- Published on Tuesday, 10 April 2012 21:37
Over 25 Palestinian organizations proudly announced the arrival of hundreds of visitors for the Welcome to Palestine 2012 campaign to participate in a press conference that was held on Tuesday April 10th at 5 PM in the Bethlehem Peace Center.
We proceeded with our preparations despite the fact that several volunteers were harassed by Israeli occupation authorities. In one case, a peace activist home was raided at 2 AM by occupation forces who took his computer and his cell phone. Other peace activists were delayed or questioned for hours as they exited or entered the country. The dozens of volunteers working with us were only encouraged because with these actions Israel itself shed a light on its own policies of siege and isolation of the West Bank. More volunteers are joining every day to ensure a smooth program for our visitors which includes starting to build a new school, getting to know Palestinians, informative tours, and cultural exchanges.
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" of 342 participants from the ages of 9 to 83 years old to prevent them from boarding planes sparking 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 in Tel Aviv and then imprisoned for several days as they insisted on their right to visit Palestinian associations and families. Still, a lot of good resulted from this as well. As a result of 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 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 from 15 to 21 April in the West Bank refuse to lie and hide. They refuse to pretend Palestine and Palestinians do not exist. Israel calls that "deligitimation" and spreads lies about the intention of the international visits. 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 (see http://www.righttoenter.ps/).We pledged that where Israel works to isolate us, we invite all to join us openly and proudly. We reject all attempts to isolate and silence us. We are thus having larger programs to challenge the siege. With the help of the international 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.
The press conference was held to invite the members to detail our program and goals.