activist and sister-in-law to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, described the situation in Gaza as a “colossal humanitarian crisis” and the place as “the largest concentration camp in the world today.”

“Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people has killed their dreams, talents and hopes,” she said, describing her personal experience in Gaza where she witnessed hundreds of helpless women, children and the elderly survive in terrible conditions.

“It’s not up to journalists to make a difference, it’s up to you and me,” she said in her speech during the launch.

VPM chairman Datuk Adnan Tahir stressed that the organisation’s fight for the Palestinian cause was not for religious reasons but for moral justice.

The situation in Gaza, which has been dire for some time, significantly worsened following Israel’s military attack Operation Cast Lead in December 2008-January 2009. The military strike lasted for 22 days, reduced much of Gaza’s infrastructure and homes to rubble, and killed some 1,400 Palestinians. The population is still reeling.

An international report released in November 2010, entitled “Dashed Hopes: Continuation of the Gaza Blockade”, says there has been “little improvement” for people in Gaza since Israel announced it would begin easing. The population is heavily reliant on international aid and unemployment is around 40%.

In June 2010, when Israel began to implement its “easing” procedures, they said construction materials for projects carried out by organisations like the United Nations, would be allowed into Gaza; however, according to the report, Israel has so far approved only 7% of the UN’s reconstruction projects in Gaza. At the current rate it will take decades to carry out the UN’s housing and schools projects in Gaza, Dashed Hopes reported.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said: “The so-called ‘easing’ of the Gaza blockade does not change the fact that there’s still a cruel and illegal blockade collectively punishing the entire civilian population. The only real easing has been the easing of pressure on the Israeli authorities to end this cruel and illegal practice.”

More on the organization at

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