By Adam Keller, Gush Shalom – April 14, 2012
As citizens of Israel, we feel great respect and appreciation for our international activists who come to visit the West Bank and express solidarity with the Palestinian residents, living under occupation and apartheid. Certainly, we will there to greet them at the airport terminal, maintaining a presence there between the hours of 12.00 noon till 8.00 pm. We will greet them with open arms, in a feeling of deep appreciation and a personal friendship with some of them. We will hold ‘Welcome’ signs, balloons, flowers, chocolates, and copies of the drawings of Palestinian children from Bethlehem. We welcome them in the harsh reality where Palestinians are excluded from meeting their invited guests and escorting them from the airport – not to mention, of course, being excluded from themselves flying from this airport.
25 Palestinian organizations proudly announce the forthcoming arrival of hundreds of visitors as part of the “Welcome to Palestine” campaign. The visit’s program will include the launching of a new school, getting into personal contact with Palestinians, exchange of cultural knowledge and study tours. Many Palestinian activists join every day in the effort to provide the most effective program possible for the visitors.
We continue our preparations, though a number of volunteers were harassed by Israeli security forces. In one case an activist suffered a later-night search of his home at two am, having his personal computer and the confiscated. Other activists were detained for long hours of interrogation upon entering or or leaving the country.
Dozens of our volunteers were actually encouraged by this very harassment campaign, as the State of Israel itself exposed the policy of siege and isolation which is being imposed on the West Bank.
Last July, hundreds of internationals bought tickets to board the flights to Palestine. The State of Israel sent out a “black list” containing the names of 342 people aged 9 to 83, preventing them from getting on the flights. This provoked demonstrations at airports across Europe, while Israeli security forces turned the Tel-Aviv Airport into a military zone.
127 men and woman were arrested at the airport and detained for several days, solely due to their insistence upon visiting the Palestinian families and organizations which invited them. The campaign waged in the aftermath had many positive implications, Under judicial pressure, many airlines compensated the blocked passengers and fully refunded the ticket prices fully; trade unions at airports have joined in our call for preserving the Freedom of Movement. The Workers’ Union of the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris recently published a clear message of support for the “Welcome to Palestine” Campaign.
The publicity also exposed Israel’s attempts to prevent citizens of foreign countries from offering humanitarian support to millions of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. What the State of Israel can not tolerate, it seems, is the fact that women and men who come to visit here between 15 and 21 April are not going to lie or hide. They refuse to pretend that Palestine or the Palestinians do not exist.
State of Israel may call it “de-legitimation” and spread various lies about those who are coming to visit here these days. We, on the other hand, are appreciative and grateful to all those visitors, who are striving the same things to which we aspire – peace, humanism, mutual help and honesty.
The International Community recognizes the fundamental right of the Palestinians to receive visitors from abroad, as well as the right of the citizens of all countries to visit the Palestinians without hindrance. Where the State of that Israel tries to silence and isolate us, we call upon others to join us, openly and unafraid. ut fear. At this time of Passover, known as the Feast of Libert, we will strive with the many others – locally and internationally – and strive to achieve the goals of freedom and equal rights for all, the same basic values we all share as human beings.
For more information:
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