Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, April 2012
News Update from the "Welcome to Palestine 2012" Campaign,
a Letter to Christian Leaders for Support
By Mazin Qumsiyeh
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, April 16, 2012
*Urgent news from Welcome to Palestine Campaign*
*Reminder: All people are called to gather at the airport by noon to welcome visitors. Press conference with visitors and others at Bethlehem Peace Center at 5 PM.*
People gathered at Charles De Gaule Airport at 5 AM and At 7 AM in Zaventem, Brussels airport. Other airports had similar gatherings. Live stream from Ben Gurion Airport here http://www.ustream.tv/channel/arabdissident twitter @fly2palestine
Airport authorities prevent activists from boarding in Geneva, Milhouse, Paris. In Paris and Brussels, reports on police violence against activists.
There's a photo circulating, not clear from which one of these airports in arrives.
Detention of passengers with boarding passes in Geneva this morning.
EasyJet real time relay of information to Tel Aviv to get feedback and cancel reservations within one hour of booking tickets.
650 uniformed security and many others under cover waiting to arrest the Welcome to Palestine participants and welcoming groups of activists in Ben Gurion airport. Racist member of the Knesset Michael Ben Ari is also there. Nine activists were arrested at the airport so far.
A new illegal procedure was instituted at the Israeli airport that demands passengers sign a statement saying they will not be in contact or work with "members of any pro Palestinian organizations" and "will not participate in pro Palestinian activities". Imagine in South Africa or the USA demanding visitors sign statements that they will not be in contact or work with "members of any pro black organizations" and "I will not participate in pro black activities"
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SATURDAY news update from the Welcome to Palestine 2012 campaign and (below it) letter to Christian leaders
*-There will be a Press Conference in the Bethlehem Peace Center (Manger Square) Sunday, April 15, 2012 at 5 PM to where we will have representative of visitors who arrived and Palestinian families who will host visitors.* -Several airlines notified passengers of cancellation of their flights upon orders from Israeli authorities (orders that include blatant and documentable lies and defamation). It is essential that those who had cancellations (whether with our campaign or has happened as “collateral damage”) challenge the airlines and their governments. Governments must pressure the State of Israel to allow visits to the occupied territories.
The siege is clearly on the West Bank and not only on Gaza. Such sieges and blockade of admittance to occupied areas is a violation of international conventions especially the 4th Geneva Convention and likely amount to crimes against humanity.
-The French and Belgium groups called to action: All to gather at Charles DeGaul Paris airport Terminal T1 starting at 5 AM, and at 7 AM in Zaventem, Brussels airport. We know it is early but do join other French people as they object to the racist apartheid policies that try to keep us apart. We understand there will also be convergence on airports in other European cities. We support these and any action of protest (we suggest also in front of Israeli embassies and consulates around the world).
-Striking Israeli airport workers decided to work to help "security" not just for the peaceful visitors expected to arrive on Sunday, but also to deport 700 Sudanese refugees. Racism thus unites the government and its workers.
-Israeli groups of peace activists are going to the airport carrying signs from Palestinian Children welcoming those who are arriving. Israeli police will likely try to stop them from exercising their right to free speech and to welcome visitors.
- The amount of coverage now is increasing exponentially in media outlets especially in Europe. We need activists in Canada, the US and elsewhere to demand their media carry the story. Over 100 media outlets already printed this Associated Press story but some added inappropriate pictures and titles. We need to push them since thousands of media outlets have access to AP stories, you can demand that they carry at least this AP story http://news.yahoo.com/pro-palestinian-activists-dismiss-israel-warning-142146097.html
- The following members of the British Parliament have expressed support for the Welcome to Palestine Campaign (and we need more MPs contacted):
Hugh Bayley MP (York Inner), Mark Lazarowicz MP (Edinburgh North and Leith), Dave Anderson MP (Blaydon), Sandra Osborne MP (Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock).
- The Confederation de Syndicats National (Quebec, Canada) representing
300,000 members support the WTP 2012 campaign and denounced the denial of one of their members Julie Lachapelle her right to visit us in Palestine as part of the WTP campaign.
- Activists are writing letters to the editor about this, and all can write a letter to the editor of local and national newspapers thus exposing the unfair and illegal Israeli policies of siege and isolation. An example is here http://m.dailycamera.com/camera/db_39430/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=PTTVrZzF
Brief excerpt from the Press Conference with welcome from Bethlehem Mayor http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1i8jzmnKBhQ
Press update from the campaign
The voices of 3 women travelling from Greater Manchester
Guarnieri will be on one of the flights) http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/04/201241484657679358.html
A letter from Welcome to Palestine Campaign to Church Leaders in the spirit of the Kairos document
As Palestinian Christians celebrate Easter, we Palestinians also welcome international visitors to Palestine as has always happened this season for hundreds of years. This Easter, the Israeli government is determined to prevent over 1500 visitors from arriving in the country simply because the visitors wanted to be honest about their destination and intention: to visit with Palestinians in the occupied territories. We ask Church leaders to issue public statements to demand free access to the occupied areas for all visitors, including this group and all future groups of pilgrims to the Holy Land.
