Second Summer University of Palestine

The winds of change blowing through the Middle East are bringing enormous hopes for change.

In Egypt, where Hosni Mubarak helped to maintain the siege on Gaza, there is now a big public campaign to open to Rafah crossing. It has not succeeded yet, but the situation in Egypt remains very fluid and hopeful. And the pressure is growing on Israel also to abandon the illegal siege.

Viva Palestina is liaising constantly with our friends in the Middle East to assess what the next steps are to break the siege and to take other initiatives to end Palestinian suffering in the occupied West Bank and Al Quds, and also to highlight the injustices facing Palestinians within the borders of 1948 Israel. These steps need to be coordinated at a high level with the people across the region who are engaged in a heroic struggle to bring democracy and freedom.

We should remember that these struggles have come at an extremely high price. Some of the people who welcomed us on our first convoy through Tunisia and Libya, for example, have faced or are facing very bloody repression and we urge VP supporters to be part of broad-based initiatives to highlight that suffering.

As the political situation in the Middle East become clearer in the next few weeks, we hope to be in a position to announce the next initiatives Viva Palestina will be taking.

There will be considerable discussion with activists in the Middle East about that at the Second Summer University of Palestine, organised by VP-Arabia. It is taking place in Beirut, Lebanon, from 23 to 30 July: The New Middle East - people power, democracy and Palestine. It is an educational event, and one of the aims of Viva Palestina is to raise public awareness of the Palestinian issue. It will also be a place where humanitarian initiatives can be coordinated. For details of the event, which looks like it will book up quickly, go to Viva Palestina is participating in the event, and we encourage others to as well.

A number of supporters are asking about the second flotilla to Gaza. VP was represented on the first flotilla on the Mavi Marmara, which was so brutally attacked by Israeli forces. The trustees have decided that VP cannot be a sponsor the second floitlla given our charitable status, though we are, of course, entirely supportive of the aim of breaking the siege. So please refer any questions you have about to forthcoming flotilla to the organisers in Britain - an umbrella group, Britain 2 Gaza.

The Beirut Summer University will be a major event at which we hope to coordinate our work with others who are on the ground in the Middle East and who are building support for the Palestinian people as never before.

That will enable us to work with major partners, as we have done on our previous missions, to make the most effective contribution we can in the new and historic circumstances that are opening up in the region.