Over 25 Palestinian organizations proudly launched the Welcome to Palestine 2012 campaign. The last campaign in July 2011 saw hundreds of individuals purchase airline tickets and attempt to board planes to Palestine. Israel sent a "black list" to various airlines of 342 participants from the ages of 9 to 83 to prevent them from boarding planes that sparked huge protests in several international airports. The Israeli military also turned the airport near Tel Aviv into a military compound.
One hundred twenty-seven women and men were arrested at Ben Gurion Airport and then imprisoned for several days as they insisted on their right to visit Palestinian associations and families. As a result of ensuing legal challenges, many European airlines fully refunded the tickets, and airline unions joined us in pressing for freedom of travel. Furthermore, the publicity shed light on Israel’s attempts to deny visits by internationals for humanitarian and peaceful support to millions of Palestinians living under occupation. What the Israeli government apparently cannot stand in this initiative is that the women and men coming to the West Bank from 15 to 21 April 2012 refuse to lie and hide. They refuse to pretend Palestine and Palestinians do not exist. Israel spreads lies about the intention of the international visitors. We thank these visitors for working for peace and humanity with honesty and dignity.
The international community recognizes the basic human right of Palestinians to receive visitors from abroad, and supports the right of their own citizens to travel to Palestine without harassment. We reject all attempts to isolate and silence us. While Israel works to isolate us, we invite all to join us openly and proudly. With the help of the international community, the church community, and local volunteers, we will achieve our goal of peace and freedom and thus restore the values and principles that we share as human beings.
We ask your church to speak out and support the Welcome to Palestine Campaign in the spirit of the call by Palestinian Christians calld the Kairos document (http://kairospalestine.ps/). Please send your letters of support to firstname.lastname@example.org Brief excerpt from the Press Conference with welcome from Bethlehem Mayor http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1i8jzmnKBhQ
Abbreviated News and Call to Action from the Welcome to Palestine 2012 Campaign
- Tens of thousands of media stories appeared just in the last 48 hours (ranging from social media to mainstream media). All major Israeli media covered the campaign. Some media outlets doing several stories (almost on a daily basis).
- Our websites in different countries including support websites recorded significant increase in hits with a logarithmic growth after our phenomenally successful press conference last Tuesday (video excerpt here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1i8jzmnKBhQ). We anticipate this to increase even more in time especially over the weekend (Friday to Saturday when most of our visitors will arrive). One Zionist hooligan's attempt to shut down one of our many websites briefly was dealt with.
- French and Belgian citizens including some politicians and many in the media are asking why those governments are not standing with their citizens but instead doing the unusual thing of warning their own citizens from going to visit a people under occupation. The people of France, Belgium and other countries are very upset but are not deterred. And even more who have not booked tickets to come this time already decided to join our next campaign.
- Serge Hustache, Belgian Parliament Deputy from Hainaut wrote a letter to Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Israeli minister of "security", to object to Aharonovitch's calling visitors "provocateurs".
- In a similar vein, the British government seems complicit in the siege of the West Bank and have advised their citizens to be aware that they cannot come to their defense if deported (but this can and should be challenged in British courts). In Scotland, there is a motion to the Scottish Parliament (Motion S4M-02477) supported by many MPs in support of our campaign.
- Israeli media and activists are inquiring vociferously about the "legality" (with Israeli apartheid laws the quotes are deserved) to deny entry to the country by individuals who broke no Israeli law and wish merely to declare themselves coming to visit with Palestinians (after all, 5.5 million Palestinians are under direct Israeli control).
- The Mayor of Bethlehem City and the Governor of Bethlehem District express support for the Welcome to Palestine 2012 campaign. We also received support from politicians and religious leaders around the world.
-Lufthanza airline is an airline that acceded to an Israeli demand and actually went beyond that canceling reservations on its flight for Sunday. Some of those whose reservations were canceled in Germany and France were not even associated with the Welcome to Palestine Campaign. Is this "collateral damage"?
- Dozens of Israeli supporters are working on the media issues inside 1948 areas and are mobilizing to support and welcome the visitors in the airport. Several of those people were questioned by Israeli police or other security agents but they are not deterred and their numbers are growing. Thanks to them, there is widespread awareness of Israeli repressive and hysterical tactics. And more Israelis are jumping on board to help.
Frequently asked questions updated including what you can do in your country to support this campaign (we need people to read and send suggestions for updates): http://www.palestinejn.org/en/section-blog
We need your support to pressure your government and influence your media to insist on the freedom to visit Palestine and show solidarity with an occupied people under siege. Even prisoners have a right to a visit.
Press update from the campaign
The voices of 3 women travelling from Greater Manchester
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